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Below are all the top terms you need to know to play polo!

Bell or Horn: The bell is rung by the timekeeper to inform the umpires when 7 minutes of play in a chukker have elapsed.

Bump: A player is permitted to ride off another player or to remove him from the play.

Chukker: A period of play within a game, a chukker is 7-and-a-half minutes long. In high-goal tournaments, there are six chukkers per match.

Goal: A goal is scored when a player hits the ball between two end posts and it crosses the goal line. The teams switch sides after each goal.

Handicap: All registered polo players are rated on a scale of 1 to 10 (the higher the number, the better). The handicap of the team is the sum rating of its players.

Hook: A player uses his mallet to hook or strike his opponent’s mallet while in the act of hitting the ball.

Knock-in: When a team hits the ball across the opponent’s backline during an attack, the defending team resumes the game with a free hit from the backline .

Line of the ball: “Crossing the line” is the most frequent foul in polo. The line of the ball (the imaginary line along which the ball travels) represents a right of way for the player following nearest that line.

Mallet: Used by players to strike the ball. The shaft is bamboo and the head from hardwood. The wide face of the mallet head is used to strike the ball and not the ends, as with croquet. All players must hold the mallet in their right hands while playing.

Nearside: The left-hand side of the pony. When you want to hit a nearside shot, your mallet will be very near to you.

Neckshot: A ball that is hit from under the pony’s neck.

Offside: The right-hand side of the pony. When you want to hit a shot on your offside, you will have your arm extended away from your body.

Polo pony: Unique identifiers of a polo pony while competing include a shaved mane and braided tale. A player has the option to switch ponies at least once per chukker to give the horses rest.

Ride-off: Two riders may make contact and push each other off the line to prevent the other team from striking the ball. It is primarily intended for the ponies to do the pushing, but a player is allowed to use their body, but not their elbows.

Ringer: A player or pony who performs well above their rating or handicap.

Stick and ball: To practice polo with a mallet, usually all alone.

Tailshot: Hitting the ball behind and under the pony’s rump.

Throw-in: When the umpire starts/resumes play by throwing the ball down the center of a lineup of players.

Umpires: Two mounted officials officiate the game to ensure the safety of the equine athletes and the players.

Whites: The official apparel for professional polo players. Refers to the white pants that all polo players wear during competitions.

As you learn polo, you will come across all of these polo terms in your day to practice!

More on Handicaps

The handicap system ranges starts at 1 (a true beginner) and maxes out at what is perceived as polo perfection: 10 goals. Most players do not exceed a handicap of 2, which is a good handicap for someone who plays polo recreationally.
In tournaments, the team’s total handicap is counted. Handicaps are also referred to as “goals”.
Each player is assessed on his or her tournament performance throughout the year. Performance is based on their knowledge of the rules, their riding, and their ball-hitting ability. The handicap committee then decides on their playing handicap for the next season.

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