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POLO 101

New to the sport of polo?

It’s fast, it’s dangerous, and you won’t be able to look away. Polo is one of the oldest team sports in history, originating in Central Asia in 600 BC. But if you are new to the sport, get your fast facts below in our Polo 101.

Learn all you need to know about polo.

There are four different types of polo: traditional outdoor grass polo, arena polo, beach polo and snow polo. Polo is played between two teams and each player is mounted on horses, called polo ponies. In traditional outdoor grass polo, there are 4 players per team. By comparison, arena, beach, and snow polo there are 3 players per team and they have a different set of rules than grass polo – most notably, a smaller size field. 

In grass polo, there are six periods in the game, called chukkers, and each chukker is 7.5 minutes. Halftime occurs after the third chukker, lasting anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. While there are only 4 players per team allowed on the field during the game, each team is allowed to have reserves in case a player is injured and cannot return to the game. During chukkers, players switch ponies so that the horses are always well rested and ready for competition. 

Polo is played on a field that’s 300 yards in length and 160 yards in width, which is equivalent to the size of 9 football fields. Both ends of the field have two, upright goal posts.

How do you play polo?

The goal of the game is to outscore the opposing team. Each player uses a wooden mallet to hit the plastic ball and advance it towards a teammate or through the opposing teams’ goal posts while on horseback. After a goal is scored, one point is awarded, and teams switch sides of the field. 

In order to properly cover the entire field, each player has a specific position they play on the field. Each player wears a jersey with a specific number 1-4 denoting their position. The player who wears the number one is an attacking offensive player. Number two represents a midfield position. Number three is often the team captain and often serves as the team’s tactical link. And lastly, number four is a defender or a “back.”

How are players ranked?

Each player is given a handicap of anywhere from 1-10 goals. The higher the handicap the more skilled the athlete is. A 10-goal player is known as the best player in the world, whereas a 1-goal player is often just beginning his or her career in polo.  

In a 22-goal tournament, like the Gauntlet of Polo played in Wellington, Florida, each of the four players handicap must add up to a total of 22-goals. If a team’s handicap exceeds that number, 1 goal is awarded to the opposing team before the game begins. 

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