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The Rules of Polo

The rules of polo generally follow common sense and the concept of a player having “right of way” to minimise danger. There is no off-side rule in polo and all players must play right handed. Umpires award penalties in accordance with the severity of any breach with the ball being hit from where the infraction occurred, or closer to the fouling team’s goal.

Defensive play consists mostly of “hooking” – where a player uses his mallet to hook or strike his opponent’s mallet while he is in the act of hitting the ball, and “riding off”. This is where a player uses his horse to bump his opponent and spoil his shot. However, if a player uses undue force – endangering the other player or his mount – a penalty will be incurred.

The white player has the line, and at fair speed the black player would be crossing the line without sufficient safety margin, resulting in a penalty against black.

Even at a far lesser angle the black player would still be crossing the line if he continues in that direction, and committing a dangerous foul.

When travelling in the same direction the black player may draw level with and then force him across the line and take possession of the ball without committing a dangerous foul.

The black player must move in parallel with the line and play a shot providing he can do so without interfering with the white’s mount or causing him to check back. If black would cross the line to the dotted position it would be a foul.

Two players riding for a ball from opposite directions in the open must both give way to the left and take the ball on their right or offside.

When two players are approaching a ball in the open from different directions, the player (black), with the line of the ball on his offside, right hand side, has right of way.

The Game

It has often been said that polo is more than a game; it is a way of life. Indeed, most polo players will tell you that it is an all consuming passion!

It takes two teams of four players, a couple of umpires, at least ten horses, a large grassy paddock, goals, mallets and a ball to get a chukka of polo underway.

A game is usually six chukkas long, each lasting seven minutes. Players are numbered 1 – 4. The number 1 and 2 players are primarily offensive players, while the job of the number 3 player is to set up their teammates by planning and executing tactics such as hitting long balls. The role of the number 4 player is primarily defensive, it is his job to keep the back door closed and prevent the other team from scoring. But he too needs to set up play by hitting long balls to his forward teammates.

The Horses

The animals ridden in polo are referred to as ponies but they are not really ponies at all. They are usually thoroughbreds, some having been racehorses in their past.