Polo Lingo

Playing Field

Polo is most often played outdoors. The outdoor polo field is 300 yards long and 160 yards wide, the largest field in organized sport. The goal posts at each end are 24 feet apart and a minimum of 10 feet high. Penalty lines are marked at 30 yards from the goal, 40 yards, 60 yards, and at midfield.

Divot Stomping

An activity that involves spectators in the game. During halftime, spectators are invited to go onto the playing field to replace pieces of turf that have been dug-up by

the horses.

Polo Mallets

Players hit the ball with the mallet using one of

four basic shots:

Forehand to hit the ball forward or laterally

to a teammate

Backhand changing the flow of play by sending the ball in the opposite direction

Neckshot hitting the ball under the horse's neck

Tailshot hitting the ball behind and under the horse's rump

Pony Goal

A pony goal occurs when a pony, usually by kicking

the ball, causes the ball to go through the goal posts.

This is natural for equine athletes who love the game as much as their riders. This type of goal counts and is a real crowd pleaser.


There are six chukkers in a polo match. Each chukker is seven minutes long. Breaks between chukkers are three minutes long, with a five minute halftime. The ball is rolled in by an official to start the polo match or resume play after a time out. Each team lines up in numerical order, directly behind the other. The opposing team lines up the same way. The umpire rolls the ball between the two teams, and play begins.

The game clock is stopped in case of a foul, fallen pony or rider, pony or player injured, broken tack, loss of helmet, or if the ball rolls out of bounds. A player may leave the field to change ponies without a time out

being called if the pony is not playing well but isn't

visibly injured.


There are four players on a team. The forwards are numbered one and two, and are mainly concerned with scoring. Number three is the center half, who assists the scorers and aids in defense. The number three is often the most experienced member of the team. Defense and fast breaks are the responsibilities of the back, number four.


Today, most polo ponies are thoroughbreds. Horses account for 80 percent of the game. There are no height restrictions, but most horses are between 15 and 16 hands. Possibly the most athletic of all equestrian breeds,

polo ponies are changed after each chukker. The

demands of the sport require horses to run like a racehorse as well as stop and change direction like a cow pony. Each player brings six to eight horses to a game. Players are allowed to change horses at any time but can't call time out to do so.


Two mounted umpires do most of the officiating, with a referee at midfield having the final say in any dispute between the umpires. With such a large field and the speed of the polo match, the referee is usually busy.


Penalty shots are given from any position the umpires choose from the goal line to midfield, with or without a defender allowed in the goal, depending on the severity of the foul. After each goal, the teams change goals. For complete details please refer to the penalty rules.


A 9- to 11-inch vertical board, running the length of the field on both sides. The sideboards help to keep the ball in play. When the ball rolls too close to the boards, a player may elect to ride on the other side to get a better shot at it. For this reason, spectators should stay back at least 10 yards from the sideboards.


Polo players are ranked yearly by their peers and the USPA on a scale of -2 to 10 goals. Team play is handicapped on the basis of ability. A team's handicap is the total of its players' goal ratings. Tournaments are held in handicap categories. High goal polo is considered to be for teams rated nineteen goals or over, and medium goal play is fifteen to eighteen goals. There are many ways to build a team that meets the tournament's goal limit. Quite often a strong team will want a ringer, a new or under rated player, to balance the team's higher ranked players.


Means that the same horse may be played again in a

later chukker.


This brief overview of the rules of polo is for the spectator only. Most of the rules of polo are for the safety of the players and their ponies. If you want to play, learn them thoroughly. For complete details please refer to the USPA Outdoor Rules. The umpires' primary concerns are right of way and the line of the ball. The line of the ball is an imaginary line that is formed each time the ball is struck. This line traces the ball's path and extends past the ball along that trajectory. The player who last struck the ball is considered to have right of way, and no other player may cross the line of the ball in front of that player, or push that player off the line. Riding alongside to block or hook is allowed, as long as the player with right of way is not impeded. Bumping or riding off is allowed as long as the angle of attack is less than forty five degrees, and any contact must be made between the pony's hip and shoulder. A player may hook or block another player's mallet with his mallet, but no deliberate contact between players is allowed. A player may not purposely touch another player, his tack or pony with his mallet. The mallet may only

be held in the right hand. Left handed players are often thought to hit with less accuracy, but guide their ponies

better than their right handed peers. Ponies play for a maximum of two chukkers per match.