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Language of POLO
Language of POLO

If you are new to watching or even playing polo it can be a little daunting when you hear unfamiliar terminology. Please find below examples of the most frequently used terms in the sport.



A player is permitted to ride into another player so as to spoil his shot. The angle

of the collision must be slight causing no more than a jar. The faster the horse travels, the smaller the angle may be.



The sideboards will not exceed 28cm high; the boards are positioned along the sidelines only.



Also called a period. There are normally six chukkas in a polo game each lasting 7 minutes plus up to 30 seconds in overtime. If, during the 30 seconds, the ball hits the sideboards or goes out of bounds, or if the umpire blows his whistle, the chukka is over. There is no overtime at the end of the 6th or last chukka unless the score is tied. If it is stil even after the extra 30 seconds an extra chukka will be played until the first goal is scored. A player returns to each chukka on a different horse. Although he may rest one for a chukka or two and play it again.



Length- max 275 metres; min 230 metres Width – max 180 metres unboarded & 150 metres boarded


Goal Posts

The goal posts which are collapsible on severe impact are 7.30 metres apart and 3 metres high.



Any time a ball crosses the line between the goal posts, it is considered a goal regardless of whether a horse or a mallet caused the ball to go through. In order to equalise turf and wind conditions, the teams change ends after every goal scored.



All registered players are rated on a scale of -2 to 10 (10 being the best) Although the word “goal” is often used after the digit, it bears no relation to the number of goals a player might score – only to his ability. The handicap of the team is the sum total rating of its four players and in handicap matches the team with the higher handicap gives the difference in ratings to the other team. For example over 6 chukkas a 6 goal team will give a 4 goal team a two goal start.



A player spoils another’s shot by putting his mallet in the way of a striking player. A cross hook occurs where the player reaches over his opponent’s mount in an attempt to hook; this is considered a foul.



Should a team, in an offensive drive, hit the ball across the opponent’s backline, the defending team resumes the game with a free hit from their backline. No time is allowed for knock ins.



Also known as a “stick”. The shaft is made from a bamboo shoot and the head

from either the bamboo root or a hardwood such as maple. These vary in length from 48 to 54 inches and are very flexible in comparison to a golf club or a hockey stick.


Near Side

The left hand side of the horse.


Neck Shot

A ball that is hit under the horse’s neck from either side.


Off Side

The right hand side of the horse.


Out of bounds

When a ball crosses the sidelines or goes over the sideboards, it is considered out of bounds and the umpire throws in another ball between the two teams at that point. No time out is allowed for an out of bounds ball.



The best polo ponies are often of thoroughbred blood whose main qualities are heart, speed, wind, stamina and the ability to accelerate, stop and turn quickly, and whose temperament is amenable to the rigours of the game. There is no height limit for the horses, although most are between 15 and 15.3 hands. The age of a pony is generally between 5 and 15 years. Players concede that the pony accounts for 80% of their game.

Positions Each of the four team members plays a distinctly different position. Since polo is such a fluid game, the players may momentarily change positions, but will try to return to their initial assignment. No 1 is the most forward offensive player No 2 is just as offensive, but plays deeper and works harder No 3 is the pivot player between offence and defence and tries to turn all plays to offence No 4 or the Back is a defensive player whose role is principally to protect the goal


Ride Off

This occurs when two riders make contact and attempt to push each other off the line of the ball so as to prevent the other from striking. The horses are the ones intended to do the pushing, although a player may use his body, but not his elbows.

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