The Game of Polo

The 2500 year-old game of polo is one of the fastest, roughest and most dangerous sports played today. It is a gaining increasing popularity as a premier spectator sport and can be an easy game for the first-time spectator to enjoy. Imagine the excitement of seeing players on thoroughbred horses bumping and jostling with each other as hockey on horseback, racing at top speeds down the field while striking a small ball with the precision of an experienced golfer.

A polo match has between 4 to 8 periods of play called chukkers: each chukker lasts 7 minutes. There are 4 players in each team. The number on each jersey corresponds to a position on the field. Number 1 is the most forward attacker, number 2 is the other attacker who guides the actions of number 1; number 3 directs, while number 4, called back is the defender.

The most important rule is that the player who finds himself on the exact trajectory of the ball holds "the ball line", he has precedence over any opponent. An opposing player is not allowed to cut the trajectory unless at a certain minimum distance from the player holding the line. It is not considered a foul if a player places himself side by side with an opponent with the ball to push him sideways in order to dispossess him.

HANDICAP: It represents the value of a player and it is measured from minus 2 to plus 10. A handicap of 10 means mastery of the sport and few players achieve such a status. The sum of the four players' handicaps represents the team handicap, the weakest team is advantaged with a number of goals according to the parameters of an international chart.

CHUKKER (AKA CHUKKA): It is the periods in which the match is divided. In Italy a match lasts 4 chukkers; the international regulation establishes that a match can vary between 4 to 6 chukkers, while the most important matches in Argentina consists of 8 chukkers. Each chukker lasts 7 minutes of actual play.

UMPIRES: They are the two referees on horses who follow the development of the game at close quarters.

GROOM: He is the key figure behind any good player: he trains and takes care of the horses.

OPEN: This is a tournament that does not take into consideration differences of handicap.

PENALTY: This follows a foul on the opponent. There are three main types: from 30, 40, or 60 yards. When a dangerous foul is committed near the goal, the offended team benefits from a penalty goal.

THROW-IN: This is when the referee starts the match by throwing the ball amongst the lined up players. There is a throw in at the beginning of each match and at any restart to the game.

REFEREE: He is the umpire of a polo match. He observes the game from a stand placed laterally on the centre line. He decides in cases of disagreement between the two referees on the field. He also supervises the job of the timekeepers and the scorekeepers.

RIDE-OFF: This is the basis of the defence action. It consists of approaching the side of the player with the ball and pushing him sideways with the aim of making him miss the shot and lose the initiative.