The History of Polo:
Polo is the oldest sport play today. The first polo match was in 600 BC in Persia, with the Persians battling against the Turcomans. Polo came to the USA in 1877 at the Meadowbrook Polo Club, in Long Island NY.
Polo is one of the fastest and most exciting team sport in the world. Because of this, it can be quite dangerous and therefore, requires a lot of protectice gear!
Helmet- tested by NOSCAE standards to ensure safety
Boots- different from regular riding boot: thicker to prevent injury/provide protection
Knee pads- very important safety gear- protects knee from other players, balls, mallets. –protects during “ride off” when your knee has direct contact with other player/horse
Elbow pads- Also very important protection. –A newer, more recent addition to polo gear to protect the ball or mallet from hitting you in the elbow, especially the “funny bone.” Imagine hitting funny bone on edge of table and multiply x100
Eye protection- Shatter-proof lenses, so protects from mallet/ball. Can be polarized or clear (weather decides). Also prevents dirt from entering eye
Mallet- Main tool to play the game; handle and hit the ball with this. You can also “hook” (AKA “check”) another player’s mallet with yours. Can be customized to players’ liking (different weight distributions, length, grip sizes etc. –length is determined by horse’s height
Horse Tack (all leather gear on horse needed to play –each piece has purpose (safety for you or horse):
Fun fact: In polo, we call our horses Polo Ponies, because traditionally, they used to be required to be smaller.
Bridle- Controls, steers, and stops the horse.
Bit- a.k.a the brakes! A horses bit can be metal or plastic. It is attached to the bridle and it goes in their mouth. Attached to the bit are the reins (leather pieces you hold in your hand that are used to control the horse). The bit is our way of communicating with the horse while riding. It is important not to overuse the brakes –you wouldn’t want someone constantly yanking on a piece of metal in your mouth!
Saddle- what you sit in while on top of the horse. You put your feet in the metal pieces on either side called stirrups. Check their length and make sure you feel comfortable.
Saddle pad- placed between the saddle and the horse, it serves to reduce impact of the rider and the saddle on the horses back.
Bandages- Just like we need protective gear, our horses need just as much protection because without them, we couldn't play! Bandages are the equivalent of shin guards for horses. They Protect the bones and tendons on the legs. You can also put a hard shell called a tendon boot on over the bandages for more protection. Bandanges and tendon boots protect their legs from the ball, they give support, and they also protect from the mallets (yours and other people’s).
Tape- Necessary to braid the tail up and fold it back to get it out of the way –tape keeps it folded up. Braided their tails Keeps it from getting tangled and injuring your wrist.
The Polo Field:
A Grass polo match is played on a bermuda grass field that is 300yrds long X 150yds wide. A total of 9 football fields could fit into 1 polo field giving us plenty of room to run. A regulation sized polo field is larger than any other regulation-sized sporting field played today.
Key Elements in polo:
Chukker- AKA “period” of a game –regulation game is 6 chukkers –can be shortened to 4, helps save horses since you use at least 1 horse per chukker. Bringing a spare in case one gets injured is always good idea –using multiple horses is for the welfare of the horse.
Umpire- AKA the referees –on field with players -2 umpires in regulation game (on horseback) –Also have 3rd man on sidelines for when umpires disagree -3rd man provides another opinion from another angle to determine foul.
Throw in- default way game is started –like a tip off in basketball –in center of field –umpire stands on center line and throws ball down center, between two opposing teams –usually determines possession of the game (important to get possession in throw-in) –clock does not stop –these also occur if ball goes over the sidelines (from spot)
Knock-in- other way that play is started –when play goes out of bounds and over the end line –also when penalty is awarded from a spot on field. –player dribbles ball back into play
Penalties- happen A LOT –umpire blows whistle to stop play –you cant hit the ball after foul is called or you can foul (and create a dangerous situation) –rule book is 400 pages long so we are giving you the brief version
Groom- one-person pit-crew/caddy for players/horses –AKA very essential person –this person prepares your horses for you during game/practice –makes sure tack goes on correctly –if you get your own horses you usually need a full time groom to feed, care for horses
Handicaps- The players on the field are ranked from -2 all the way up to 10. Your handicap or (ranking) is based on a players horsemanship, sportsmanship, and ability to actually play. In polo, the higher the # you are rated, the better the player (the opposite of a golf handicap, for example).
The rules of polo can seem complicated when you first start out, but the more you watch and play the faster you’ll pick them up. The main rule you should learn is the “line of the ball.” This rule or “law” is the basis for most fouls in a game. When the ball is hit, it creates an invisible line. This line cannot be crossed in a dangerous way or a foul will be called. A certain amount of distance must be established to cross the line and gain access to the ball. A rider must make a safe “ride-off” or “bump” to place the horse on the correct side of the line, or take the mallet to the “near-side” (the left side of the horse) and attempt a back shot or a “hook.” Many rules must be followed to keep the game safe for both riders and horses. The extensive rules are updated each year and sent to players and umpires to keep them up to date.