Polo Explained: The Game, pt 1

“Don’t hate the playa hate the game” – Ice-T


But honestly, hating the player is totally legit because those 10 goal players are freaking amazing and not to mention, they look so good while doing it.


Nacho Figueras, AKA: The Face of Ralph Lauren


Facundo Pieres: #1 Player in the world currently.

Anyways….I digress.

In this edition of Polo Explained, we’ll be going over how the game of polo is played and the rules involved. There is a whole handbook dedicated to the rules so I’ll be explaining an abridged version, but most of the rules are for safety of the players and the horses. Let’s start with basics….

There are two types of polo played currently: Arena and Outdoor Polo


This is an arena ball:


Kinda like a mini soccer ball

This is an outdoor ball:


This is an Arena polo field:


This is an Outdoor polo field:


It’s ironic how the larger the playing field gets, the smaller the ball.

Now that we have the basic layout explained, lets talk about the game and the rules.. 

At the beginning of a game, both teams line up in the middle of the field facing the umpire and the ball is thrown in between the two teams. The throw in happens after every goal and at the beginning of every new chukker.

All polo players play with the mallet in their right hand (sorry lefties), the right side, or mallet hand is considered your “Far Side”. Any shots made on the left side of your body by bringing your mallet up and over is considered a “Near Side” shot.


Far Side Shot


Near Side Shot

The most basic and fundamental in polo is the Line of the Ball, which is the imaginary line that the ball makes on the field. The “right of way” changes every time the ball is hit and defines the rules on how players can approach the ball; the Line of the Ball is to keep the players and the ponies safe during play.  Whenever a player has the ball on his right hand side (far side) he has the right of way with the ball.


So, if the Player 1 (red) hits an off side shot, he has the Right of Way of the ball. Player 2 (blue) can only hit the ball on his near side as to not cross the line of the ball.

With the Right of Way, no player is allowed to cross in front of the path of the ball as to avoid collisions. If a player has the right of way, his opponent can hook his mallet, push him off the line of the ball,  or  steal the ball as long as the player with the right of way is not impeded.  Most fouls and penalty shots are related to players improperly crossing the line of the ball. The only way a player could hit the ball on his off side would be to “bump” or “ride off” the other player.


Player 2 (blue) can use his horse to push Player 1 (red) off the line of the ball to hit the ball on his off side.

With “bumping” or “ride offs” riders are only allowed to come in at less than 45 degree angle, so no t-boning or rear ending. The Bump or the Ride Off is the basic defensive move in a polo game and it is very similar to a body check in hockey; I like give the example that polo is like ice hockey but on horses. An example of a good defensive play would be where you would Ride Off your opponent on the near side to push him off the path of the ball and not let him get another hit. This would then hopefully allow your teammate to come up behind, take the ball towards the other goal, and then pass the ball up to you.


Good example of a ride off from the near side of the player in red

With hooking a players mallet, you can only hook an opponent’s mallet when it is below the height of the horse’s hind quarters and there is no hitting of another player or horse with your mallet. Also, you can only hook if you are on the side where the swing is being made or directly behind or in front of your opponent. For example, a foul is called and the ball is given to the other team if a player rides into another player’s swing.


A near side hook

So there you have the main basic rules of the game! There are a lot more details involved, but its a good start to learning how the game is played and figuring out what is going on during a game.

To end this post, here’s a video that Nature did about Adam Snow, a US player that use to be a 10 goal handicap. The helmet cam views are pretty awesome.

Hope you all enjoyed reading! Next post will be a bit more about the game and the different positions there are on the field.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Polo Explained: The Game, pt 1

  1. nbohl says:

    great explanation and diagrams! Nacho ❤ lol


  2. Amanda C says:

    Very interesting! I’ve never really seen much polo.


  3. Teresa says:

    Super interesting – thank you for the explanations!


  4. emma says:

    it seems like a fairly complicated sport – but so fun to watch!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s