Intro to polo

An outdoor polo game is between two teams comprised of four players, each on horseback, who compete on a 300 by 160-yard grass field. The objective of the game is to use mallets to drive the ball down the field, in order to score through the opposing team’s goal posts. Most outdoor polo games consist of 6 chukkers (periods) of 7 minutes and 30 seconds each, with a 10-minute halftime.

An arena polo game is between two teams comprised of three players, each on horseback, who compete in a 100 by 50-yard dirt-surface arena. The objective is the same as the outdoor game. Arena polo consists of 4 chukkers of 7 minutes and 30 seconds each, with a 10-minute halftime.

The throw-in starts the clock and play. The umpire bowls the ball in between the two ready teams, when the chukker begins or when play resumes after a goal or foul. 


Direction of Play

The initial direction of each team is chosen based on a coin toss at the beginning of the game. Teams move in the direction of their goal until the rst goal is scored, after which teams switch goals. Direction is changed after each goal is scored.

In arena polo, the direction is only changed after each chukker.

Line of the Ball

Players follow a “line of the ball,” an imaginary path along which the ball travels; it represents a right-of-way for the last player striking the ball and is the basis for most rules of the game. The player following the line and direction of the ball on his/her right has the right-of-way over all other players. No opposing player or horse may cross the line of the ball in an attempt to make a play

Ride Off

This is one of the most common strategic moves in the game: when two players make contact and attempt to push each other o the line of the ball to prevent their opponent from hitting the ball. The horses must be traveling at the same speed, shoulder-to-shoulder at a 45-degree angle or less.


A defensive player may prevent an opponent from hitting the ball by hooking or striking his/ her mallet. The player attempting the hook must be on the same side of the o ensive player’s mount as the ball, or in a direct line behind and may not hook when the mallet is higher than the horse’s back. 

Right Handed Players

Players must carry the mallet in their right hand. Playing left-hand was banned from polo in the 1970’s for safety reasons.


Players are rated on a scale of -2 to 10, which is determined by a player’s horsemanship, hitting ability, quality of horses, team play, and game sense. The team handicap is the sum of its players’ handicaps.

The Ball and Mallet

For outdoor polo, the ball is typically about the size of a baseball and made of hard plastic. It weighs between 3.5 and 4.5 ounces. For arena play, the ball is a larger in ated ball similar to a mini soccer ball.

The mallet is 48 to 54 inches, depending on the height of the pony and the reach of the player. The shaft is made of Manu wood. The grip is similar to a tennis racquet with a cloth safety strap. The head is typically made of tipa wood.

Polo Ponies

Polo ponies’ main qualities are intelligence, willingness, speed, and stamina, with the ability to accelerate, stop, and turn quickly. Many polo players describe their best mounts as having big hearts and a feel for the game. Horse manes are shaved and tails are tied up to stay out of the way of the mallet and reins.

All horse breeds are allowed to play polo, with no restriction to height. But a majority range from 15-16 hands tall (one hand = 4 inches). Horse height is measured from the ground to the top of the withers (base of the neck).


Dress Code

 Believe it or not, polo can be extravagant and elite, as well as informal and laid-back. Many peo- ple envision polo as the Kentucky Derby, where ladies don their beautiful dresses and elaborate hats. A warning to the ladies: high heels are not recommended if you plan on participating in the traditional halftime Divot Stomp. Since polo is still known as the “Sport of Kings,” you will nd many stylish spectators, but, depending on the location and type of polo event, sporty, relaxed dress is usually acceptable. The game has become more of a family event, so when it comes to fashion, you are sure to spot everything on the sidelines from casual to couture.

The Divot Stomp

The Divot Stomp is one of the oldest and most widely known traditions of polo. When the game breaks at halftime, spectators are invited to march onto the eld to socialize and replace the div- ots that are torn up by the horses’ hooves during play. This serves as a great time to meet new people, move around after the rst half, and help restore the eld’s smooth playing surface.