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Polo Rules Explained for Beginners

Man and horse balance strength and finesse to play polo game rules. It is one of the world's oldest, fastest, and most dangerous sports played in the United Kingdom.

POLO RULES AND REGULATIONS: As horse and human partner up to play, the simple aim is to score the most goals.

They achieve this by sending a ball through a small trap at the end of the polo pitch. In fact, the ball often travels around 100 miles per hour.

All this takes place as the four-man team play the rules of polo while mounted on horseback. Their game tactic and strategy is to score and prevent the opposition from scoring goals.

Horse polo rules and regulations originate from Asia. The riding activities of the game often get quoted as a quest that is ‘brutish and beautiful‘.

For the uninitiated, this ‘polo for dummies‘ edition makes it simple to learn. The rules create a flowing game and protect the players and horses from serious injury.

One curious fact is that, according to horse polo game rules, the horses get called ponies. There should always be two mounted umpires officiating in the field. There should also be at least one other referee regulating the match from the stand area.

Rules of Polo

Aim of Polo Explained

In simple terms, the aim of playing polo is to score more goals than your opposing team. There will be four players mounted on horseback for each team.

Rules of Polo Playing Field

Traditionally, the modern sport of polo gets played outdoors on a grass field. A standard polo pitch measures up to 270 meters by 150 meters (300 x 160 yards).

Polo Rules for Equipment

  • To play polo you need a ball and a mallet.
  • The polo ball is white and made of plastic.
  • Balls measure three and a quarter inches in diameter and weigh around 4.5 ounces.
  • As a rule polo mallets measure 49 to 54 inches long.

Rules of Polo Players

  • All riders should wear a protective equestrian helmet with chinstrap. Wearing a faceguard is often a mandatory ruling too.
  • Polo players dress in uniform. The gear consists of knee-length boots (usually wearing knee-pads), spurs, a whip. They will wear two gloves with wristbands.
  • As a rule, team members also wear a numbered, bright coloured, jersey shirt. Polo jerseys depict a player’s position (number 1 to number 4) and the name of the team.

General Polo Regulations

  • The basic rules of a polo game allow two teams to compete against each other with 4 riders on each side.
  • Team members get designated their particular roles being either ‘defence‘ or ‘attack‘.
  • To start the match, teams line up in numerical order and opposite each other. An official throws the ball in to play by rolling it between the teams. This type of throw-ins take place to begin a match and to resume play.
  • Right of way occurs when a player has the line of the ball on his right hand side.
  • Even so, the player who struck the ball last has right of way.
  • Riding alongside a player with the right of way may occur providing their path is not hindered.

Scoring in Polo Explained

  • Players score by driving the ball into the opposing team’s goal. The goal measurement is eight yards wide.
  • Scoring occurs by hitting the ball between the two goal posts. There is no rule on how high the ball travels through the air.
  • The defending team plays a free ‘knock-in‘ from the place where the ball crossed the goal line if the ball goes wide of the goal.
  • Teams change ends after each goal gets scored. This accounts for any existing advantage from any gusty wind strength.

Rules of Polo Fouls and Penalties

  • There are three principle fouls in a game of polo:
    • CROSS: If you ‘cross‘ another player it means the player following the ball was not given a clear path ahead.
    • Rushing in from his right or left side trying to steal the ball is not allowed and called a ‘cross’.
    • FOUL HOOK: A ‘hook‘ occurs when a player is about to hit the ball and an opponent hooks or strikes the polo stick to deflect the aim or stop the stroke altogether.
    • In polo terminologies a ‘foul hook‘ is when a player is not on the same side of the player getting hooked.
    • To simplify, a foul hook is an attempted hook across a ponies legs, under the belly, over the back or around the tail.
    • ENGAGE: You commit a foul if you engage in dangerous riding or rough handling.
    • You should never hit a pony with a polo stick, or ride into another players pony at an angle.
  • Penalties consist of a free hit at the ball with your opponents no closer than thirty yards.
  • Defenders must be behind the back line and cannot come through the goal mouth. Thus, they do not protect the goal when penalty play occurs close to the goal.
  • Polo penalties get nominated by the number of yards distance they are from the goal. There is a 30 yarder, a 40 yarder and a 60 yarder penalty marked off by spots and white lines on the field.

Polo Umpires and Officials

The official polo game control gets conducted by two mounted umpires. They regulate the ‘right of way‘ infringement and the ‘line of the ball‘.

A midfield referee steps in when the other umpires disagree about any ruling decisions. A flagman gets positioned behind each goal and indicates when a goal gets scored.

Winning a Game of Polo

You win a polo game by scoring more goals than your opposing team during regulation play. A sudden death overtime situation occurs if the scores get tied at the end of the final ‘chukker‘. The first team to score in overtime play wins the match.

Advanced Polo Rules


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Polo Rules and Regulations for Beginners in the United Kingdom