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Polo Terminology

'Terms of Polo: Trot through these Keywords to avoid a Handicap'

POLO TERMINOLOGIES: A concise list of terminologies of polo. You will find 100s of polo terms and definitions used by players and officials, all listed from A to Z.

Polo Players and competition referees can use this vocabulary of polo terminology. The titles and common match rulings will also help spectators and sports fans.

The official polo rules and regulations is a good place to start if you are learning to play. These key words cover the advanced polo lingo and sports terms related to the game.

Shoot through to the most common polo terminology by clicking the alphabetic facility below. Or, take a timeout and sharpen your knowledge and understanding of the game.

This comprehensive list of polo terms and definitions continues to grow. Check in often for more information associated to polo playing techniques and match-winning strategies.

POLO TERMS: A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

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A – Above the Bit

The polo term ‘above the bit’ occurs when a horse raises its head and stretches forward so excessively that the horse’s mouth and the bit are positioned above the rider’s hand.


In polo terminology the word ‘acceptance’ simply refers to the unhesitant willingness of a horse to allow the maintenance of a steady contact and the rider’s weight.


The movement of the legs of a horse.


The energy, vigor, and liveliness of the hind legs of a horse.


A horse of at least 15 years of age.


The process of estimating the age of a horse by examining the appearance and development of its teeth and eyes.


Any signal given to a horse to signal it to halt, turn, or change gaits.


The lack of pigment in a horse. True Albino horses have pink skin, a white hair coat, and pink eyes.


The lining up of a horse’s body parts from tail to poll.


A horse with a limited ability to sweat.


Common name for various de-worming medications to control equine internal parasites.


A breed of horse exhibiting one of a number of distinct coloration patterns.

Developed by the Nez Perce Indians of Id
for the River Palouse. The coloration patterns are leopard spot, blanket,
snowflake, and frost.


Claims made by polo players to the umpires that a foul has been committed
against their team, expressed by the ra
mallets above the player’s head.


Abbreviation for the American Quarter Horse Association.


An ancient breed of horse, originating in the deserts of the Middle East and
having a strong influence on many other
the Thoroughbred.


Cross between Appaloosa and Arabian breeds of horses.

Artificial Aids

Mechanical means that enable a rider to direct a horse like spurs or a whip.

At Grass

Turning out a horse in a paddock or field.


A Myositisa wherein a horse has prolonged muscle contractions during
exercise. It is also called Tying-Up and Monda
sickness because it can appear in fit horses after a period of rest.

B – Back at the Knee

A conformational fault where the foreleg bows backwards at the knee.

Back Breeding

Breeding back to a certain Stallion to preserve a particularly desirable trait.

Back Shot

A backhand swing in the sport of polo, changing the flow of play by sending the ball in the opposite direction.


The relative distribution of weight of a horse and rider on the fore and
hind legs (longitudinal balance) and the left a
(lateral balance). The horse is in good balance when the weight is
distributed evenly left and right, and sufficiently t
legs that the horse can move easily.


A horse with a predominantly white face.


When a horse stops short of an obstacle.


Outward turning of the hocks.

Barn Sour

A horse that objects to riding away from the barn.


The area of a horse’s body between the forelegs and the loins.


The fleshy area where the bit rests between the back and front teeth of a horse.


Artificial Aid that a rider uses with the Natural Aids of the seat and legs to encourage reluctant or lazy horses to mov


Standard color name for a horse with a black mane and tail, black lower
legs, and reddish brown over the rest of the


Wood shavings, shredded newspaper, straw, sand or other materials used to
line the floor of a horse’s stall.

Behind the Bit

When a horse intentionally holds his head behind the vertical and decreases
a rider’s control.

Behind the Vertical

The position of a horse’s head wherein the horse’s nostrils fall behind an
imaginary vertical line dropping from the h
the horse’s chest). The horse may or may not be behind the bit.

Bell Boots

Protective boots that cover the horse’s hooves.


Straps to attach the girth to the saddle.


Metal mouthpiece attached to the reins.

Bit Metal

A metal bar on a bridle placed in the horse’s mouth used to control a horse.


A broad white stripe down the face of a horse.


A permanent mark or scar on a horse’s skin made by an injury or disease.


The flaps on a bridle that keep a horse from seeing to the side or back.
Also called Blinkers.


The flaps on a bridle that keep a horse from seeing to the side or back.


Applying a caustic agent to the leg of a horse. Uses for the treatment of a
variety of conditions.

Blood Horse

A Thoroughbred horse.


Thoroughbred horses bred for racing.

Boarding Stable

An equestrian facility where horse’s are boarded for a monthly fee. The fee
can include just the space, a stall or a pa
include feed, shoes, grooming, and/or training as well.

Bog Spavin

A condition of mild synovial swelling on the inside of the hock. It does not
usually cause lameness.


The measurement around the leg of a horse just below the knee or hock. Used
to determine a horse’s ability to carr


A braided noseband used in western equitation. Also called a bit-less bridle
since no mouthpiece is used.


Any type of equine parasite.

Bowed Hocks

A conformational fault where the hocks on the hind legs turn too far

Bowed Tendon

A permanently swollen tendon which doesn’t result in lameness and is not as
strong as a normal tendon.

Bowl In

When the umpire starts or resumes a polo match by rolling the ball down the
center of a lineup of players, same as

Boxy Hooves

Narrow upright hooves with a small frog and closed heel.


The early training of a young horse when it learns to carry a rider.

Breast Collar

A leather piece of tack placed across a horse’s chest to help keep the
saddle in place.


Tight fitting riding pants that tuck into your boots. Primarily worn by


A horse with a distinct genetic makeup. Recognized members of a breed are
listed in the breed’s official studbook.


A harness of leather straps that fits around a horse’s head used to hold the
bit in its mouth.


Snaffle bit used with a curb bit in a double bridle.

Brood Mare

A mare used for breeding purposes.


A horse that accepts tack and a rider and is ready for training.

Broken Winded

A horse that has an abnormal breathing pattern due to Chronic Obstructive
Pulmonary Disease (COPD).


A wild wild wild horse.

Bronco Buster

A cowboy who breaks-in wild horses.


Standard color of a horse with a mix of black and brown hairs on the body
and black points.


A horse’s hoof or shoe hits the inside of its opposite leg, at or near the

Brushing Boots

Tack to protect the legs of a horse from injury due to brushing.


When a horse kicks out both back legs to dismount a rider or shuck-off tack.


Standard color of a horse that has a cream to dark bronze body with a mane,
tail, legs, and tips of the ears being bl


When a polo player directs his pony into the side of an opponent’s pony for
the purpose of moving the opponent off.

C – Cadence

The measured movement, rhythm, and beat of a horse’s footfalls.

Cannon Bone

Bone of the lower foreleg between the knee and the fetlock. Also called the shin bone.


The gait of a horse where three legs are simultaneously suspended off the
ground. The canter is faster than the trot
the gallop.


The rear edge of an English saddle.

Capped Hocks

Swelling on the point of the hock which can be caused by a blow or injury,
or by a horse lying down repeatedly in its

Carriage Horse

A light horse used for carriage driving.

Cart Horse

A cold blooded draft horse.


A horse that rolls and gets stuck against the wall of its stall or along a


A padded noseband with three swiveling metal rings, to which the lunge or
side reins attach, used to train a young horse.


These are long leather leggings usually worn over jeans by polo players
for greater grip in the saddle.

Check and Turn

In a polo match, to slow the pony and turn safely.

Check Up

In a polo match, to slow the pony quickly, usually to avoid a foul or
because the line of the ball has changed.


A standard color of a horse with a reddish brown body, mane and tail. It can
also refer to a bony protrusion on the i
forearm on each foreleg.

Chin Groove

Groove above a horse’s lower lip where the curb chain of a curb bit is


The white markings of a horse.


The term used for period of play in polo, seven and a half minutes long,
there are six chukkers in a polo match.


Used to secure a Western saddle to a horse, it attaches to the saddle on one
side and runs under the horse’s barrel
the other side.


A horse without feathering on its lower legs.


A breed of horse used for heavy draft work. It originated in Scotland and
was made famous by Budweiser.

Coach Horse

A powerful horse capable of drawing a heavy coach.


A strong horse only about 15 hands high and descended from draft horses.

Coffin Bone

A small bone in the hoof of a horse. In severe cases of laminitis the coffin
bone can detach and rotate, causing extre
even death.

Coggins Test

Blood test for Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) needed when transporting a
horse across state lines. Most states and
the destroying or permanent quarantining of a horse that tests positive for


Heavy European horse breeds descended from the prehistoric Forest Horse.


When a rider causes a horse’s frame to become compacted and the horse is
light and supple in the hand. This result
baseline shortening, its shoulder rising, and its head staying vertical. The
opposite of extension.


Any abdominal pain in a horse. It can range in severity from mild to life


First milk produced by a mare after foaling. It contains globulins to
provide the newborn foal with temporary immun


A male horse under 3 years of age.


The frame or skeletal build of a horse. A horse with good conformation will
look proportional.


Abbreviation for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or Heaves. Brought
on by allergies and characterized by an
breathing pattern and reduced tolerance to exercise.


Surface of the hoof.

Counter Canter

A movement in which the horse canters in a circle with its outside leg
leading instead of the usual inside leg.

Cow Hocks

A conformational fault where the hocks on the hind legs turn inward towards
each other.

Cracked Heels

Inflammation of a horse’s heels resulting in cracked skin and a discharge of


Top of the horse’s neck where the mane grows.


A bad habit characterized by a horse grabbing onto a horizontal object,
stretching its esophagus, sucking in air, and
to induce a type of high. This behavior can become obsessive and is usually
engaged in because a horse is bored an
and companionship. Pretty much the same reason people get high.


A horse with a medium head, convex face, muscular neck, and short deep body
and legs. Argentinean polo ponies a
They are very fast and intelligent.


A stick, sometimes with a leather loop at the end, used by a rider to get a
horse’s attention.

Cross Breeding

The mating of horses of different breeds or types.

Cross Canter

When a horse canters on one lead in front and the other lead behind.

Cross Country

Riding that through open country including jumps.

Cross Ties

A method of tethering a horse using two ropes or ties, one on each side,
connected to a solid post or wall.


Top of the hindquarters from the point of the hip to the tail.

Crow Hopping

When a horse jumps in the air repeatedly with all four feet suspended off
the ground.


A piece of leather under the tail to keep a saddle from sliding forward.

Curb Bit

A single bar mouthpiece that attaches at each end to upright bars, unlike
rings on a Snaffle Bit, to provide more con
as gentle on a horse’s mouth as a Snaffle Bit.

Curry Comb

Plastic or rubber comb with several rows of short flexible bristles for
removing loose hair and dirt from a horse’s coat.

Cutting Horse

A powerful, fast horse trained to single out a calf from the herd.

D – Dam

Mother of a horse.

Deep Going

Ground that is so wet or soft that a horse’s hooves sink in. This is often
the cause of a dangerous fall for both rider and horse.


A rider’s movement when posting in an up-down motion along with the
diagonal movement of the horse’s legs.

Dipped Back

A hollow back between a horse’s withers and croup.

Dished Face

A horse that has a concave head in profile. Many Arabians have this trait.


When a horse does not want to follow a rider’s cues such as a refusal.


A very contagious disease caused by streptococcus equi bacteria. It is also
called Strangles.


The legs of a horse are out of sequence in the canter.


The top of a horse’s tail.


The cruel amputation of a horse’s dock for the sake of appearance.

Don Horse

A tough and reliable horse that can withstand harsh winter conditions, with
a plain head, long neck, broad back, stro
short straight shoulders, and hard legs.

Dorsal Stripe

A dark stripe along a horse’s back.

Double Bridle

Traditional English bridle with curb and snaffle bits that provides a rider
with greater control versus a single bit.

Draft Horse

Any horse used for hauling vehicles or heavy loads.

Draw Rein

Set of reins attached to the girth at one end, passing through the rings of
the bit and back to the rider’s hands. Used
align the horse’s head position.

Dropped Noseband

Noseband that buckles beneath the bit to prevent the horse from opening
its mouth and getting hold of the bit and


Standard color of a horse ranging from a light to medium sand color with
dark skin, dark points on the mane, and tail.

Dutch Warmblood

A popular sport horse bred from English, French, and German horses mixed
with Dutch horses.

E – East Friesian

A saddle horse with a straight profile, elegant head, strong neck and body,
with a light build and short legs.


An abbreviation for Equine Infectious Anemia, also called Swamp Fever, a
viral disease for which there is no known cure.

English Saddle

A simple, small saddle without a large pommel used for polo, dressage, and


Abbreviation for Equine Protozoal Myleoencephalitis. A neurological disorder
caused by protozoa in the spinal cord. S
nerve damage, stumbling, loss of coordination, and muscle atrophy.


Abbreviation for Equine Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy. A muscle wasting
condition seen mainly in draft horses.

Ewe Neck

A conformation fault in which the neck is concave along the upper edge
along with a bulging of some muscles.


The lengthening of the horse’s frame and stride. The opposite of collection.

F – Farrier

A professional blacksmith who shoes horses.


The practice of shoeing horses.


The long hairs of the fetlock that cover the hooves of some draft horses.


Ankle joint of a horse’s leg.


A polo field is usually 300 yards long by 160 yards wide and outlined by

Figure Eight Noseband

A noseband with thin leather straps that cross over at the front and buckle
both above and below the bit.


A female horse under 4 years of age.


A treatment that burns the skin with a hot iron, usually over a leg injury,
to produce scar tissue.

Fistulous Withers

The inflammation of the bursa at the height of the withers.


An unofficial goal observer appointed to signal, by waving a flag over
the head, if a goal is scored during a polo match.


The full bending of the hock joints. Veterinarians perform flexion tests
when diagnosing lameness.

Flexor Tendon

A tendon at the back of the leg of a horse.


A male or female horse less than one year old.


The upper part of the foreleg above the knee of a horse.


One of a horse’s two front feet.


The part of the mane between a horse’s ears that hangs forward over its


Quarter Horses whose bloodlines have not had any Thoroughbred blood added
since 1940. They must be registered
and have less than 10% Thoroughbred blood.


The detachment and rotation of the coffin bone that occurs in severe cases
of laminitis.

Free Walk

A relaxed walk that allows the horse to lengthen and stretch to the bit.


The fleshy triangular underside of the hoof.

Full Mouth

A six year old horse with all his permanent teeth.


A brand name for the antibacterial medication nitrofurazone.


A horse with a compact build, good deep girth, and strong hindquarters, most
commonly used for Steeplechase.


An breeding program to promote a particular breed or type of horse.

G – Gait

The four different ways a horse can move (Walk, Trot, Canter, and Gallop) by
lifting its feet in rhythm.

Gaited Horse

Horses that move at additional paces besides the walk, trot, and canter. One
example is the fifth gait of the Iceland
Gallop. The fastest of the four natural gaits of a horse. All four feet are
in suspension off the ground simultaneously.

Galvayne’s Groove

A dark line that first appears on the upper corner incisor of horses at
about 8 years of age. It extends downward gra
and makes it easier to estimate the age of a horse.


A carriage horse with a strong back, compact body, long back, powerful
hindquarters, and short clean legs.


A castrated male horse.


The strap around a horse’s belly that secures the saddle to a horse’s back.


A goal is scored in a polo match anytime the ball crosses the line
between the goal posts, regardless of who
knocks it through.


A standard color of a horse that ranges from white to dark gray and can
include some dappling.


Inflammation of a horse’s skin at the back of the fetlock and pasterns.

Green Horse

A horse that will accept tack and a rider, but has not yet been trained for


A solid colored horse with a strong head, short neck, strong withers, long
body, and thick legs.


The maintenance of a horse’s coat, including clipping, brushing, washing, or
trimming the horse’s mane and tail. It a
shaving of the mane and braiding of the tail before a polo match.

Ground Manners

The behavior of a horse while in the stable, being groomed, or saddled.

H – Hackamore

A bridle without a bit used with reins. It applies pressure on the horse’s
nose and jaw to provide control to the rider.

Half Hitch

A type of simple knot.


The term for stop, usually preceded by “whoa”, a tug on the reins, and
sitting back in the saddle.


Harness of leather, rope, or nylon that fits over a horse’s head, like a
bridle but without a bit or reins, used for leading or
tying up.

Halter Broke

A young horse trained to wear a halter.


In the sport of polo, team play is handicapped on the basis of ability. A
polo team’s handicap is the total of its playe
The team with the lower handicap is awarded the difference in goals at the
start of the match. An exception is when
“On The Flat” which means no goals are awarded based on differences in the
team’s handicaps.


A hand is approximately 4 inches. A horse’s height is measured from its
withers, the highest point on a horse’s back
mane begins.


The driving tack of a horse.

Harness Horse

A horse used in harness and having a harness type of conformation, with
straight shoulders and an elevated harness.

Heart Room

A horse with a deep chest and wide ribs will have enough heart and lung
capacity for strenuous exercise.


Term used to describe the abnormal breathing pattern seen in horses with

Heavy Horse

Any large draft horse such as the Clydesdale or the Belgian Draft.

Hind Foot

One of a horse’s back feet.

Hind Quarters

The part of the horse’s body from the rear of the flank to the top of the
tail down to the top of the gaskin.


Allergic reaction characterized by bumps on the skin.


Restraints that fasten around a horse’s front legs below the ankle to
keep it from running off.


The knee of a horse’s hind legs.

Hocks Well Let Down

Conformational trait referring to a horse with short cannon bones which give
a horse strength in its legs.

Hogged Mane

A horse’s mane that has been shaved close for its entire length. All polo
ponies have their manes shaved for the safe

Hoof Pick

Metal or plastic tool with a pointed end for picking debris out of the
underside of a horse’s hooves.


A polo player positions their mallet to catch an opponent’s mallet in
mid-swing below the level of the horse’s back. An opponent’s shot or cause the hit to be less accurate.


The surface of a horse’s hoof.


A horse that becomes overly excited or is easily excitable.


Horses of Arabian or Thoroughbred blood.

Hunt Seat

A type of equestrian discipline using an English saddle that involves riding
cross country and jumping as in foxhunting.


A cross between a horse and one of the other Equids, such as a Zebra.

I – Icelandic Horse

A beautiful ancient breed of horse originating in Iceland which are
versatile riding horses.


Strong controlled forward movement in a horse.


Mating of brother and sister, or sire and daughter, or son and dam.

Indirect Rein

The direct rein is the one you directly pull to move the bit in the
horse’s mouth.

In Front of the Bit

A horse pulling or hanging heavily on the rider’s hand.

In Hand

Controlling a horse from the ground rather than in the saddle.

Inside Leg

The 2 legs of a horse and 1 leg of its rider that are on the inside of a
curved path the horse is going on.


English stirrups used for polo.

J – Jack

Male donkey.


Female donkey.


Rider on a race horse.


Flared calf-length trousers worn with riding boots.


A slow trot.

Joint Ill

A disease in foals caused by bacteria entering its navel. The infection
spreads to the foal’s joints and causes inflammation.


A horse ridden for its strength and its ability to jump obstacles.


According to the terms used in polo ‘junior’ refers to a player under 18 years of age.

K – Knackers

Slang for slaughterhouse or someone who buys horses for the purpose of
taking them to slaughter.

Knock In

When the ball crosses the back line in the sport of polo, the defending
team knocks the ball back into play.

Knock Kneed

Conformation fault where the horse’s knees point in toward each other.

L – Lame

A horse that is lame cannot carry its weight equally on all four legs.
Lameness can be caused by disease or injury.


Inflammation of the inside lining of the hoof (Laminae).


Swelling of the hard palate in a horse’s mouth. This can occur when a
young horse is switched to hard feed.

Laryngeal Hemiplegia

Partial paralysis of the horse’s larynx causing it breathing difficulty.
You will hear a noise, called roaring.

Lateral Cartilages

Cartilage attached to the coffin bone within a horse’s foot.


The right or left leg on a horse that leads during the canter. The horse’s
inside foreleg reaches the farthest when its

Lead Change

A rider asks the horse to change its lead foot in a transition.

Leave It

A polo player uses this command tell a teammate to ride past the ball to
let another teammate get it.

Leg Up

A rider is assisted mounting by another person holding the lower part of
his left leg and giving the rider a boost
up off the ground into the saddle.

Light of Bone

Conformation fault due to insufficient bone below the horse’s knee to
support a rider’s body weight without strain.

Line Breeding

Mating horses with a common ancestor to accentuate a particular trait.

Line of the Ball

Every hit in polo creates an imaginary line produced by the direction of the
ball when it is hit or deflected. This line is the rules of safety for
players and their mounts. The line of the ball creates a right of way for
players. Penalties are awarded for fouls
committed that violate this rule. More fouls regarding 
the ball and right of way are awarded penalty shots and argued over than any
other single aspect of polo.

Livery Stable

English term for a boarding stable.


Weakest part of a horse’s back.


Training a horse by working it in a circle using a longe or lunge rein
attached to the cavesson.


A slow canter used by Western riding disciplines.


A disorder of a horse’s Lymphatic system often in the hind legs which become
painfully swollen. Usually seen in wor
getting full feed but confined to their stalls due to inclement weather or
another illness.

M – Made Pony

A polo pony that is well trained for polo and has been played in games for
some time.

Mallet Head

The part of the mallet used to strike a ball in polo. The wide face of the
head is used to strike the ball.


Adult female horse over 4 years old.


Leather strap that goes from the girth to the bridle underneath the chin to
prevent a horse from throwing its head up
on polo ponies.


Firm dark brown or black fecal matter passed by a foal after birth.


A skin growth or tumor, common to gray or white horses, it can be malignant
or benign.


A horse that receives judging, by virtue of its bone and substance, capable
of carrying weights up to 196 lbs.


The angle which the neck of an Arabian horse joins its head. It defines the
characteristic Arabian arched neck.


Cleaning out the manure and soiled bedding from a stall.


The offspring of a male donkey and a female horse.


A wild horse from the American West. Mustangs are protected and managed
by the government and roam free in
Yellowstone National Park.

Mutton Withers

Wide flat withers on horses like the Quarter Horse as opposed to the sharp
bony withers on the Thoroughbred.

N – Natural Aids

Subtle body signals given to a horse by a rider’s seat, hands, and legs.

Navicular Bone

Small bone within the hoof between the short pastern and the coffin bone.

Navicular Disease

A disease of the navicular bone usually induced by improper horseshoeing
or excess stress on a horse’s hooves.


The left hand side of the horse.

Neck Rein

A rider, holding both reins in one hand as in polo, turns a horse by placing
one rein against its neck. To turn left the
right rein to the horse’s neck, and the opposite to turn right.

Neck Reining

Turning a horse by using the indirect rein against the neck. The indirect
rein is the one that is not pulling on the bit.

Neck Shot

One of 4 basic shots in polo. A neck shot is hitting the ball under the
horse’s neck, usually to pass or change the direction
of the ball.

Neck Strap

The part of a martingale that goes around a horse’s neck.

Nerve Block

A diagnostic tool used by veterinarians to progressively block nerves in
a horse’s leg.


Cutting the nerves supplying sensation to a horse’s foot to treat navicular


A cruel procedure that divides and then resets a horse’s muscles under
its tail.

O – Officials

In a polo match two mounted umpires do most of the officiating, with a
referee at midfield on the sidelines who has
any dispute between the mounted umpires.


The right hand side of a horse.

On the Bit

Restraining a horse by putting pressure on the bit.

On the Flat

A polo match played on the flat makes no allowances for team handicap


A polo tournament without any entry restrictions based on previous wins.


A wild horse that can’t be broke or ridden.

Over at the Knee

Conformational fault where a horse’s foreleg bows forward at the knee.


A horse can drop his head in to its chest to reduce the rider’s control of
the bit.

Over Reaching

While a horse is galloping it catches the toe of its hind foot with the back
of the pastern or heel on its front foot.

P – Pack Horse

Any horse used to carry goods placed in packs on either side of its back.


A small enclosure where horses turnout for grazing.

Paint Horse

A breed of horse with Pinto coloring.


A gold colored horse with a blond or white mane and tail.

Parietal Bones

The bones on the top of a horse’s skull.

Parrot Mouth

An overbite where the top jaw in a horse extends forward over the lower jaw.

Part Bred

Breeding a Thoroughbred with a horse of another breed.

Paso Fino

A breed of horse originally from Spain known for comfort and endurance.


A polo player hits the ball forward or laterally to a teammate or thru the
goal posts.


The area between a horse’s hoof and fetlock joint on each leg.


Details of a horse’s parentage and ancestry which are recorded in a studbook
or registry.

Pelham Bit

A bit that with a chain that goes under the chin. A rider uses two sets of
reins with a Pelham bit.


Polo penalties are numbered from 1 to 10, a free hit is awarded to the team
fouled, from a set distance determined
the foul committed.


A horse color made up of white with black patches.

Pigeon Toed

Conformational fault where the horse’s hooves turn in towards each other.


A standard color of a horse which is also called Paint. A Pinto horse has
large patches of brown or black and white.

Player Positions

There are four players on a polo team, numbered 1 through 4, each with
different responsibilities.


The mane, tail, and lower legs of a horse.


The highest point on the top of a horse’s head.


Imagine a ball hit so hard that it comes at you at a speed of 110 miles
per hour, so fast, you can hardly see it. The king of sports and the sport
of kings.


A sport played on horseback that combines elements of polo and lacrosse.
Since only one horse is used by a player,
considerably less expensive than polo where a player must mount a new horse
in each chukker.


The front of a saddle that fits over the horse’s withers.


A fully grown horse that is 14.2 hands or less. However, a polo pony can
be any size.

Pony Goal

In any polo game when a pony causes the ball to go through the goal posts
the score is counted.


The raised section in the center of the mouthpiece on some curb bits. The
higher it raises the greater the severity of
Posting Trot
The action of a rider rising from the saddle in rhythm with the trot of a
horse. In polo, players use a variation called


The early species of Equus Caballus including the Asian Wild Horse, the
Tarpan, the Forest Horse and the Tundra Horse.

Pulling Leather

The horn of the saddle, on the pommel, that a cowboy holds to keep from
being thrown when a horse is bucking.

Pure Bred

A horse with both parents from the same breed.


The correctness of the order and timing of a horse’s footfalls for all

Q -Quarter Horse

A breed of horse originated in the USA that is very popular for ranch work,
Rodeo, Cutting, polo, racing, and riding in


The hind part of a horse’s body from the rear of the flank to the top of the
tail down to the top of the gaskin.


A horse that drops partially chewed food from its mouth. Usually caused by
old age or dental problems.


A weighted short-handled whip made of braided leather.

R – Racehorse

A horse bred for racing. It can be an Arabian, Quarter Horse, Standardbred,
or a Thoroughbred.


A single-footed extremely rapid and smooth four-beat gait unique mostly
to the American Saddlebred.


A horse stands on his hind legs with both forelegs in the air to unsettle a
rider or rid itself of irritating tack.


A breeding organization which has registration papers on horses.


A Western style of riding that demonstrates tremendous agility in turning,
stopping, lead changing, and more. For the
most advanced Western riders perform an individual, preassigned pattern from
memory, demonstrating a variety of figures at various speeds.


Acts by a horse that indicate a refusal to continue such as rearing, making
a half turn, or stepping back.

Ride Off

In polo two riders may make contact and attempt to push each other off the
line of the ball to prevent an opponent ball. A ride off is a particularly
useful strategy when a player takes an opponent, who does not yet have the


A male horse retains one testicle within the body. It can cause
stallion-like behavior that is treatable with surgery.

Riding Horse

A horse suitable for riding with a conformation and a comfortable riding
action unlike draft or carriage horses.


Bony changes within the Pastern and Coffin joints. Lameness can occur during
these changes but usually disappears.


Contagious fungal disease in a horse characterized by small circular patches
where hair falls out.

Rising Trot

The action of a rider rising from the saddle in rhythm with the horse’s


The shaved mane found polo ponies.

Roach Back

A convex curvature of a horse’s spine between its withers and loins.


A standard color of a horse in which white hairs are mixed with a base coat
color: black (blue roan), bay (red roan),
(strawberry roan). A strawberry roan is from a mix of chestnut and white
hairs that create an overall reddish effect.
mix of black and white hairs which create an overall blue effect.


Characteristic abnormal noise produced when a horse with Laryngeal
Hemiplegia inhales.


A equestrian discipline where riders (cowboys) display their skills at
bronco busting, cutting, and roping.

Roll Back

A tight turn performed between two fences to show control of the horse
and a rider’s ability to maintain position.

Rosin Back

A broad-backed horse used for trick riding acts.


An internal equine parasite called Ascarids.

S – Saddlebred

A breed of horse popular for its spectacular gaits. It originated in the

Saddle Horn

A horn or handleon the pommel of a Western saddle where a rider loops his
lariat during the roping of a steer.

Saddle Horse

Any fully broke riding horse.

Saddle Marks

These are white hairs in the saddle area caused by galls.


Also known as Penalty 6, a defending player hits the ball over his own back
line during a polo match.


Term for diarrhea in foals.


Scabed, oozing skin inflammation on the back of the pasterns just above a
horse’s heel.

Seedy Toe

The separation of a horse’s hoof wall from the sensitive Laminae caused by
neglecting the horse’s feet.

Set Tail

A horse’s tail that has been intentionally broken or nicked to produce an
artificially high tail carriage.

Shank Bone

Hind Cannon.

Show Jumping

A horse and rider must clear a number of obstacles on a course within a
specified time.


A horse that jumps suddenly to one side when startled by a real or imaginary


Long short boards along the sidelines of the polo field to help keep the
ball in play.


The ossification of the lateral cartilage on either side of a horse’s coffin
bone within the hoof.

Side Reins

Reins used to position a horse’s head. They attach on one end to the bit
and to the girth.


Father of a horse.

Slab Sided

Narrow ribbed.

Snaffle Bit

A simple bit consisting of one or two bars linked in the middle. Rings at
each end attach to the reins.


White marking between the nostrils on a horse.


An area of white coat hair extending up to a horse’s fetlock.


Any horse that is free from lameness or injury.


A bone enlargement of a horse’s hock that results in lameness in one or both
hind legs.

Splay Footed

Conformational fault wherein a horse’s hooves turn away from each other.


An injury to one or both of the metacarpal or splint bones that run up
the back of a horse’s cannon bone. Stress to
the ligaments that attach these bones to the cannon bone to pull apart or
tear, causing heat, swelling and lameness, and
additional bone forms over the injury producing a bony swelling.


A pointed device on the rider’s boot heel used to urge a horse forward.
In the sport of polo, spurs are rounded.


Any male horse that is not gelded.


Any white marking above or between a horse’s eyes.


A horse’s weight distribution and straightness allow it to follow any line
of travel while maintaining a steady rhythm
never wavering from the rider’s chosen line. This especially important in
the sport of polo where the rider is swinging his mallet at a ball, while
simultaneously another player is pushing his horse against him to move him


A polo mallet.

Stick and Ball

Personal practice time in the sport of polo.


A loop or ring hung from the saddle that supports a rider’s foot.

Stock Horse

Horses that used for ranch work, driving, and cutting cattle.


White area of a horse that extends up to the cannon.


A highly contagious horse disease caused by streptococcus equi that is also
called distemper.


The amount of ground a horse covers in one step.


A narrow white stripe down a horse’s face.


An equine internal parasite also called bloodworms.


A stallion used for breeding purposes.


A list kept by a horse breeder society or registry that contains the
pedigrees of horses eligible for registration.


When a horse has unresisting obedience to its rider.

Sudden Death

Overtime play in polo when the score is tied at the end of the last regular
chukker, the first team to score a goal win.


A webbing strap that passes around a horse’s barrel to enable the attaching
of side reins.

Suspensory Ligament

Ligaments involved in the support of the fetlock and the fetlock joint.


Hitting at the ball with a polo mallet using one of four basic shots:
forehander, backhander, neck shot, tail shot.

T – Tack

Any equipment worn by a horse including saddle, bridle, reins, martingale,
leg wraps, saddle pads, et cetera.


An internal equine parasite.

Tail Shot

One of the 4 basic shots in polo. A player hits the ball behind and under
the polo pony’s rump.


Substitute stallion used to test a mare’s readiness for breeding.


Serious bacterial infection in horses caused by clostridium tetani. It
enters a horse’s body through puncture wounds.

Third Man

In every polo match there is a referee sitting on the sidelines at midfield,
if the two mounted umpires on the field are in
disagreement, the third man makes the final decision.


A breed of horse descended from three Arab stallions brought to Britain in
the 17th century. Thoroughbreds average
racehorses are thoroughbreds. Thoroughbreds make excellent polo ponies.

Three Point Position

The basic riding position with three points of contact to the saddle: 2 legs
and the seat. Two Point is when the rider
irons, seat above the saddle.

Throw In

Whenever the umpire starts or resumes a polo match, he rolls the ball
down the center of a lineup of players.


A fungal or bacterial infection of the frog characterized by foul smelling
discharge from the cleft of the frog.

Tied in Below the Knee

Conformation fault wherein the measurement below the knee is substantially
less than that above the fetlock.

Time Out

In polo an umpire may call a time out when a foul is committed, an accident
occurs, or at his or her discretion, a player may call for
a time out if he has broken tack or is injured.

Top Line

The line from the back of a horse’s withers to the end of the croup.


A vehicle used to transport one or more horses that is towed by a truck.


A change of pace or movement in a horse.


One of the four gaits of a horse. One foreleg and the opposite hind leg
are on the ground as the other foreleg is moving forward. This is faster than a walk but slower than a canter or


The practice of turning horses loose in a field or pasture.

Turn the Ball

In a polo match a defending player will backhand hit the ball away from the
goal being defended.


A metal clasp applied to a horse’s top lip to restrain it for medical

Two Point Position

The position of a rider with seat out of the saddle and the legs firmly
in the irons. This position is most often used
to hit the ball with a mallet while riding.


Any horse that fulfills a certain purpose, such as a polo Pony or a Hunter,
and is not necessarily of any particular breed.

U – Umpires

In the sport of polo there are two mounted officials, one for each side of
the field.


A deformity in a horse where the lower jaw projects beyond the upper jaw.


Any condition or conformation fault that limits the ability of a horse to
work or exercise.


An allergic reaction characterized by bumps on a horse’s skin also known as


Abbreviation for the United States Equestrian Team which fields teams to
represent the USA in international compet
jumping, eventing, dressage, and driving.


United States Polo Association, the governing body of polo (www.uspolo.org).

V – Vaulting

Gymnastics on a moving horse.


Subjecting a horse to a veterinary evaluation, examination, medication, or

W – Walleye

A horse’s eye with no pigment or a slight blue tint. However, the color
of the iris in a horse’s eye has no affect on its sight.


The horse’s slowest gait in which the legs move individually in a diagonal


A type of sport horse resulting from crossing heavier draft horse breeds
with lighter Thoroughbreds.


Any horse weak in the quarters and shoulders with long legs.

Well Ribbed Up

A horse with a short, deep, and well rounded body that has well sprung ribs.

Well Sprung Ribs

Long rounded ribs with ample room for lung expansion and suited to carrying
a saddle.


A style of riding that includes reining, roping, pleasure, trail and
cutting. The cowboy style saddle has a large pomm
both reins in one hand and steers the horse moving both reins in the
direction of the turn.


A long thin device held by a rider and used to urge the horse on.

Wind Sucking

Stable vice where a horse arches his neck and sucks air in through his open


The slight ridge on a horse’s back just before the mane begins. The point
used to measure a horse’s height.


The colorful protective bandages that polo ponies wear on their legs.

X – Xenophon

A General in the Greek army (430-356 BC) renowned for his treatise “On the
Art of Horsemanship”. His progressive
horses has become the basis for classical riding today.

Y – Yearling

A Colt or Filly between one and two years of age.


A horse moves away from pressure, without resistance, is flexible and supple
at the slightest touch of leg or hand.

Z – Zebra

A member of the Equus family characterized by its striped coat pattern.


A hybrid cross between a Zebra and a horse.

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Polo Terms and Vocabulary Definitions