Introduction to Polo

Polo is a team sport played outdoors on horseback in which the objective is to score goals against an opposing team. Riders score by driving a white wooden or plastic ball into the opposing team's goal using a long-handled mallet. Goals are only valid if the scoring rider is mounted. The traditional sport of polo is played outdoors, and each polo team consists of four riders and their mounts.



Polo is arguably the oldest recorded team sport in known history, with the first matches being played in Persia over 2500 years ago. Initially thought to have been created by competing tribes of Central Asia, it was quickly taken up as a training method for the King's elite cavalry. These matches could resemble a battle with up to 100 men to a side. 

As mounted armies swept back and forth across this part of the world, conquering and re-conquering, polo was adopted as the most noble of pastimes by the Kings and Emperors, Shahs and Sultans, Khans and Caliphs of the ancient Persians, Arabs, Mughals, Mongols and Chinese. It was for this reason it became known across the lands as "the game of kings". 

British officers themselves re-invented the game in 1862 after seeing a horsemanship exhibition in Manipur, India. The sport was introduced into England in 1869, and seven years later sportsman James Gordon Bennett imported it to the United States. After 1886, English and American teams occasionally met for the International Polo Challenge Cup. Polo was on several Olympic games schedules, but was last an Olympic sport in 1936. 

Polo continues, as it has done for so long, to represent the pinnacle of sport, and reaffirms the special bond between horse and rider. The feeling of many of its players are epitomized by a famous verse inscribed on a stone tablet next to a polo ground in Gilgit, Pakistan: "Let others play at other things. The king of games is still the game of kings."



The Teams

  • On a full sized grass field, each team has four people

  • In an enclosed arena usually played in winter, each team has three people

The Ground

  • The ground is 300 yards long, 160 yards wide if boarded. Being boarded means the field has a 12 inch upright board bounding the perimeter which stops the ball rolling out of play easily.

  • If the ground is unboarded, it is 200 yards wide and marked with a white line.

  • The goal posts, positioned at each end, are 8 yards apart.

Duration of the Play

  • The full game is 8 chukkas, but often in club matches 4 or 6 chukkas are played.

  • Each chukka is timed to last 7 mins, then a bell is rung, but the game goes on until the ball goes out of play, or for another 30 secs when the bell is rung again, the chukka ends where the ball is.

  • The clock is stopped between the umpire's whistle to stop the play and the whistle to start play (eg.ball out of play, foul etc.)

  • There are intervals of 3 mins between chukkas and 5 mins at half time. Ends are changed at every goal scored - this has been found fairest when there is a wind.


  • Each player is handicapped (on a 4-6 chukka basis) from -2 up to 10 goals (the top professional players).

  • The aggregate handicap of the four players in a team is the team handicap. e.g. if all players have a handicap of 2 goals each, the team handicap is 8 goals and is referred to as an '8 goal team'.

  • In handicap tournaments, if both teams do not have an equal aggregate handicap, one team is given a number of goals start which is calculated as follows: the number of goals start is obtained by multiplying the difference between the two teams' handicaps by the number of chukkas and dividing by 6, any fraction counting a half a goal.


  • Ponies can play two chukkas in an afternoon with a rest of at least one chukka in between.

  • There is no limit to the height of ponies.


  • A player following the ball on its exact line has the Right of Way over all other players. Any other player who crosses the player on the right of way close enough to be dangerous commits a foul.

  • Penalties vary according to the degree of danger and closeness of the cross.

  • No player may hook an opponent's stick unless he is on the same side of the opponent's pony as the ball.

  • Dangerous play or rough handling is not allowed - a player may ride an opponent off, but must not charge in at an angle.


  • The following penalties may be given.

  • A goal is given if the cross is dangerous or deliberate in the vicinity of the goal. The ball is then thrown in 10 yds in front of the goal without ends being changed.

  • Free hit from 30 yds opposite the centre of the goal - defenders to be behind the back line and outside th6 goal posts but must not ride through when the ball is hit.

  • Free hit from 40 yds, same conditions as b).
    Free hit from 60 yds. Defenders to be 30 yds from ball.

  • Free hit from the centre of the ground, none of the defending side to be nearer than 30 yds when the ball is hit.

  • Free hit from spot where the foul took place, no defender to be nearer than 30 yds

  • Corners are not taken as in Association Football - instead, a free hit is given 60 yds from the goal from a spot opposite where the ball was hit behind the line, none of the defending side to be nearer than 30 yds.

Captains of teams are the only players who can discuss questions arising during a game. No player shall appeal in any manner to the Umpire for fouls, but me Captain can discuss any matter with the Umpire.