A full size polo pitch is 300 yards long by 200 yards wide unless the ground is boarded in which case it need only be 160 yards wide. The goalposts are eight yards wide and are open at the top.
Polo is probably the only game in the world where teams swap ends after each goal scored, this is to ensure that no team gains an advantage from the weather or the ground.
The horses used in a polo match are referred to as polo ponies, as in the 1880s no player was allowed to play a pony over the height of 13 hands 3 (55 inches). The rule fell by the wayside but the name stuck hence the term ‘polo pony’.
The average height of a polo pony is between 15 and 16 hands. The preferred breeds for polo are still predominately found in the Argentine. These ponies along with the thorough bred have the configuration and excel at the skills required for polo.
There are between four and six periods of play (chukkas) in a match dependent upon the level of tournament being played. Each chukka lasts for seven minutes of actual play. A player will have a different pony for each chukka during which the distance covered by a pony can be equivalent to The Grand National!
A polo team consists of four players. Each player is handicapped dependent upon their ability from -2 (novice) to 10 (the best). The teams’ handicap is calculated as the sum of each of the players’ handicaps.
Each player wears a number from 1 to 4 on their shirt denoting their role within the team. Numbers 1 and 2 are the attacking players with the stronger player positioned at number 2. Number 3 is the linchpin of the team and usually the strongest player whilst number 4 plays at back and is the main defender. All players must play right handed.
At the end of each chukka a bell is sounded to signify the end of seven minutes. After this there is a further 30 seconds of play unless the umpire blows a whistle, the ball hits the boards or goes out of play.
The rules of polo are so straightforward that two mounted umpires are required for each match and, for when they disagree, a third man is seated in the stands to provide his opinion!
The governing body of polo in the UK is The Hurlingham Polo Association (The HPA). Hertfordshire Polo Club is proud to operate within the guidelines set down by The HPA and encourages all members to regularly visit their website www.hpa-polo.co.uk. All members of Hertfordshire Polo Club are required to pay The HPA’s annual affiliation fee, for further details please contact us.