10 Essential Polo Terms Every Fan Should Know

Dec 27, 2023


If you're a fan of polo or just starting to get into the sport, it's important to familiarize yourself with some key polo terms. Understanding these termsdata: will not only enhance your enjoyment of the game, but also allow you to follow the action more closely. In this blog post, we'll cover 10 essential polo terms that every fan should know.

1. Chukker

A chukker is a period of play in a polo match, similar to a quarter in other sports. Each chukker lasts for 7 minutes and there are typically 4 to 6 chukkers in a match, depending on the level of play. It's important to keep track of the chukkers to gauge the progress of the game.

polo chukker

2. Mallet

The mallet is the long-handled stick used by players to hit the ball. It is made of bamboo or a composite material and has a rubber or wooden head. The length of the mallet varies depending on the player's preference. The mallet is an essential tool for players to control and maneuver the ball.

3. Handicap

In polo, each player is assigned a handicap based on their skill level. The handicap ranges from -2 to 10, with 10 being the highest. The handicap system allows for balanced teams and competitive matches. A team's total handicap is the sum of the individual handicaps of its players.

polo handicap

4. Hook

A hook is a defensive move where a player uses their mallet to block an opponent's shot or prevent them from hitting the ball. It requires precise timing and skill to execute a successful hook. The hook is an important strategy to disrupt the opposing team's attack.

5. Line of the Ball

The line of the ball is an imaginary line that the ball creates as it travels across the field. The right of way and fouls in polo are determined by the line of the ball. Players must not cross the line of the ball unless they have the right of way. Understanding the line of the ball is crucial for players to avoid collisions and maintain fair play.

6. Bump

A bump is a physical maneuver where a player rides into an opponent to gain control of the ball. It is a legal move as long as it is executed safely and within the rules of the game. Bumping is a common tactic used to disrupt the opposing team's rhythm and create scoring opportunities.

7. Pony

A pony is the term used for the horses that are ridden in polo matches. Polo ponies are specifically trained for the sport and possess the speed, agility, and endurance required to play the game. Each player typically has multiple ponies to rotate throughout the match to ensure their horses remain fresh.

polo pony

8. Goal

The objective of polo is to score goals by hitting the ball between the goalposts. Each time a team successfully sends the ball through the goalposts, they are awarded a point. Goals are the primary way to determine the winner of a polo match. The team with the most goals at the end of the game is declared the winner.

9. Handicap Goal

A handicap goal is awarded to a team based on the difference in handicaps between the two teams. If there is a significant difference in handicaps, a lower handicap team may start the match with a goal advantage. Handicap goals help level the playing field and make the game more competitive. Below you see the Team Ellerstina on a total handicap of 39 - the sum of individual players handicaps and La Dolfina on 40

polo handicap goal

10. Umpire

The umpire is the official who enforces the rules of the game and ensures fair play. They are responsible for making decisions, such as awarding fouls, penalties, and managing the flow of the game. Umpires play a crucial role in maintaining the integrity of the match and ensuring the safety of the players and horses.

By familiarizing yourself with these essential polo terms, you'll be able to follow the game with greater understanding and appreciation. Whether you're watching a match in person or on television, these terms will help you engage with the sport and enjoy the thrilling action on the field.

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Origins of Polo-to-the-modern-day