Polo is played in 4-6 time periods, named chukkers. Each chukker lasts 7 1/2 minutes. There is a 4 minute period between each chukker to change horses, often with a 10 minute half-time break. Each team consists of 4 players.
Each layer brings their own “string” of horses to the field. Horses are largely thoroughbred and have undergone years of professional training.
Each player is rated with a handicap between -2 and 10. A rating committee determines a players rating based on their playing abilities, horsemanship, team play, horses and knowledge of the game. The handicap of the team is determined through a sum of all players ratings. This team handicap is used with the score to adjust for discrepancies.
A goal is scored when the ball cross the line between the two posts at the end of the field. After each goal, the teams will switch ends to ensure even playing conditions for both teams.
On the field at any given time, there are 4 players per team and 2 umpires. The players are numbered from 1 to 4. Player 1 is offense, Player 2 is the mover who backs Player 1 and seeks to move the ball up the field, Player 3 is generally seen as the quarterback of the team focusing mostly on game strategy and Player 4 is defense.
COMMON POLO TERMS:
Hook: a defensive technique where a player uses his or her mallet to interfere with an opponents swing.
Ride-off: defensive move where two horses and players make contact and “bump” shoulders. The objective of this is to take the opposing player off the line of the ball or to prevent them from hitting the ball.
Line of the ball: this is an imaginary line that the ball creates each time it is hit. This creates two separate lanes which determine the right-of-way of the players. Interference with this line constitutes a foul.
Near-side: players mount and dismount from a horse on the left-hand side. It is referred to as the near-side because it is the side nearest to the player as they get on and off the horse. When a player is able to hit the ball on the left side of the horse, this is referred to as a near-side front or back shot.
Throw-in: when the ball is bowled in between the two teams by the umpire to signify the beginning of the game.
Umpires: two mounted officials that are on the field to ensure safety and enforce the rules. In case of a disagreement between the two, there is a sideline referee or the Third Man who is has the final say.
Divot Stomp: takes place during the half-time of a game; spectators are invited to replace turf dug up by the horses during play by coming out onto the field to “stomp” the divots in place.