POLO - The Game

Many people are fascinated by Polo and many people would like to get a better understanding of this spectacular high speed sport which is played which such beautiful horses.

The aim of the game is very simple - the team that scores the most goals wins but in order to achieve that requires a firm understanding of the rules of polo and practical experience of riding for Polo.

Let's begin first by explaining the basic game and it's variant's.

There are now 3 established forms of polo being played across the world.

1.Traditional or Grass Polo

This consists of 2 teams of 4 players each playing against each other on a rather large grass field.

The size of a regular grass polo field is stipulated by the rules of polo as 270m in length and 150m in width.

Each team consists of 4 players numbered 1,2,3,4

Each polo match or game consists of periods of play also known as chukkers or chukkas.

Each chukker is 7.5 minutes long. A warning bell or horn will be sounded at 7 minutes and a further 30 seconds will be played out.

After the 30 seconds a second bell will announce the end of that period or chukker.

Each grass polo match is has 3 referee's or umpires. 2 umpires are mounted and follow the play on the field. The 3rd umpire is situated off the field and referred to as the 3rd man. Should the 2 field umpires be unable to reach a concensus on a decision for an infringement of the rules then the 3rd umpire will be consulted and an overall ruling made.

The minimum number of periods played shall be 4 but can be up to a maximum of 8 periods in some countries notably Argentina.

2.Arena Polo

 A polo match maybe played in what is termed an Arena. The arena size is stipulated as 100m in length and 50m in width.

A typical arena polo match is played with only 3 players on each side numbering 1,2 and 3.

Again as in a grass polo match, the arena polo match is played with defined periods or chukkers but chukkers of a shorter length.

Arena chukkers are 6.5 minutes in length with a bell announcing 6 minutes with 30 seconds to play and a second bell announcing the end of the 30 seconds and the end of the period

Arena matches are typically only 4 chukkers in total but maybe more.

Each arena polo match is has 1 referee or umpire. 1 umpire is mounted and follows the play on the field. The 2rd umpire is situated off the field and referred to as the 2rd man or Assistant Umpire. Should the field umpire be unable to reach a decision for an infringement of the rules then the 2rd umpire will be consulted and an overall ruling made.

3.Snow Polo/Beach Polo

These are both variants on the Arena Polo format of play and follow similar guidelines


Each player has what is termed a handicap. A handicap defines the experience and skill of the player.

Polo handicaps are dependent on the country in which you are playing and generally run from -2 to +10.

A - 2 handicap indicates an absolute beginner and +10 the best handicap a player may have.

Players will be placed in their correct shirt number by the Team Captain.

The Team Captain is typically denoted by the Number 3 on their shirt. He or she will decide who is in what position 1,2, and 4.

Polo Horses during a polo match

Polo horses are commonly referred to as Polo Ponies - a historical term dating back to when Polo was discovered by the British in India.

A common mistake is to believe that the term polo ponies is actually a breed of horse but this is incorrect.

During a polo match on grass, or arena a player may not play the same pony consecutively therefore most players have a minimum of 2 horses or ponies. One horse will play one period, rest the 2nd period, whilst the 2nd horse shall play the 2nd period and so on.

There are limits to the amount of polo horses or polo ponies to be changed during a game and when they maybe changed.These specific rules are to be found in the Polo Rules for your country or you may get clarification from an experienced player or umpire.

For more information about Polo Ponies and their types see - About Polo Ponies


Written by Naveed Gill - Head Coach GILL POLO CLUB & President of the Czech Polo Association

If you want or need more information on Polo feel free to write to him on Naveed.Gill@GillPolo.Com