Polo is a ball game played on horseback. There are two competing teams. The aim is to score points by shooting the ball through the opponent’s goal. The team with the higher score wins.
Polo Ponies : The horses used in polo are called ponies, although their sizes vary a lot. Though they are not recognized as a distinct breed, polo ponies are truly unique horses that combine the traits of several breeds. Next to a player's skills, the pony is the most important component in the game. Moreover, the Pony is often the single greatest determinant of a games's final result.
A polo field can be no larger than 276m x 170m. The distance between the two goal posts is 7.3 m. The posts are 3m high and not connected. For security reasons they are not anchored in the ground so that they can fall overturn in case of a collision.
The polo mallet(stick) is made of bamboo or willow wood and has a wooden head, the so-called cigar. It is imperative to hold the stick in the right hand. Its length depends on the size of the horse and the player's technique. The ball is made of plastic, has a diameter of 10 centimetres and weighs 130g.
Every polo team consists of 4 players. Each player is given a number according to his or her role in the team. Number 1 is head of attack and covers number 4 of the opponents. Number 2 can be described as shadow of opponent number 1. This player brings dynamics in the attacks and also covers opponent number 3. Number 3 is the actual playmaker and usually the strongest player of the team. Their main task is to control the flow of the game. This player covers number 2 of the opposing team and constantly changes position from offensive to defensive with the team members number 2 and 4. Number 4 stands for defence or the back of the field. This player simply remains in the rearmost position and covers opponent number 1.
Each player has an individual handicap awarded by a national commitee. It is assigned to the players every season according to their skills. The criteria include position play, hitting techniques, team play and, above all, their horse riding skills. Handicaps range from -2 to +10. A great majority of all polo players have a handicap within -1 and +2 or +3. This is the point where the world of professional polo begins. Among these roughly 1,000 players worldwide are honoured with a handicap of 8, 9 or 10. The handicap level of a team is the total of all individual Team player’s handicaps. When the total handicap of two competing Teams is unequal, the difference of handicap Points (also half points) is added to the number of goals of the weaker team in advance.
The game consists of various parts (chukkers / chukkas). In Europe one normally Plays 4 chukkers, in the US and Latin America 6 to 8. Each chukker lasts 7 minutes, excluding interruptions. A klaxon signals the end of the chukker. After the first signal the game can continue for another 30 seconds until the second and ultimate signal. The game can also end after the first signal if a goal is shot or if the referee stops the game, had a player committed a foul etc. The last chukker of the game always ends immediately after the first signal.
Two umpires on horses are always present on the field. If the umpires disagree, the tournament referee has the decisive voice. Fouls are punished with penalty shots. The distance to the goal (30/40/60 yards) and whether or not the goal is defended depends on the severity of the foul. At the beginning of each game and after a goal-shot the two teams have to be positioned along the centre line. One of the umpires throws the ball between the teams.
Every time a goal is scored the Teams switch sides. This rule can be traced back to the colonial times when players used to play polo in the evenings once the air had cooled down. To prevent one team from being disadvantaged due to the sunshine prevalent on one side of the field, the teams would switch sides after each goal.
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