Polo is a ball sport, played on horses. It has gained much popularity in recent times. Polo is perhaps the oldest recorded team sport known in history. It is termed the “sport of Kings” others refer to it as the “king of sports” As the name implies one may think polo is meant for kings alone. However this is far from the truth, the pleasure of playing the game can be achieved by;

  1. Owning just a horse or
  2. Having a whole string of polo ponies

The contest of the game involves a combination of the following;

  1. Highly skilled athletic ability
  2. Horsemanship with
  3. Efforts of super trained mounts

Maneuvering the game to your own advantage has some common features to those of soccer, hockey and football. What gives polo its appeal to spectators and players alike is the terrific speed combined with body contact and dart like turns of the horses.


The Mounts are referred to as “Polo Ponies” although they are horses ranging from 14.5 to 16 hands high at the wither (one hand equals four inches), and weighing 900-1000 1bs.

Great speed and stamina determines the selection of the polo pony. This is however similar to the thorough bred at race tracks, as well as agility and maneuverability, similar to the cow pony used in ranches. When one can combine these traits and train the horse to carry the rider smoothly and swiftly to the ball, the horse can account for anywhere from 70-80% of player’s ability and net worth to his team.


The game starts by forming members into “teams” .Each team consists of four mounted players which could be a combination of men and women. Each of the players has the following assigned roles:

  • Number 1 is expected to score the goals and carry out an offensive position.
  • Number 2 is also an offensive player but has to be more aggressive since his objective is also to break up the defensive plays of the opposition.
  • The number 3 is the pivot man, similar to a quarterback in football, and he is usually the long ball hitter and play maker for the team. He takes the penalty shots and knock-ins.
  • The number 4, or back, is the defensive player expected to guard the goal and keep the opposition from scoring. He is the most conservative of all the players.


The polo playing field is 300 yards long by 150 yards wide, an equivalent of nine football fields by approximation. In other to provide a safe, fast playing surface, the playing field is carefully maintained with closely mowed turf. Goals posts are set eight yards apart at each end of the field.


All players must wear protective helmet with a chin strap and preferably a face guard. Knees are protected with leather knee guards. The Ponies are provided with protective bandages or wraps on all four legs. Tails are braided, taped or tied to minimize interference in making the various shots.

Mallets are made if either bamboo canes, or poly resins, which provide flexibility, and the mallet heads of willow or maple. The mallets come in lengths of 49 to s53 inches and selection is made according to the height of the pony being played. The ball is struck with the side of the mallet, not with the end. The ball is made of bamboo, willow root, poly resins or leather (for indoors arena Polo) its diameter is 3.5 inches and weights about 4.5 ounces.


Play commences immediately the mounted umpire bowls the ball between the players who line up opposite each other in the centre field. The game consists of six –seven minute period called; “CHUKKERS” during which players may change mounts. There is a four minute interval between chukkers and a ten minute halftime.

Play continuous and is only stopped for the following reasons:-

  • Penalties.
  • Broken tack (equipment).
  • Injury to horse or players.

The objective is to score goals by hitting the ball between the goal posts, no matter how high in the air. If the ball goes wide of the goal, the defending team is allowed a free “Knock-in” from the place where the ball crossed the goal line; thus, getting the ball back into play. Teams change goals on ends of the field after each score to minimize any wind advantage that may exist. Official of the game includes:

  • 2 mounted umpires who officiate the game.
  • A referee on the sidelines who makes final decisions concerning penalties or infractions of the rules. Penalties and fouls are described and explained in literature available through the UPSA (Unite States Polo Association).


The regional and national handicap committees or the Nigerian Polo Association rated each Player on a scale of minus 2 to 10.

A player’s handicap is based on his net worth to his/ her team. This is determined by the following factors:

  • Horsemanship
  • Team Play
  • Hitting Skill
  • Anticipation and
  • Overall understanding of the game and its rules.

The rating given to players is termed in “Goals” example- if 4-3 goal players formed a team, it would be a 12 goal rated team. If the opposing teams’ handicap totaled 10 goals, there would be a two goal advantage to the first team at the start of the game. The term “Goal” is not a player’s rating and is not to be confused with how many times he/ she will score in a match. It’s just the rating system.


Spectators and enthusiasts who enjoy spending an afternoon out side are welcome during playing season. Entry to all games cost nothing except an organized tournament is taking place. Polo Sports require active spectators’ participation unlike other sports. Spectators are encouraged to bring along:

  • Garden Chair
  • Picnic Baskets
  • A Sporting Spirit

In addition, a spectator is expected to prepare the following before leaving for a Polo game:

  • Pack your camera
  • Bring your binoculars
  • Appropriate out-door dress necessary for your comfort.

If you cannot pack your picnic basket, several restaurants (offering take-out service) are located nearby the polo field. On arrival at the game, park at least 10 yards back from the side of the field and not at the end of the field. The aim is to park by the game, not in it. When you do this, you are ready to participate in the game. First open your picnic and remember the following key points.

  1. Keep your eye on the ball and the horses. Action frequently extends ten yards beyond the edge of the field. Many unwary spectators have narrowly escaped from a changing horse.
  2. Pet MUST be on a leash or rein and children CLOSE at hand.
  3. Now for the fun part- you have to walk on the turf. To golfers this is known as replacing the divots. After the third and sixth Chukkers you will be ready to walk off your picnics. So take a stroll and help maintain the field. Please return all Polo balls hit out of bounds to the umpires, goal judges or other club officials.


A player is permitted to ride into another player so as to spoil his/her shot. The angle on collision must be slight causing no moves than a jar. The faster the horse travels, the smaller the angle must be, a good bump can shake your dentures loose!

Also called a period. There are four or six chukkers in a Polo game each lasting seven minutes. A player returns each chukker on a different horse although a player may rest one for a chukker or two and play the horse again during the game.

Anytime a ball crosses the line between the goal posts. It is a considered a goal regardless of whether a horse or a mallet caused the ball to go through. In order to equalize wind and turf conditions, the team change sides after every goal scored.

All players are rated on a scale of 1 to 10 (the higher the better). The handicap of the team is the sum total rating of its players and in handicap matches the team with the higher handicap gives difference in ratings to the other team. For example, a 6-goal team will give two goals to a 4-goal team.

A player may spoil another shot by putting his mallet in the way of the striking player. A cross hook occurs when the player reaches over his opponent’s mount in an attempt to hook, this is considered a foul.

Should a team, in an offensive drive hit the ball across the opponent’s backline, the defending team resumes the game with a free hit from their backline. No time-out is allowed for knock-ins.

The left-hand side of a horse

The ball which is hit under the horse’s neck from either side

The fight hand side of the horse

When a ball crosses the sideline or goes over the sideboards, it is considered out of bounds and the umpire throws in another ball between the two tams at that point. No time-out is allowed for an out-off bounds ball.

Each of the 4 team members plays a distinctly different position. Since polo is such a fluid game, the players may momentarily change positions but will try and return to their initial assignment. No. 1 is the most forward offensive player. No. 2 is just as offensive but plays deeper and works harder. No. 3 is the pivot player between offense and defense and tries to turn all plays to the offense. No.4 or the Back is the defensive player whose role is principally to protect the goal.

Penalty No.6 when a defending player hits the ball across his own backline, the other team is awarded a free hit, 60 yards from the backline with the ball placed at the same distance from the sideline as when it went out.

The referee sitting at the sidelines, if and when the two umpires on the field are in disagreement, the third man makes the final decision.

Hitting the ball behind and across the horse’s rump

A chukker begins and many plays resume with the umpires bowling the ball between the two ready teams.

An umpire calls time-out when a foul is committed, and accident occurs or at his own discretion. A player may only call time-out if he has broken stack or is injured. No time-out is allowed for changing horses or replacing a broken mallet, although a player may do so at any time.