Polo Terms

Appealing: Claims by players for a foul generally expressed by raising the sticks above their heads. Over-demonstrative appealing is considered bad form.

Back: The number 4 in a polo team is invariably referred to as the back rather than by his number.

Ball: White and made of plastic or wood. It weighs 4.5 ounces and is 3.5 inches in diameter. The ball is coloured when polo is played on snow.

Bell or Hooter: This is situated on the side of the field and is rung by the timekeeper to inform umpires when seven minutes of play in a chukka have elapsed.

Boludo: A Spanish word shouted at another player. Generally by high handicapped South American players at their lesser brethren when the latter makes a mistake. Not a term of endearment! Losely translated, it means “dolt”. Choto, another Spanish word of rude rebuke, but somewhat milder than boludo, may be heard as frequently. These words are widely copied by English players trying to emulate the verbal, if not the polo skills of South American.

Bump: A player is permitted to ride off another to spoil his shot or to remove him away from the play. The angle of contact must be no more than 45 degrees. The faster the pony travels, the smaller the angle must be. A good bump can shake discs and denture loose!

Chukka: There are six chukkas(periods) in high handicap matches in the UK, each lasting seven minutes, plus 30 seconds of overtime. If, during those extra seconds, the ball hits the sideboards or goes out of bounds, or if the umpire blows his whistle for a foul, the chukka is over. There is no extra time at the end of the final chukka unless the score is tied. Players return with a fresh pony each chukka. Chukka comes from the Indian word for a circle or round.

Divots: Turf kicked up by ponies’ hooves

Ends: The back lines of a polo pitch. Teams change ends, i.e. switch the halves they defend, each time a goal is scored in order to equalise wind and turf conditions.

Field: A full size polo field is 300 yards by 160 yards or the area of three football pitches. The goal posts, which collapse on severe impact, are set eight yards apart.

Goal: Any time the ball fully crosses, at any height, the line between the goal regardless of who knocks it through, including the pony.

Handicap: All players are rated on the scale of -2 – 10(the higher the better). Although the word goal is often used after the rating, it bears no relation to the number of goals. Strokes, speed of play, team and game sense are the factors considered in determining the handicap. The team handicap is the sum of the players’ handicaps. In handicap matches of six chukkas the team with the lower handicap is awarded the difference in goals at the start of the game. For example a 26-goal team would give two goals start to a 24-goal team. For matches other than six chukkas the side with the lower handicap begins with a number of goals start according to the following formmula; the difference in the teams’ handicaps multiplied by the number of chukkas to be played and divided by six. Fractions count as half a goal so a 26-goal team would give a 24-goal team 1.5 goal start in a four-chukka match.

High-Goal: Teams with total handicap of 17-24 goals. The highest level of official tournament polo is played in the UK is 22 goals.

Hired Assasin: A professional player.

Hook: Provided the player is on the same side of the opponent’s pony as the ball he may spoil his opponent’s shot by putting his stick in the way of the striking player’s.

HPA: The Hurlingham polo association. This is the governing body of the game in the UK and Ireland. It’s governing officials are called stewards.

Intermediate: Polo teams with a total handicap of 8-12 goals.

Intervals: Three-minute rest periods between chukkas. Half time is five minutes.

Judges: Goal judges are positioned behind each goal to signal when a goal has been scored. Hard hats are worn for protection. They wave a flag when a goal has been scored and hold up a polo ball to show that a shot went wide.

Knock-in: Should a team hit the ball over their opponent’s backline during an attack, then the defending team resumes the game with a free hit from the backline where the ball went over. It is the equivalent to a goal kick in football.

Line of the Ball: Crossing the line is the most frequent foul in polo. The line of the ball, namely the imaginary line along which the ball travels, represents a right of way for the player following nearest that line. There are strict rules governing opponent’s entry into the right of way in the interest of safety.

Low-goal: Teams with a total handicap of 8 goals or less.

Mallet/Stick: The shaft is made from a bamboo cane or graphite composite and the head from a hard wood. The wide face of the stick head is used to strike the ball and not the ends as in croquet. Polo sticks range in lenght according principally to the height of the pony played and extend from 48-54 inches.

Medium-goal: Teams with a total handicap of 12-15 goals

Millionaire’s shot: A shot at the ball by an inexpert player when the ball is very close to the legs of the pony or striking it under the belly of the pony. So called because of a high degree of skill and timing is required for both shots if the legs of the pony are to avoid being struck. It is assumed only millionaires with lots of ponys can afford to have a pony out of play because of injury and are, therefore, prepared to take the risk.

Near-side: The left-hand side of the pony.

Neck-shot: A ball which is hit under the pony’s neck.

Out-of-bounds: When a goal goes over the sideboards it is considered out of bounds. The umpire throws the ball in between the two teams lined up at the point at which the ball left the field of play. It is the equivalent to a throw-in in football.

Off-side: The right-hand side of the pony. There is no offside of the player’s polo.

Patron: A financially unchallenged amateur player who pays to put a team together, which is usually made up of at least two professionals and which is often named after the patron’s house, company or as a result of whimsy, such as Cannon Fodder.

Penalty: A free hit is awarded when a foul is committed. The hit is taken from a set distance, dependent on the severity of the offence. Penalties and distances are: Penalty 1: automatic goal; Penalty 2: from 30 yards to an open goal; Penalty 3: From 40 yards to an open goal; Penalty 4: From 60 yards to a defende goal; Penalty 5: from anywhere on the ground; Penalty 5b: from the centre of the ground.

Ponies: Although termed ponies, they are in fact horses, i.e. above the 14.2 hands height (hh) of a normally defined pony. Many are Argentine Crioll breed or pure or cross-bred thoroughbreds. The main qualities are speed and stamina, the quality to accelerate, stop and turn quickly and temperaments that are amenable to the rigours of the game. There is no height limit for polo ponies, although most are between 15 and 15.3hh. Bandages and leg wraps are used for support and protection. Players admit that the pony can account for as much as 80% of their overall performance.

Positions: Each of the four members of the team plays a distinctly different position. Since polo is such a fluid game, players will momentarilly change positions but will try to return to their original assignments. No 1: essentially a goal striker; No 2: a forward but played harder, especially on the defence; No 3: the pivotal player between attack and defence who turn all plays to offence. Usually the highest rated player of the team; No 4: the most defensive player whose primary responsibility is to protect the goal area.

Quartet: The number of players in a team.

Ride off: Two riders may make contact and push each other off the line of the ball to prevent the other from striking the ball. It is primarilly intended for the ponies to do the pushing, but a player is allowed to use the body, but not his elbows.

Ringer: A player or pony that performs well above expectation.

Safety: Also known as a penalty 6, a safety is awarded when a defending player hits the ball over his own backline. The free shot is taken 60 yards out from the backline, opposite the point at which the ball went over. It is equivalent to a corner in football and no defender can be nearer than 30 yards from the ball when it is played.

Side boards: These are 9-11 inch high vertical boards along the sidelines only. Such boards are optional.

Tail-shot: Hitting the ball behind and under the pony’s rump.

Third man: The referee sitting on the sideline who will arbitrate if the two mounted umpires on the field are unable to agree on a foul.

Time-out: Called by an umpire when a foul is committed, an accident occurs or at his discretion. A player may call time-out if he has broken a key piece of tack or is injured. Time-out is not permitted for changing ponies or for replacing a broken stick, although a player may change both pony or stick at any time.

Treading in: The replacement of divots of turf at half-time. this is the duty of all spectators.

Umpires: Two mounted umpires – one for each side of the field – who regulate the game. They usually wear black and white striped shirts. It is nthe repsonsability of the teams to provide ponies for the umpires.

Xtra Time: In the event of a tied score at the end of the final chukka, there will be a five-minute break to allow the players to catch their breath and change ponies before beginning of sudden death chukka. The first team to score wins the match. In extra time the goals are usually widened by moving the goal posts another eight yards apart.

Your line: Words often heard shouted by players to a team-mate indicating that he, rather than an opponent, has the principal right of way to the ball.

Zone: (safety) The are around the pitch that is out of bounds for the spectators during game play