What is Over 2,500 Years Old and Moves at Speeds Up to 35 Miles Per Hour? . . . POLO!!!
Polo, The Sport of Princes and Kings
Mounted nomads in Central Asia played a version of polo that was part sport and part training for war, with as many as 100 men on a side. In Persia, polo became a national sport, played by the nobility and military men.
For a great deal of his adult life, Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales, was a keen and competitive polo player. The Prince of Wales became interested in polo as a child, watching his father, The Duke of Edinburgh, play at Windsor. In his early teens Prince Charles, His Royal Highness, played practice chukkas (a period of time in polo) at Windsor during the school holidays. His Royal Highness’s handicap rose gradually from 1 in 1967 to 4 in 1982.
On November 17, 2005, after 40 years and a few fractures, the Prince of Wales is to retire from polo, the sport he once described as “my one great extravagance”.
Keeping up with Royal Family traditions both Prince William and Prince Harry are currently avid polo players and play often in polo events benefiting good causes right here in the United States!
Texan polo Patron John Muse has traveled “across the pond” many times over the last several years to play polo with both Prince Harry and Prince William at Sandhurst in England to benefit the British Forces Foundation and has won the coveted trophy!*
*For more details and the actual Press Release, SMU P.R. major Charlotte Menke Skaggs wrote that John Muse approved that includes a quote from him on what it was like for him when he played with Prince Harry (the year prior he played in the same tournament with Prince William) please visit the “Media” page on this Texans for Polo website.
The Sport of Princes and Kings’ Rules of Engagement According to the United States Polo Association (USPA)
Each polo match consists of 4 to 6 chukkers (periods) that last seven and a half minutes per chukker with a warning bell at seven minutes and a final bell thirty seconds later (unless a team scores after the warning bell or the ball hits the sideboards, which stops the chukker immediately). The game is played on a field with goal posts on each end. The players attempt to hit the ball between the posts (no matter how high), to score one point.
After each goal, the teams change direction. Two mounted umpires accompany the players, (four on each team in outdoor polo, three on each team in arena polo) and a “third man” sits near the middle of the field to referee in case of a questionable call between the mounted umpires. The whistle is blown to indicate a foul (scroll down to learn more about fouls), and stops the clock. At the end of the chukker, the players change horses.
The four players on each team are assigned positions, designated with numbers from one to four and worn on the team jerseys. Number 1 is the offensive forward player. Number 4 is the back and his responsibility is defense. Numbers 2 and 3 are usually the highest rated and most experienced with number 3 often being the quarterback or field captain, and number 2 being responsible to push the play both on offense and defense at all times. Each player is expected to cover his/her man (or woman) who is the numerical opposite on the field.
Play is kaleidoscopic, resembling hockey in the continuous shifts from offense to defense. The team with the ball should be quick to attack by sending lead passes to players up the field. The team on defense is attempting to ride off or check their opponents in order to break up the play and steal posession of the ball.
It is important for players to strategize; obtaining a sense of location of every other player on the field, knowing where the ball is, where it is going, and his or her opponent’s next move. Anticipation is crucial in polo as in any other sport. Skill comes with experience so many players do not reach their peak until several years of competitive play.
Note: In arena polo, each team consists of three players
The horses, traditionally called ponies, are well trained equine athletes. Able to stop and turn on a dime, they are considered faster than racehorses over short distances. Polo ponies are the most essential part of the game.
“A polo handicap is your passport to the world.” – Sir Winston Churchill
In polo, a handicap is required and considered a good thing. Players are rated from minus two to ten. Ten is the best. Each team’s handicap is the sum of the players’ handicaps. In an Open tournament, teams play “on the flat” meaning that no scoring advantage is given to the weaker team. In a handicap tournament, points are given to the lower rated team based on the difference of handicaps between the two teams. For example, if a sixteen goal (handicap) team plays against a seventeen goal (handicap) team, then one point is awarded on the scoreboard for the sixteen goal team at the start of the match.
To the layman, fouls in polo are very hard to see. Even professionals have a hard time, but one can usually tell a foul by listening to the players after the whistle blows. A foul is basically a dangerous play, mostly stemming from crossing in front of the man with the ball. When the ball is hit, it creates an invisible line and the players must follow it as if they are driving on a make-believe road. Each time the ball changes direction, the road changes as well. Penalty shots are awarded depending on where the foul was committed, or upon the severity of the foul. Lines on the field indicate where midfield, sixty, forty and thirty yard penalties are taken from. If the ball is hit past the back line by a defending player, a sixty-yard shot facing the spot where the ball went across the line is awarded.
The Divot Stomp
Perhaps the most widely known polo tradition is the ceremonial stomping of the divots.
During half-time of a match, spectators are invited to go onto the field to participate in a polo tradition called “divot stomping”, which has developed to not only help replace the mounds of earth (divots) that are torn up by the horses’s hooves, but to afford spectators the opportunity to walk about and socialize.
Most people associate “tailgating” parties with football, or perhaps other sporting events…
The Polo tailgating party is slightly different in that you have a chance to create your own environment, decorations, and menu – from hot dogs and hamburgers to champagne. It’s truly a celebration of the sport of kings.
The Player’s Positions
Player #1 is the most forward offensive player much like a wide receiver in football. #2 is as aggressive and plays deeper, like a running back in football. #3 is the pivot between offense and defense trying to turn all plays to offense closest comparison in football would be the quarterback. And #4 is a defensive player protecting the goal.
There are six chukkers in a polo match, each lasting seven minutes. Between each chukker players are required to change horses.
The horses are usually Thoroughbreds and there is no limit to the height of the horses. They can play two chukkers but must rest at least one chukker.
Registered Players are rated from a scale of -2 through 10 (-2 = B & -1 = A).
The players with the highest capabilities have a higher handicap.
A financial supporter of the team that usually participates in the match. A patron’s handicap is usually in the range of 0 and 1.
Anytime the ball crosses the line between the goal posts, the team’s direction of play changes to avoid field-side advantage.
A defensive technique in which a player may spoil another’s shot by putting his mallet in the way of the striking player’s mallet.
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.
This imaginary line follows the path that the ball takes. On each side of this line is a lane and these two lanes determine the right-of-way of the player.
LET’S HEAR IT FROM STRAIGHT FROM ENGLAND
This is another great site to learn more about rules of the game straight up from England:
Please click on “The Rules of Polo” on the left hand side of their website