ABOUT THE GAME
Known as the "Game of Kings," polo is one of the oldest team sports in history. It's origin is unknown, but it is said that Persia or Central Asia had a hand in placing the sports on the books about 2000 years ago, using polo as a way to prepare warriors for battle. Polo came to America in 1876 thanks to James Gordon Bennett. The United States Polo Association (USPA) was crested in 1890 to coordinate games, standardize the rules and determine the handicaps of players across the country. Today, over 250 active clubs are part of the USPA and host some of the best polo in the world.
An outdoor polo game is between two teams comprised of four players. The objective of the game is to use mallets to drive the ball down the field, in order to score through the opposing team's goal posts. Most outdoor polo games consist of 6 chukkers (periods) of 7 minutes and 30 seconds each, with a 10 minute halftime. Each time the whistle is blown the clock stops, signaling that a foul has been committed or that it's the end of the chukker. During the breaks, players switch ponies. After each goal. the teams change direction in outdoor polo. Polo is the only sport you must play right handed for safety. Mallets are held in the right hand, reins in the left.
There are four players on each team, assigned positions on offense and defense. The number 1 player is the offensive forward and the number 4 player is the defensive back. Number 2 and 3 are considered to be the strongest, most experienced players, number 3 often being the quarterback or field captain, and number 2 being responsible for pushing the play both on offense and defense.
A Handicap in polo is similar to a rating. The higher a person is rated, the better the player is. Handicaps range from minus 2, for beginners, up to 10. There are only a handful of 10 goal players in the world.
Dangerous plays are the foundation of most fouls, such as crossing in front of the payer with the ball or committing an illegal ride-off. Each time the ball is hit, it creates an invisible line, known as "the line of the ball." The line changes each time the ball is hit, and the players must pay attention and follow that line to avoid fouls. If a foul occurs, penalty shots are awarded depending on the location where the foul was committed or the severity of the foul.
Webster's dictionary defines a polo pony as "a horse trained for use as a mount in playing polo and characterized primarily by endurance, speed, courage, and docility. The ponies must be able to release bursts of speed, stop on a dime, turn quickly and accurately, and have the confidence to push another pony to the side or 'ride-off'". Many polo players describe their best mounts as having big hearts and a feel for the game.
The Divot Stomp
The Divot Stomp is one of the oldest and most widely known traditions of polo. When the game breaks at halftime, spectators are invited to march onto the field to socialize and replace the divots that are torn up by the horses' hooves during play.
To learn more about the sport of polo visit www.uspolo.org.
Did you know that Northwest Arkansas has a polo club? Follow the NWAPC on Facebook to learn more about their lessons and activities.
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