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For other uses, see Polo (disambiguation).

Polo players.jpg
Two players disputing the ball in a polo match.
Highest governing body Federation of International Polo
The Sport of Kings [1][2]
First played
Iran, 6th century BC [3]
Contact Yes
Team members
4 per side
Mixed gender
Equestrian, ball game, team sport, outdoor
Ball, stick, horse
Venue Polo field (grass)
Country or region
Esfehan, Iran.
Olympic No (since 1936)
Polo is a team sport played on horseback. The objective is to score goals agains
t an opposing team. Players score by driving a small white plastic or wooden bal
l into the opposing team's goal using a long-handled mallet. The traditional spo
rt of polo is played at speed on a large grass field up to 300 yards (274 meters
) long by 160 yards (146 meters) wide, and each polo team consists of four rider
s and their mounts. Field polo is played with a solid plastic sphere (ball) whic
h has replaced the wooden version of the ball in much of the sport. In arena pol
o, only three players are required per team and the game usually involves more m
aneuvering and shorter plays at lower speeds due to space limitations of the are
na. Arena polo is played with a small air-filled ball, similar to a small footba
ll. The modern game lasts roughly two hours and is divided into periods called c
hukkas (occasionally rendered as "chukkers"). Polo is played professionally in 1
6 countries. It was formerly, but is not currently, an Olympic sport.
Contents [hide]
1 History
1.1 Origins
1.2 Modern game
1.2.1 India and Britain
1.2.2 Argentina
1.2.3 United States
2 Rules
3 Polo ponies
4 Players
5 Equipment
6 The field
6.1 Outdoor polo
6.2 County polo
7 Contemporary sport
8 East and Southeast Asia
9 West Asia
10 Ireland
11 Variants
12 Notable players / 10 handicap players
13 Related sports
14 See also
15 References
16 Further reading
Main article: Chovgan
Polo player, with referee

This article may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia's quality standards. The spec
ific problem is: awkward phrasing and incorrect grammar. Please help improve thi
s article if you can. (January 2015)
Polo originated in Southern or Central Asia, most likely in Persia.[4][5] Its in
vention is dated variously from the 6th century BC to the 1st century AD.[6][7]
Persian Emperor Shapur II learned to play polo when he was seven years old in 31
6 AD. The game was learned by the neighboring Byzantine Empire at an early date.
A tzykanisterion (stadium for playing tzykanion, the Byzantine name for polo) w
as built by emperor Theodosius II (r. 408 450) inside the Great Palace of Constant
inople.[8] Emperor Basil I (r. 867 886) excelled at it; Emperor Alexander (r. 912 91
3) died from exhaustion while playing; and John I of Trebizond (r. 1235 1238) died
from a fatal injury during a game.[9] Naqsh-i Jahan Square in Isfahan is a polo
field which was built by king Abbas I in the 17th century.
Naqsh-e Jahan Square in Isfahan is the site of a medieval royal polo field.[10]
Qutubuddin Aibak, the Turkic slave from Central Asia who later became the Sultan
of Delhi in Northern India, ruled as a Sultan for only four years, from 1206 to
1210, but died accidentally in 1210. While he was playing a game of polo on hor
seback (also called chougan in Persia), his horse fell and Aibak was impaled on
the pommel of his saddle. He was buried near the Anarkali bazaar in Lahore(in mo
dern day Pakistan). Aibak's son Aram died in 1211 CE [2], so Shams-ud-din Iltutm
ish, another ex-slave of Turkic ancestry who was married to Aibak's daughter, su
cceeded him as Sultan of Delhi.
After the Muslim conquests to the Ayyubid and Mameluke dynasties of Egypt and th
e Levant, whose elites favoured it above all other sports. Notable sultans such
as Saladin and Baybars were known to play it and encourage it in their court.[11
] Polo sticks were features on the Mameluke precursor to modern day playing card
A Persian miniature from the poem Guy-o Chawgn ("the Ball and the Polo-mallet") d
uring Safavid dynasty of Persia, which shows Persian courtiers on horseback play
ing a game of polo, 1546 AD
Later on, polo was passed from Persia to other parts of Asia including the India
n subcontinent[12] and China, where it was very popular during the Tang Dynasty
and frequently depicted in paintings and statues. Valuable for training cavalry,
the game was played from Constantinople to Japan by the Middle Ages. It is know
n in the East as the Game of Kings.[13] The name polo is said to have been deriv
ed from the Tibetan word "pulu", meaning ball.[14]
Modern game[edit]
India and Britain[edit]
The modern game of polo, though formalised and popularised by the British, is de
rived from Manipur, India, where the game was known as 'Sagol Kangjei', 'Kanjaibazee', or 'Pulu'.[15][16] It was the anglicised form of the last, referring to
the wooden ball that was used, which was adopted by the sport in its slow spread
to the west. The first polo club was established in the town of Silchar in Assa
m, India, in 1833.
The origins of the game in Manipur are traced to early precursors of Sagol Kangj
ei.[17] This was one of three forms of hockey in Manipur, the other ones being f
ield hockey (called Khong Kangjei) and wrestling-hockey (called Mukna Kangjei).
Local rituals such as those connected to the Marjing, the Winged-Pony God of Pol
o and the creation-ritual episodes of the Lai Haraoba festival enacting the life
of his son, Khori-Phaba, the polo-playing god of sports. These may indicate an
origin earlier than the historical records of Manipur. Later, according to Chait
harol-Kumbaba, a Royal Chronicle of Manipur King Kangba who ruled Manipur much e

arlier than Nongda Lairen Pakhangba (33 AD) introduced Sagol Kangjei (Kangjei on
horse back). Further regular playing of this game commenced in 1605 during the
reign of King Khagemba under newly framed rules of the game.
Old polo field in Imphal, Manipur
In Manipur, polo is traditionally played with seven players to a side. The playe
rs are mounted on the indigenous Manipuri pony, which stands less than 13 hands
(52 inches, 132 cm). There are no goal posts, and a player scores simply by hitt
ing the ball out of either end of the field. Players strike the ball with the lo
ng side of the stick, not the end as in croquet; players are also permitted to c
arry the ball, though doing so allows opponents to physically tackle them when t
hey are doing so. The sticks are made of cane, and the balls are made from the r
oots of bamboo. Colorful cloth pom-poms dangle at sensitive and vulnerable spots
around the anatomy of the ponies to protect them. Players protected their legs
by attaching leather shields to their saddles and girths.[18]
In Manipur, the game was played even by commoners who owned a pony.[14] The king
s of Manipur had a royal polo ground within the ramparts of their Kangla Fort. H
ere they played Manung Kangjei Bung (literally, "Inner Polo Ground"). Public gam
es were held, as they are still today, at the Mapan Kangjei Bung (literally "Out
er Polo Ground"), a polo ground just outside the Kangla. Weekly games called Hap
ta Kangjei (Weekly Polo) were also played in a polo ground outside the current P
The oldest polo ground in the world is the Imphal Polo Ground in Manipur State.
The history of this pologround is contained in the royal chronicle "Cheitharol K
umbaba" starting from AD 33. Lieutenant (later Major General) Joseph Ford Sherer
, the father of modern polo visited the state and played on this polo ground in
the 1850s. Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of India visited the state in 1901 and measu
red the pologround as 225 yards long and 110 yards wide.
In 1862 the first polo club, Calcutta Polo Club, was established by two British
soldiers, Sherer and Captain Robert Stewart.[19] Later they spread the game to t
heir peers in England. The British are credited with spreading polo worldwide in
the late 19th century and the early 20th century. Military officers imported th
e game to Britain in the 1860s. The establishment of polo clubs throughout Engla
nd and western Europe followed after the formal codification of rules.[18] The 1
0th Hussars at Aldershot, Hants, introduced polo to England in 1834. The game's
governing body in the United Kingdom is the Hurlingham Polo Association, which d
rew up the first set of formal British rules in 1874, many of which are still in
Luis Lacey, former captain of Argentine Polo Team in 1922
Argentine Polo Open Championship
Meanwhile, British settlers in the Argentine pampas started practising it during
their free time. Among them, David Shennan is credited with having organised th
e first formal polo game of the country in 1875, at Estancia El Negrete, located
in the province of Buenos Aires.
The sport spread fast between the skilful gauchos and several clubs opened in th
e following years in the towns of Venado Tuerto, Caada de Gmez, Quilmes, Flores an
d later (1888) Hurlingham. In 1892 The River Plate Polo Association was founded
and constituted the basis for the current Asociacin Argentina de Polo. In the Oly
mpic Games held in Paris in 1924 a team composed by Juan Miles, Enrique Padilla,
Juan Nelson, Arturo Kenny, G. Brooke Naylor and A. Pea obtained the first gold m
edal for the country's olympic history; this also occurred in Berln 1936 with pla

yers Manuel Andrada, Andrs Gazzotti, Roberto Cavanagh, Luis Duggan, Juan Nelson,
Diego Cavanagh and Enrique Alberdi.
From then on, the game spread powerfully across the country and Argentina is cre
dited globally as the mecca of polo, mainly because Argentina is notably the cou
ntry with the largest number ever of 10 handicap players in the world.
Five great teams were able to ensemble together four 10 handicap players in orde
r to make a 40 handicap team: Coronel Surez, 1975, 1977-1979 (Alberto Heguy, Juan
Carlos Harriott, Alfredo Harriot and Horacio Heguy); La Espadaa, 1989-1990 (Carl
os Gracida, Gonzalo Pieres, Alfonso Pieres y Ernesto Trotz Jr.); Indios Chapaleu
f, 1992-1993 (Bautista Heguy, Gonzalo Heguy, Horacio Heguy Jr. and Marcos Heguy);
La Dolfina, 2009-2010 (Adolfo Cambiaso Jr., Lucas Monteverde, Mariano Aguerre y
Bartolom Castagnola); Ellerstina, 2009 (Facundo Pieres, Gonzalo Pieres Jr., Pabl
o Mac Donough and Juan Martn Nero).
Argentina was host of the ninth edition of the World Polo Championship (for team
s of up to 14 goals) at the Estancia Grande Polo Club, in the province of San Lu
is in October 2011.[20]
The three major polo tournaments in Argentina, known as Triple Corona ("Triple Cro
wn"), are Hurlingham Polo Open, Tortugas Polo Open, Palermo Polo Open. Polo seas
on usually last from October to December.[21]
Tang Dynasty Chinese courtiers on horseback playing a game of polo, 706 AD
A polo match at the Kentucky Horse Park
This version of polo played in the 19th century was different from the faster fo
rm that was played in Manipur. The game was slow and methodical, with little pas
sing between players and few set plays that required specific movements by parti
cipants without the ball. Neither players nor horses were trained to play a fast
, nonstop game. This form of polo lacked the aggressive methods and equestrian s
kills to play. From the 1800s to the 1910s, a host of teams representing Indian
principalities dominated the international polo scene.[18]
Polo then found popularity throughout the rest of the Americas like Brazil, Chil
e, Mexico, and the United States of America.[22][23]
United States[edit]
James Gordon Bennett, Jr. on 6 May 1876 organized
olo match in the United States at Dickel's Riding
th Avenue in New York City. The historical record
tt established the Westchester Polo Club on 6 May
rome Park Racetrack in Westchester County was the
utdoor polo match.

what was billed as the first p

Academy at 39th Street and Fif
states that James Gordon Benne
1876 and on 13 May 1876 the Je
site of the "first" American o

H.L. Herbert, James Gordon Bennett and August Belmont financed the original New
York Polo Grounds. Herbert stated in a 1913 article[24] that they formed the Wes
tchester Club after the "first" outdoor game was played on 13 May 1876. This con
tradicts the historical record of the club being established before the Jerome P
ark game..
There is, however, ample evidence that the first to play polo in America was act
ually the English Texans. The Galveston News reported on 2 May 1876[25] that Den
ison Texas had a Polo Club which was before James Gordon Bennett established his
Westchester Club or attempted to play the "first" game. The Denison team sent a
letter to James Gordon Bennett challenging him to a match game. The challenge w
as published 2 June 1876 in The Galveston Daily News. By the time the article ca
me out on 2 June the Denison Club had already received a letter from Bennett ind

icating the challenge was offered before the "first" games in New York.[26]
There is also an urban legend that the first game of polo in America was played
in Boerne, Texas at retired British officer Captain Glynn Turquand's famous Balc
ones Ranch[27] The Boerne, Texas legend also has plenty of evidence pointing to
the fact that polo was played in Boerne before James Gordon Bennett Jr. ever pic
ked up a polo mallet.[28]
During the early part of the 20th century, under the leadership of Harry Payne W
hitney, polo changed to become a high-speed sport in the United States, differin
g from the game in England, where it involved short passes to move the ball towa
rd the opposition's goal. Whitney and his teammates used the fast break, sending
long passes downfield to riders who had broken away from the pack at a full gal
In the late 1950s, champion polo player and Director of the Long Island Polo Ass
ociation, Walter Scanlon, introduced the "short form", or "European" style, four
period match, to the game of polo.[29]
Director Walter Scanlon - Bethpage, Long Island - POLO
Iranian polo player
The rules of polo are written and used to provide for the safety of both players
and horses. The rules are enforced in the game by the umpires who blow whistles
when a penalty occurs. Strategic plays in polo are based on the "line of the ba
ll", an imaginary line created by the ball as it travels down the field. This li
ne traces the ball's path and extends past the ball along that trajectory. The l
ine of the ball defines rules for players to approach the ball safely. These rul
es are created and enforced to ensure the welfare of players and their horses. T
he "line of the ball" changes each time the ball changes direction. The player w
ho hit the ball generally has the right of way, and other players cannot cross t
he line of the ball in front of that player. As players approach the ball, they
ride on either side of the line of the ball giving each access to the ball. A pl
ayer can cross the line of the ball when it does not create a dangerous situatio
n. Most fouls and penalty shots are related to players improperly crossing the l
ine of the ball or the right of way. When a player has the line of the ball on h
is right, he has the right of way. A "ride-off" is when a player moves another p
layer off the line of the ball by making shoulder-to-shoulder contact with the o
ther players horses.
The defending player has a variety of opportunities for his or her team to gain
possession of the ball. He/she can push the opponent off the line or steal the b
all from the opponent. Another common defensive play is called "hooking." While
a player is taking a swing at the ball, his/her opponent can block the swing by
using his/her mallet to hook the mallet of the player swinging at the ball. A pl
ayer may hook only if is he/she is on the side where the swing is being made or
directly behind an opponent. A player may not purposely touch another player, hi
s/her tack or pony with his/her mallet. Unsafe hooking is a foul that will resul
t in a penalty shot being awarded. For example, it is a foul for a player to rea
ch over an opponent's mount in an attempt to hook.
The other basic defensive play is called the bump or ride-off. It's similar to a
body check in hockey. In a ride-off, a player rides his pony alongside an oppon
ent's mount in order to move an opponent away from the ball or to take him out o
f a play. It must be executed properly so that it does not endanger the horses o
r the players. The angle of contact must be safe and can not knock the horses of
f balance, or harm the horses in any way. Two players following the line of the
ball and riding one another off have the right of way over a single man coming f

rom any direction.

Like in hockey or basketball, fouls are potentially dangerous plays that infring
e on the rules of the game. To the novice spectator, fouls may be difficult to d
iscern. There are degrees of dangerous and unfair play and penalty shots are awa
rded depending based on the severity of the foul and where the foul was committe
d on the polo field. White lines on the polo field indicate where the mid-field,
sixty, forty and thirty yard penalties are taken.
The official set of rules and rules interpretations are reviewed and published e
ach year by each country's polo association. Most of the smaller associations fo
llow the rules of the Hurlingham Polo Association, the national governing body o
f the sport of polo in the United Kingdom.
Polo ponies[edit]
Main article: Polo pony
Polo ponies waiting for the game to begin
The mounts used are called 'polo ponies', although the term pony is purely tradi
tional and the mount is actually a full-sized horse. They range from 14.2 to 16
hands (58 to 64 inches, 147 to 163 cm) high at the withers, and weigh 900 1,100 po
unds (410 500 kg). The polo pony is selected carefully for quick bursts of speed,
stamina, agility and manoeuvrability. Temperament is critical; the horse must re
main responsive under pressure and not become excited or difficult to control. M
any are Thoroughbreds or Thoroughbred crosses. They are trained to be handled wi
th one hand on the reins, and to respond to the rider's leg and weight cues for
moving forward, turning and stopping. A well trained horse will carry its rider
smoothly and swiftly to the ball and can account for 60 to 75 percent of the pla
yer's skill and net worth to his team.[citation needed]
Polo pony training generally begins at age three and lasts from about six months
to two years. Most horses reach full physical maturity at about age five, and p
onies are at their peak of athleticism and training at around age 6 or 7. Howeve
r, without any accidents, polo ponies may have the ability to play until they ar
e 18 to 20 years of age.
Each player must have more than one pony, so tired mounts can be exchanged for f
resh mounts between or even during chukkas. A player's "string" of polo ponies m
ay number 2 or 3 in Low Goal matches (with ponies being rested for at least a ch
ukka before reuse), 4 or more for Medium Goal matches (at least one per chukka),
and even more for the highest levels of competition.
A girls' polo team, United States
Each team consists of four mounted players, which can be mixed teams of both men
and women.
Each position assigned to a player has certain responsibilities:
Number One is the most offence-oriented position on the field. The Number One po
sition generally covers the opposing team's Number Four.
Number Two has an important role in offence, either running through and scoring
themselves, or passing to the Number One and getting in behind them. Defensively
, they will cover the opposing team's Number Three, generally the other team's b
est player. Given the difficulty of this position, it is not uncommon for the be
st player on the team to play Number Two so long as another strong player is ava
ilable to play Three.
Number Three is the tactical leader and must be a long powerful hitter to feed b
alls to Number Two and Number One as well as maintaining a solid defence. The be

st player on the team is usually the Number Three player, usually wielding the h
ighest handicap.
Number Four is the primary defence player. They can move anywhere on the field,
but they usually try to prevent scoring. The emphasis on defence by the Number F
our allows the Number Three to attempt more offensive plays, since they know tha
t they will be covered if they lose the ball.
Polo must be played right-handed.
Polo helmet with face guard
Polo mallets and ball
Polo player wearing kneepads, "riding off" an opponent
The basic dress of a player is a protective equestrian helmet (usually of a dist
inctive colour, to be distinguished at the considerable distance from which onlo
okers are watching the game), riding boots to just below the knees, white trouse
rs (often ordinary denim jeans), and a coloured shirt bearing the number of the
player's position. Optional equipment includes one or two gloves, wristbands, kn
eepads (mandatory in some clubs), spurs, face mask, and a whip. The only piece o
f equipment required by the United States Polo Association (USPA) rules is the h
elmet or cap with a chin strap.[30]
The outdoor polo ball is made of a high-impact plastic, but was formerly made of
either bamboo or willow root. The indoor polo ball is leather-covered and infla
ted, and is about 4 1/2 inches (11 cm) in diameter. The outdoor ball is about 3
1/4 inches (8.3 cm) in diameter and weighs about four ounces (113.4 g). The polo
mallet has a rubber-wrapped grip and a webbed thong, called a sling, for wrappi
ng around the thumb. The shaft is made of manau-cane (not bamboo because it is h
ollowed) although a small number of mallets today are made from Composite materi
als. Composite materials are not preferred by top players, because the shaft of
composite mallets can't absorb vibrations as well as traditional cane mallets. T
he heads of the mallet are generally a cigar shape made from a hardwood called t
ipa, approximately 91/4" inches long. The mallet head weighs from 160 grams (5.6
ounces) to 240 grams (8.4 ounces), depending on player preference and the type
of wood used, and the shaft can vary in weight and flexibility depending on the
player's preference. The weight of the mallet head is of important consideration
for the more seasoned players. Female players often use lighter mallets than ma
le players. For some polo players, the length of the mallet depends on the size
of the horse: the taller the horse, the longer the mallet. However, some players
prefer to use a single length of mallet regardless of the height of the horse.
Either way, playing horses of differing heights requires some adjustment by the
rider. Variable lengths of the mallet typically range from 50 inches (127 centim
eters) to 53 inches (134 centimeters). The term mallet is used exclusively in US
English; British English prefers the term polo stick as the stick technically d
iffers from a mallet in shape and usage. The ball is struck with the broad sides
of the mallet head rather than its round and flat tips.
Polo saddle
Polo saddles are English-style, close contact, similar to jumping saddles; altho
ugh most polo saddles lack a flap under the billets. Some players will not use a
saddle blanket. The saddle has a flat seat and no knee support; the rider adopt
ing a forward-leaning seat and closed knees dissimilar to a classical dressage s
eat. A breastplate is added, usually attached to the front billet. A standing ma
rtingale must be used: so, a breastplate is a necessity for safety. The tie-down
is usually supported by a neck strap. Many saddles also have an overgirth. The
stirrup irons are heavier than most, and the stirrup leathers are wider and thic
ker, for added safety when the player stands in the stirrups. The legs of the po

ny are wrapped with polo wraps from below the knee to the fetlock to prevent hur
ting. Jumping (open front) or gallop boots are sometimes used along with the pol
o wraps for added protection. Often, these wraps match the team colours. The pon
y's mane is most often roached (hogged), and its tail is docked or braided so th
at it will not snag the rider's mallet.
Polo is ridden with double reins for greater accuracy of signals. The bit is fre
quently a gag bit or Pelham bit. In both cases, the gag or shank rein will be th
e bottom rein in the rider's hands, while the snaffle rein will be the top rein.
If a gag bit is used, there will be a drop noseband in addition to the cavesson
, supporting the tie-down. One of the rein sets may alternately be draw reins.
The field[edit]
Relative sizes of an association football ground and a polo field.
The playing field is 300 yards (274 metres) long by 160 yards (146 metres) wide,
the approximate area of nine American football fields. The playing field is car
efully maintained with closely mowed turf providing a safe, fast playing surface
. Goals are posts which are set eight yards apart, centred at each end of the fi
eld. The surface of a polo field requires careful and constant grounds maintenan
ce to keep the surface in good playing condition. During half-time of a match, s
pectators are invited to go onto the field to participate in a polo tradition ca
lled "divot stamping", which has developed to not only help replace the mounds o
f earth (divots) that are torn up by the horses' hooves, but to afford spectator
s the opportunity to walk about and socialise.
Outdoor polo[edit]
The game consists of four to eight 7 minute chukkas, between or during which pla
yers change mounts. At the end of each 7 minute chukka, play continues for an ad
ditional 30 seconds or until a stoppage in play, whichever comes first. There is
a four minute interval between chukkas and a ten minute halftime. Play is conti
nuous and is only stopped for penalties, broken tack (equipment) or injury to ho
rse or player. The object 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 de
fending team is allowed a free 'knock-in' from the place where the ball crossed
the goal line, thus getting the ball back into play.
County polo[edit]
With most clubs in the UK, players need to become members, and invest in at leas
t two ponies to be able to play "standard" club chukkas. It is usual to play fou
r back-to-back chukkas using each pony for two chukkas alternately, so that they
each play, then rest and then play again.
For many people, this requires a very large financial investment, which can be t
oo costly for some. County Polo creates more affordable parameters for newcomers
to the sport. Players are only required to use one pony, which may be hired, or
owned. This form of polo is usually played with three players per side as opposed
to the standard four-player polo and therefore allows each player to get more inv
olved and develop.