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Glossary of Polo Terms

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A period of play. It is known as a chukka in England and in India. There are six chukkers of play in the standard polo game, each lasting seven minutes, thirty seconds. A horn sounds at seven minutes to warn the players. A second horn sounds thirty seconds later to end play. Last chukker ends at seven minutes with no extra time. In the case of a tie, teams get a 10 min break then begin a sudden death seventh chukker that is also severn minutes, thirty seconds. If no goal is scored, an eighth chukker is played, and so on until the first team to make a goal wins.  


An infraction of the rules. Polo play is governed by rules set forth in the “Blue Book" by the USPA. 

A score of 1. It is tallied any time a ball travels through the goal posts, which are 8' apart, whether hit in by attacker, defender or pony. Team goal directions are switched each time a goal is made.


Comparative rating of polo playing skills awarded by the USPA and its committees. Handicaps are expressed as goals and range from - 2 (minus two) to 10 (ten), with ten being the best. There are only five 10-goal players in United States. Most amateur players rate 2 goal or less. All four team member's handicaps add up to determine their goal rating for tournament purposes. The highest rated handicap games in U.S. is the 22 goal U.S. Open played in Wellington, Florida at the International Polo Club. 

One of the two the two defensive maneuvers allowed under the rules. A mallet may be used to block player’s shot at the ball, although it must be used in an approved manner. Unsafe hooking or hitting into a pony is a foul. 

A knock in takes place when the ball goes over the back line, wide of the goal mouth. The defending team hits the ball back into play from the back line. This gives the defending a free hit and can often change the momentum of play. 

Line of the Ball 
The imaginary line created by the ball in its travel. This is the crucial concept which is the basis of play on the polo field. 
Also known as a stick, this is the tool used to hit a polo ball. The shaft of the mallet is usually made of bamboo so it can give or bend when swung, although graphite and fiber­glass are als used. The head of the mallet is hardwood, usually ash or maple. The ball is hit with the side of the mallet head, not the end. Some players prefer a whippier mallet, some a stiffer one. Each stick is unique. 

Out of Bounds 
When a ball is hit over the side-lines, it is out of bounds. The clock continues to run. Teams line up at that spot and the ball is thrown in. Deliberately hitting the ball out in the closing seconds of a match can be an excellent strategic play.

Designated 1 to 10, penalties are awarded depending on the severity of the foul. The most comnion awarded are the 3, 4, and 5. In a penalty 5, the ball is hit by the fouled team from midfield; in a 4, from the 60 yard line; in a 3, from the 40 yard line.. 

Number #1-The most offensive player. This is similar to the forward position in hockey or soccer. The #I player should be an accurate hitter, but need not necessarily hit a long ball. 
Number #2 - Primarily an offensive player but also responsible for defense, inter­changing with the #3 player. The #2 player is often the second highest rated player on the team. 
Number #3 - The quarter­back and play maker. The #3 is usually the highest rated and most experienced player. The #3 player must be a long accurate hitter but capable of close-in stick work and ball control. 
Number #4 - The back. This is a defensive position but a good back must not only be able to hit a good backshot, he must also be able to turn the play from defense to offense in a flash. The #4 player is the last line of defense. 

Referee or Third Man 

The third official usually stationed on foot or in a "birds nest" vantage point on the sidelines at midfield. Also known as the third man, his decision is final in cases of disputes between umpires. 

When the ball rolls over the back line wide of the goal mouth as a result of being touched by a defending man, the attacking team is allowed to hit a safety from 60 yards out to a defended goal. The clock is stopped and the ball is placed on the 60 yard line approximately in line with the spot where the ball crossed the back line. 

Polo Swings

Back Swing - Hitting the ball in a direction opposite to that in which the player is traveling. 

Neck Swing - A ball hit under the neck of a pony. 

Tail Shot - Hitting a ball behind the pony.  
Off-side Swing -The right side of the pony. There is a forehand swing and a back shot swing to the off-side. 

Near-side Swing - The left side of the pony. There is a forehand swing and a back shot swing to the near-side.

The throw-in begins play at the start of the game, after each goal, and after the ball goes out of bounds. The ball is bowled in between two lines of players, ideally lined up numerically. 

The on-field official. Two umpires are on-field during the game and usually wear black and white, vertically striped shirts. 


The United States Polo Association.The Governing body of polo.

Polo Wraps 

Cloth bandages used to wrap the pony’s lower leg for support and protection. They are usually in color and one player will often wrap all of his ponies in the same color, securing with velcro and then tail tape on top of that. To have a leg wrap come off in a game is very dangerous. 


Key Terms & Definitions of Polo

Like many sports, polo has a special language. The words, names, equipment and traditions are a blend of ancient Pakistan, the British Empire and modifications from American and Argentine slang. It's all good information if you plan to watch or play the sport. 

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