Polo 101

Want to learn to play polo? Give us a call to schedule a lesson today! No experience necessary. (352) 750-7656

Want to learn the rules of polo? Look for our Polo 101 classes that are held prior to every season. Tickets are available through The Villages Box Office.

The Game

Six Chukkers (periods), seven and a half minutes each. The field is 300 yards long and 160 yards wide. On the end line at each end are goal posts, twenty four feet apart. Points are scored by hitting the ball between the posts. Each time a goal is scored the teams change direction of play. It's like hockey on horseback. It is legal to "hook" the hitter's mallet and it's okay to ram into your opponent during play. The game is very physical and can be dangerous. In between chukkers there is a four-minute break for players to change ponies. After three chukkers there is a ten-minute "half time." With time-outs for penalties and the like, a typical match lasts one-and-a-half hours.


There are four players on the field for each team, wearing a jersey numbered 1 through 4. The roles of each player are:

#1 The Forward: Always out in front - should score most of the goals.

#2 The Hustler: Quick and aggressive with fast ponies.

#3 The Pivot: The quarterback and captain. Has to hit a long shot.

#4 The Back: Defender. There are no goalies. It's his job to stop the goal shots.

Helmets are required, and some have face masks. Most players wear padded knee guards and they all have to wear boots.


It's a solid bamboo cane with a hard wood head. It's about 4 1/2 feet long and you hit the ball 1/2 lb with the side of the mallet, not the end. All players must hold the mallet in the right hand; left-handed play is not allowed.

The Ball

Today's polo ball is solid plastic, weighing I/4-lb., and is a little larger than a baseball. Historically polo balls were made out of wood.

The Horse

They are called polo ponies. Most are former race horses, high-speed Thoroughbreds with exceptional abilities. The tail is braided to stay out of the way of the mallet. The mane is clipped off so the player can see the ball, and to prevent the reins from getting tangled up. The idea is for each player to have six ponies - one for each chukker.

Horse Equipment

A bridle that must have a bit. The saddle is English. A girth, over-girth and breastplate help hold the saddle in place. Two sets of reins are used. A martingale, a part of the bridle, keeps the pony from throwing it’s head and blocking the player's view. The lower legs are wrapped for support and protection.

The Shots

Players actually stand up in the stirrups when hitting the ball. The shots are made from the "off" side (right side) or the "near" side (left side) or the pony. With reins in the left hand and a mallet in the right hand, the player is only holding on with his legs.


Players are rated on a scale of minus-2 to 10. Beginners start at minus 2. Only a handful of players in the world are rated at 10, none in the U.S. About 96 percent of all U.S. players have a handicap of 2 or less, and some with a handicap of 2 or more are considered professional. In handicap matches, each team adds up the ratings of its players to arrive at a team rating. The difference of the two teams' ratings is awarded as points to the lesser skilled team as the beginning score of the game.


When you hear the umpire blow the whistle it's just like basketball - somebody fouled. The other team gets a free hit. The most common foul is crossing the line or the right of way. Forty percent of all the points in a game are scored from the foul line.


Polo is governed by the United States Polo Association. The rules are so complex it takes over 80 pages in the USPA Rule Book just to explain them. In a nut shell: Don't hit your horse or anyone else's with your mallet. You can't play left-handed. No dangerous riding. Abusive play and language are not allowed. If a player comes off his or her horse or off the field, the clock can continue to run; if a horse falls down, stop the clock. The team with the most points at the end of six chukkers wins. If the game ends a tie they play sudden death overtime.

For more information contact The Villages Booster Club