When we all hear about Polo the first thing that comes to mind is the famous fashion brand with a guy on a horse caring a stick. I saw a few matches on tv but the sport seems so difficult yet beautiful.
I had a chance to meet some players at The Pacific Polo Cup event in Vancouver last year and I liked the party very much and, of course, the game. S0 this year I decided to be one of the sponsors. To show my commitment to the event and not just look pretty on the side lines, I accepted the challenge to have my first Polo lesson and share my experience with you.
I visited the Vancouver Polo Cup which is located in Delta- BC, a town 30 min from Downton Vancouver.
I was a bit scared but the horse was so calm and the instructor was very patient and explained the movements very well. We started practicing the arm movements on the ground and that’s where I encountered my first challenge. I am a lefty and in Polo there is no such thing as a lefty. So I had to practice my swing with my right hand. Not bad, after few tries. Then I got on the horse.
Polo is played on a ten acre grass field, 300 yards in length by 160 yards, which is the approximate area of ten football fields. Goal posts are set eight yards apart on either end of the field. The object of the game is to move the ball down-field, hitting the ball through the goal for a score. Teams change direction after each goal. The team with the most scores at the end of the match is deemed the winner.
Two teams, made up of four players each, are designated by shirt color. The players wear high boots, knee guards, and a helmet. The ponies wear protective bandages and boots to shield them from the ball or the mallet. By tradition, players wear white pants in tournaments. The mallet, made of a bamboo shaft with a hardwood head, is the instrument used to hit the polo ball.
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 horse’s hooves, but to also afford spectators the opportunity to walk about and socialize.
There are six periods or “chukkers” in a match. Each chukker is seven minutes long. Play begins with a throw-in of the ball by the umpire at the opening of each chukker, and after each goal. Only penalties or injuries may stop play as there are no time-outs or substitutions allowed (except for tack repair).
The four basic shots in polo are distinguished by the side of the pony on which strokes or shots are made. That is “near-side”, left side of the mount, and “off-side” right side of the mount. This creates the near-side forward, and back shot, and the off-side forward and back shot. Shots can also be made under the pony’s neck, across his tail, or the difficult under the belly shot, all variations of the basic shots.
Although there are many rules to the game of polo, the primary concept to which all rules are dedicated is safety, for the player and his mount.
The right-of-way rule is defined by a player’s position relative to the direction of travel of the ball when hit. Once hit, an imaginary line is drawn from the player to the ball, and extended ahead of the ball in the direction that it is traveling towards. This imaginary line can not be crossed by other players. In general, play will flow backward and forward, parallel to the imaginary line extended ahead of, and behind, the ball. This rule creates safe traffic patterns that enable the participants to play at top speeds and to avoid dangerous collisions.
The line of the ball may not be crossed except under special circumstances and only in such a way as to legitimately gain control of the ball. When a player has the line of the ball on his right, he has the right-of-way. This can only be taken away by “riding off” and moving the player off the line of the ball by making shoulder-to-shoulder contact.