Last weekend I went to my first polo match ever. It was truly a fabulously British experience and I must say that polo is quite an interesting sport. I did a bit of research on its origin and rules and I thought I'd share what I found in this post as well as some tips for when you'll go to a polo match yourself.
Polo was invented a really long time ago (its establishment has been dated in the range of the 6th century BC to the 1st century AD) somewhere in Central Asia, most likely in Persia. From there it slowly spread through Asia and became a popular sport among royals and other rulers. Modern day polo evolved from a similar game that was played in India, called Manipur. It was taken up by the British Military who introduced the sport in England. The British then popularised polo and spread the game throughout the world.
The rules
Most of the time the polo traditions are followed, but the rules are sometimes changed to suit the circumstances better. At the Chestersons Polo in the Park I went to each team consisted of three players, instead of four which is normally the case. That way it was easier to follow what was going on. Just like in golf every player has a handicap. But, in polo, the higher the handicap the better, which range from -2 to 10. The team as a whole has a handicap as well, which is all individual players' handicaps added together. Polo matches are divided into different parts called 'chukkas'. During these periods players have to change pony, because a pony can't be used for more than two chukkas in one match. Goals are usually worth 1 point, but sometimes more points are awarded when a goal is scored from a far distance. A lot of other rules are based on the "line of the ball" which is the extended path along which the ball is traveling the field. This line enforces rules for players to approach the ball in a safe way to ensure the safety of both the players and ponies. Admittedly, it's very hard to keep track of the line of the ball when you're watching the game.
Good to know

  •  In polo horses aren't called horses but ponies, polo ponies. This term is purely tradional though, and the animals are actually fully grown with a height of in between 155 and 160 cm.

  • In between chukkas spectators are often asked to come onto the field and tread divots (bits of dirt and grass that are kicked up by the ponies during the game) back into the field. So if you're a woman, make sure not to wear pumps but rather wedges or ballerinas or you'll leave the field (and your shoes) in a worse state.

But don't worry too much about remembering all those rules. Everyone knows that going to the polo is more about people watching and drinking Pimm's anyway ;)

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