Principle of the game

Polo is a game in which two teams of four riders try to send a plastic or wooden ball, 8.5 cm in diameter, into the opponent’s goal. The ball is struck with a mallet consisting of a hardwood head placed at the end of a bamboo or carbon-fiber stick, about 130 cm long.
Polo is played on a 275 m-long, 145 m-wide grass pitch, with additional deceleration zones. At each end of the pitch, the goals are marked by two wicker posts 7.3 m apart.
Polo can also be played on sand or snow.
How the game is played
A match is divided into 4 to 8 periods, or chukkas, of 7.30 minutes, with 3-minute breaks for changing horses. If the referees have whistles to intervene on fouls committed during the game, the rhythm of the periods is set by a bell or a horn.
After each goal, the teams change sides on the pitch and play resumes with a ball thrown into the center of the field.

Rules of the Game

The rules of the game are primarily designed to protect the safety of players and horses.
While it is permissible to hinder (mark) a player by pushing him shoulder to shoulder, or to try to hook his mallet to prevent him from hitting the ball, it is forbidden to cut the line marked by the trajectory of a moving ball in front of the last player who has just hit it, to zigzag in front of an opponent or to approach him for marking at too open a trajectory angle.

The referees

Two field referees officiate on horseback, as close as possible to the action.
In the event of disagreement, they defer to the decision of a third referee, who follows the game from the edge of the pitch.


Fouls, or “fouls”, are punished by free kicks from the spot or from distances varying from midfield to 60 or 30 yards from the opposing goal, depending on the severity of the foul.

Protective gear

Players wear helmets, often with protective grids, and thick leather knee pads.
The horses’ legs are protected by bands or stiffer pads.
The manes of the horses, most of which are of Argentine origin, are shaved and the tails are braided to prevent the rider’s hands or the mallet from getting tangled in the manes.

Players Handicap

Players are classified and assigned a “handicap” to reflect their level of play. Beginners start at handicap -2, and the world’s best players peak at handicap 10. A team’s handicap is the algebraic sum of its players’ handicaps. The level of a tournament is determined by the range of handicaps of the teams allowed to participate.

Indoor Polo and Pony Polo

The rules for indoor polo and pony polo retain the spirit of the above rules.
They vary only as regards the number of players and periods of play, the duration of these periods, and the type and size of ball used.