Polo is a played between two teams of four. Each player rides a horse and attempts to score goals on the opposing team by using a long-handled mallet to hit a white, plastic ball through an eight-yard wide goal. The polo field is 300 yards long and 160 yards wide. Depending on the local rules, a polo match can consist of four, six, or eight periods (known as “chukkas”), with six chukkas being the most common. Each period is seven minutes long. There are no timeouts, unless there is a foul or a player or horse injury, and there are no substitutions, unless an injury requires a player to be replaced.
The goal of polo is to score more goals than the other team. Each goal is worth one point. After each goal, the teams switch sides in order to ensure that the scoring team does not have an advantage from light, weather, or field conditions. Whichever team has the most points at the end of all of the chukkas, wins. Polo matches can end in a tie.
The four players on each polo team wear a number between 1 and 4, with each number representing the player’s position on the field. The player wearing the number 1 is the primary offensive player and is the player that plays furthest down the field. The player wearing the number 2 plays an important offensive role by supporting the number 1 player, but also plays defense. The player wearing the number 3 is usually the best player on that team and is generally the team captain. The number 3 player is the strategist and tactician on the field. The number 3 player will be everywhere and do everything. The player wearing the number 4 is the most defense-oriented player on the field. The number 4 player should worry only about defense and generally guards the opposing team’s number 1 player.
A player’s mount is a very important part of a polo match. Generally, a different horse is used for each of the chukkas. However, sometimes an exceptional horse will be used for two chukkas in a row. If a horse begins to tire before the end of the chukka, it can be replaced. However, because there are no timeouts in polo, the player attempting to switch the horse must time the switch perfectly in order to prevent being caught out of position.
There are numerous fouls that can occur during a polo match. If a foul is committed, the team that was fouled receives a penalty shot. The severity of the foul will determine the distance of the shot from the goal and whether the shot can be defended.
Predetermined plays are not common in polo. As such, players must constantly analyze the match so as to capitalize on superior positioning and the opposing team’s mistakes. Due to this fact, polo is an exciting, non-stop action sport.