Spectator’s Guide to the Game
As one of the oldest team sports, arena polo is an exhilarating combination of horsepower, athleticism, and control. Arena polo is a fast-paced version of grass polo played on an enclosed all-weather surface. Unlike outdoor polo, which is played on a 10-acre field, arena polo is played on 300 feet by 150 feet surface, enclosed by walls of four or more feet in height. The normal game consists of four chukkers, or periods, of seven and a half minutes each. The arena polo ball is similar to a mini soccer ball, larger than the hard plastic ball used outdoors. The arena surface is dirt and rubber mulch with the ball bouncing on the uneven surface and off the arena wall.
The umpire bowls the ball in between the two ready teams, when the chukker begins or play resumes after a goal or foul. Teams change sides every chukker. Unique to arena polo are two point goals. A ball hit from beyond the center line which scores directly or off the wall, but not another player or mount, will count as two goals.
Although the real stars of the game are called polo “ponies”, the term is just a tradition; an old rule limiting their height was dropped in 1919. Today’s players prefer horses with a Thoroughbred’s speed and stamina in their bloodlines. The mane is shaved and the tail is braided so that they do not become entangled in reigns, mallets, or other equipment, especially when the horses are bumping shoulder to shoulder.
A team consists of three mounted players and can be a mix of both men and women of all ages. Players are handicapped on a scale of -2 to 10, as determined by a player’s horsemanship, hitting ability, quality of horses, team play and game sense. The team handicap is the sum of its players’ total handicaps.
Players wear a safety helmet, knee-high boots, knee guards, white pants, jersey and carry a polo mallet held in the right hand during play. The mallet is made of a cane shaft measuring between 48 to 54 inches in length with a wooden head. The game ball is a larger inflated ball similar to a mini soccer ball.
A player’s jersey number reflects the position they play, with each number indicating a different objective. The Number 1 player assumes the most offensive position on the team. The Number 2 player is often the hardest offensive and defensive worker on the team. The Number 3 player acts as the “Quarterback”, responsible for field advantage, game strategy and is often the highest rated player on the team. Arena polo teams have 3 players where grass polo teams have 4 players.
During games, one or two mounted umpires officiate on horseback while a referee assists from the sidelines. The rules of polo are designed to allow both the players and their equine partners the opportunity to maximize their athletic skills in a safe and fair environment.