As a horseman or horsewoman, if you live in a warm weathered state, you might get a chance to take up the sport of polo. This is a team sport played on horseback. The purpose of the game is to score goals against the other team by hitting a small white ball using a long-handled mallet into the opposing team’s goal. Every polo team is made up of four riders and their horses.
Polo has long been a popular club sport, even though it is not currently playing in the Olympic Games. This high-intensity and fast paced game work much like soccer but on horseback. As a new player, you’ll quickly learn that it takes a while to master this game, and you’ll need to learn a variety of different moves.
Today there are two types of polo, the traditional method where polo is played on a large field that is about 300 yards long by 150 to 160 yards wide. In field polo, a solid plastic ball is used, which replaces the older wooden version used in prior decades.
The other type of polo is arena polo – a game where each team has only three players. This game is more intense as horsemen have to maneuver in smaller areas and at lower speeds. In this game, an air-filled ball is used, one that looks similar to a soccer ball.
You will want to dress the part, so you’ll need the right set of clothing. The typical outfit for playing horse polo is a lightweight jersey or short-sleeve shirt and a good pair of equine breeches.
As in most equine sports, you’ll need an equestrian helmet. This offers protection against head injury should you fall, which can easily happen in polo. A helmet like the Troxel Spirit offers that needed protection and also allows for easy cleaning.
Every horseman on a polo team wears special boots that have a dual purpose. They offer protection against flying turf and rocks and the small heel prevents your feet from slipping through your stirrups. Polo boots are all leather and are usually hand-crafted. They are also lined and have an added moisture resistant sealant to protect feet from moisture.
Horse Polo Wraps
Most team members wrap their horses’ lower legs in the team colors. Some say this wrapping offers additional support for the horses’ legs, which is necessary due to the heavy stress on the horses’ lower legs.
The Polo Mallet
The traditional Polo mallet is made of a bamboo shaft and a hardwood head. This is used to hit the plastic polo ball that is only about three inches in diameter. The player hits the ball in a certain way, and each play is named after the side of the horse from which the player hits.
For example, when a player hits from the left side of the mount, it is called a “near side” play. When he hits from the right it’s called an “off side” hit.
Polo is a very intense sport and really only available to people who practice other forms of horsemanship such as English riding or dressage. It is really unknown as to whether this is a sport invented by the English. History shows us that similar games did exist some 2,000 years ago in Persia (now Iran) and China, but it was a game called Changar, a word that meant mallet in Persian.