Learn the equestrian sport of polo

Polo Glossary

Polo players discussing the game

Basic Polo Terminology

The following are some basic definitions to help spectators enjoy watching a polo match.

appealing
claims by players for a foul, expressed by the raising of mallets above the head.
back shot
backhand swing, changing the flow of play by sending the ball in the opposite direction.
bowl in
when the umpire starts or resumes a polo match by rolling the ball down the center of a lineup of players, same as throw in.
bump
when a player directs his pony into the side of an opponent's pony.
check and turn
to slow the pony and turn safely.
chukker
term used for period of play in polo, seven and a half minutes long, there are six chukkers in a polo match.
flagman
an unofficial goal observer appointed to signal by waving a flag over the head if a goal is scored, or under the waist if no goal.
field
usually 300 yards long by 160 yards wide and outlined by sideboards.
goal
anytime the ball crosses the line between the goal posts, regardless of who (including ponies) knocks it through.
handicap
team play is handicapped on the basis of ability. A team's handicap is the total of its players' goal ratings. The team with the lower handicap is awarded the difference in goals at the start of the match.
hands
unit of measure for the height of a horse, one hand equals about four inches.
hook
catching an opponent's mallet in swing below the level of the horse's back, to leave or turn the ball for a teammate.
knock in
after the ball crosses the back line, the defending team knocks the ball back into play from their own back line.
leave it
to ride past the ball so that the teammate behind can hit it.
line of the ball
the imaginary line produced by the ball when it is hit or deflected.
made pony
a polo pony that is well trained for polo and has been played for some time.
mallet head
the part of the mallet used to strike the ball, the wide face of the head is used to strike the ball.
nearside
the left hand side of the polo pony.
neck shot
hitting the ball under the horse's neck.
officials
two mounted umpires do most of the officiating, with a referee at midfield having the final say in any dispute between the umpires.
offside
the right hand side of the polo pony.
pass
to hit the ball forward or laterally to a teammate.
penalty
numbered from 1 to 10, a free hit is awarded to the fouled, from a set distance determined by the severity of the foul committed.
pony goal
when a polo pony causes the ball to go through the goal posts.
positions
there are four players on a team, numbered 1 through 4, each with different responsibilities.
ride off
two riders may make contact and attempt to push each other off the line to prevent an opponent from striking the ball.
safety
also known as Penalty 6, a defending player hits the ball over his own back line.
sideboards
short boards along the sidelines of the field to help keep the ball in play.
stick
the polo mallet.
stick and ball
personal practice time.
sudden death
overtime play when the score is tied at the end of the last regular chukker, the first team to score wins.
swing
hitting at the ball with the mallet using one of four basic shots: forehand, backhand, neck, and tail.
tack
all the equipment used on a pony.
tail shot
hitting the ball behind and under the horse's rump.
third man
the referee sitting at the sidelines, if the two umpires on the field are in disagreement, the third man makes the final decision.
throw in
when the umpire starts or resumes the match, he rolls the ball down the center of a lineup of players and horses.
time out
an umpire may call a time out when a foul is committed, an accident occurs, or at his or her discretion, a player may only call a time out if he has broken tack or is injured.
turn
to backhand hit the ball away from the goal being defended.
umpires
two mounted officials, one for each side of the field.
USPA
United States Polo Association is the governing body of polo.
wraps
the protective bandages the polo ponies wear on their legs

Polo Pony Glossary

For information on polo ponies and equestrian terms refer to the Polo Pony Glossary