Basic Polo Terminology
The following are some basic definitions to help spectators enjoy watching a polo match.
- 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.
- when a player directs his pony into the side of an opponent's
- check and turn
- to slow the pony and turn safely.
- term used for period of play in polo, seven and a half minutes
long, there are six chukkers in a polo match.
- 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.
- usually 300 yards long by 160 yards wide and
outlined by sideboards.
- anytime the ball crosses the line between the goal posts, regardless
of who (including ponies) knocks it through.
- 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.
- unit of measure for the
height of a horse, one hand equals about
- 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.
- the left hand side of the polo
- neck shot
- hitting the ball under the horse's neck.
- two mounted
umpires do most of the officiating, with a referee at midfield having the final
say in any dispute between the umpires.
- the right hand side of the polo pony.
- to hit the ball forward or laterally to a teammate.
- 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.
- 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.
- also known as Penalty 6, a defending player hits the ball over
his own back line.
- short boards along the sidelines of the field to help keep the
ball in play.
- 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.
- hitting at the ball with the mallet using one of four basic shots:
forehand, backhand, neck, and tail.
- 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.
- to backhand hit the ball away from the goal being defended.
- two mounted officials, one for each side of the field.
- United States Polo Association is the governing body of polo.
- 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