Last updated: May 27, 2023
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When you watch polo players zooming across the field, you likely don’t give much thought to the sport’s equipment. But when leaving a recent match, that was precisely what popped into my mind, what equipment does a person need to play polo?
Equipment used to play horse polo includes a saddle, mallet, and helmet, all of which comprise the game’s essential gear. Clearly, one also requires a horse, but I don’t include it as a piece of equipment since it’s a living being.
Most people know the basic equipment needed to play polo, a helmet, boots, and a mallet. But what else is required to get involved in the game? This article looks at the equipment used to play polo and offers important insight for people looking to try the sport for the first time.
What Exactly is Polo?
There exists a passion and fascination for polo that is difficult to describe to someone who’s never actually played. But once you get a taste, you will likely be spending a lot of time on horseback.
Polo has long held a reputation as a sport for kings, but in today’s reality, anybody can get involved in the game, and it doesn’t cost a fortune to purchase the kit or mount a pony for a quick game.
Polo is a beautiful exhibition of coordination and teamwork between a rider and his horse. However, without a proper understanding of the game, it can be challenging to follow.
Essentially, this game requires players to hit a ball, try to maneuver between a team of attackers and defenders, and hit the ball through to the other team’s goalpost. All of this occurs while sitting astride a horse running full speed.
Successful riders develop a bond with their horse, and as play intensifies, their combined movements are smooth and instinctual. Teams may include both men and women showcasing their skills and experience on the field.
When watching the game for the first time, the play may appear aggressive and the horses dangerous; however, anybody can get on the field with a bit of training and swing their mallet without endangering themselves or other players.
What Polo Players Use On the Field.
Players come onto the field wearing the following equipment:
- Knee guards
Also, protective wraps are put on horses’ legs before games to support tendons and protect against mallets and overreaching injuries. The handles of polo mallets are frequently made from bamboo, and balls are typically made of plastic or wood, but other materials are also used.
Fiberglass polo balls are also popular and known in the game as Argentinian balls, but whichever ball is used, the goal remains the same: to drive the ball into the goal and score more points than the opposing team.
The game is played on a grass field or indoors in an arena. Goalposts are open at the top, and fields measure 300 yards by 160: unless the field is open, not surrounded by board barriers, in which case the width is extended to 200 yards.
Horse Polo Uniforms
Have you noticed the polo players wear shirts with numbers on them? The numbers are essential to identify each player’s position and role in the game.
All polo players play positions ranging from 1-4, and you’re not likely to see players with a #5 on their shirts. Here’s what the numbers on polo shirt represent:
This position is played by the front runner, whose job is to accept passes from players in the back and push through to the other team’s goal for a score.
To be the #1 player, they must be fast on their horse and also keep an eye on the other team’s defense because if a player from the other team hits a back shot during offense and the ball goes to your team, as the frontrunner they have to get through their defense and can make a quick score.
The number two has one of the most critical jobs in the field and is typically the second most important player. His job involves:
- Guarding the opposing team’s front-runner.
- Setting the pace for his team.
- Maintaining ball possession.
Number two is also allowed to play various positions on the field, as their responsibility is constantly changing as the game is played.
#3. Team Captain
The number 3 shirt is reserved for the team captain who is typically the team’s most experienced player. During play, number 3 is sometimes given way by his teammates to pass the ball through to the other side and attempt a score.
Scoring in this manner is accomplished by “running off” opponents or pushing them off the way to create space for a shot. During games, it is common to hear the team captain shouting orders to his teammates to reorganize themselves and create more chances to score.
The number 3 player is aggressive, experienced, and relentless when strategizing and organizing his team to play better on the field – and to score.
Number four is a defensive player, also known as the “brick wall.” In most cases, the defender will hang back near their own goal as the last line of defense in case of an attack.
Like the other players, number four’s position can sometimes shift during a game, and it’s usually to take advantage of a rare blunder from the other team.
When an opponent makes a mistake, number 4 should move further up the field to gain an advantage by passing the ball to his teammates so they can slip through their rival defense and score.
The number four requires keen observation, good communication, and essentially staying alert when, inevitably, opposing players present a danger close to the goal.
The Final Round
If you’re interested in playing polo, it’s pretty simple to grasp the rules because they are basic and primarily designed to keep the game safe for players and their horses.
You can find most of the equipment you need at a polo club and some sports outlets. Sports clubs may also have equipment for rent, allowing you to try the game without investing in new equipment.
But it’s essential that you always wear all recommended safety gear before playing, and make sure to take a few lessons before you play against experienced players.
Experienced riders may present an opportunity to learn the sport quickly; however, the game may get a bit rough. Practice the game at your own pace until you’re comfortable enough riding and turning without losing balance.
1. What Are The Rules In Polo?
Hit the ball into the opponent’s goal to score points. The team with the highest points at the end of the game wins. Players can “ride off” opponents to get them out of the way of the ball and use their mallets; players strike the ball while evading opposing players to create better scoring chances.
When a player lifts their mallet to strike the ball, the opposing team member can use their mallet to hook it to the other players and prevent them from taking a shot. You can find out more about the rules of polo in this article: How Is Polo Played? Rules, Concepts, and Equipment Needed.
2. What Is A Polo Pony?
Polo pony refers to a horse that’s bred or trained to play polo. A rider wearing a helmet will charge their horse to get to a polo ball and strike it towards the opponent’s goal.
Polo ponies are specially-bred horses that are strong, fast, and agile. They can manage sharp turns, take off at full speed and come to a stop abruptly, and perform many other moves on the field. To get more detailed information about polo ponies, check out this article: What Horses Are Used For Polo? 4 Popular Polo Pony Breeds.
3. How Old Is Polo?
Polo is believed to have started over 2,000 years ago in ancient Persia but then evolved and spread throughout the Middle East and Asia, from where it eventually reached the Americas.
Multiple cultures have played the game in various aspects, and many have used it as a sporting activity, military training, and various social occasions and events. If you’re interested in the history of polo, I suggest you read this article: Where Did Horse Polo Originate? Plus 5 Notable Facts
- The featured image “Polo in Virginia” is by SkipSteuart is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
- Polo, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polo, Accessed 06/03/2021.
- Polo Pony, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polo_pony, Accessed 06/03/2021.
- What You Need To Know About Polo, Horse Network, https://horsenetwork.com/2016/03/equestrian-crash-course-need-know-polo/, Accessed 06/03/2021.
Meet Miles Henry
An avid equestrian and seasoned racehorse owner, Miles Henry brings his extensive experience to the equine world, proudly associating with the AQHA, The Jockey Club, and various other equine organizations. Beyond the racetrack, Miles is an accomplished author, having published various books about horses, and is a recognized authority in the field, with his work cited in multiple publications.
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