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When you watch a polo match, it’s readily apparent the field is much larger than those commonly used in many outdoor sports, such as football. But, I found it difficult to estimate its size, so I researched polo fields’ dimensions.
Polo fields are big; they measure at least 275 meters (300 yards in length), 145 meters in width, or 160 yards. Additionally, the field requires an area set aside behind each goal post, and this area measures 30 meters behind the goalposts and 10 meters to each side.
A polo field is significantly larger than any regular contact sport, but how much do you know about the sport in general? This article explains everything you need to know about playing in a polo pitch, the game’s different rules, and a little background on how this old game started.
Did you know that polo fields are planted in paspalum grass? Read on to learn more about the “game of kings.”
The layout of a polo field.
The field is 300 yards long and has a goal post on either end. Polo goal posts are made of 3 meter-high goal posts and are 3 meters apart. Before any games are played, the field is prepared by mowing and flattening the ground to prevent horses’ injuries and make sure the ball doesn’t hit foreign obstacles.
A polo field is planted paspalum grass, a highly adaptable grass that’s been used in pitches for a long time. However, paspalum isn’t the only grass that you may find on polo fields: in warmer coastal climates, Cynodon grass is a standard variety.
Maintaining A Polo Field
Ideally, the field is also top-dressed with sand to enhance traction for the horses and making it easier to reach higher speeds during play. It also allows players to stop horses almost instantly from full-speed.
Polo players move their horses from zero to full speeds without trotting, which is part of why the field is conditioned this way. A polo field is cleaned after every chukker (period of play) to remove the divots and other obstacles before the next chukker.
Origins Of Horse Polo
The game itself dates back to the 6th century BC where nomadic Persians played the game as part of a cavalry units’ training regimen. Most commonly, polo was played by elite king’s guard units. It is where the current form of the game originated.
Both men and women played equally, and the sport gained immense popularity as a result of patronage by kings and the noble class. As a tool for training cavalry, polo was eventually exported from Constantinople to far regions such as Japan, where in the middle ages, the game gained a significant following.
Polo was also exported through Egyptian dynasties’ Muslim conquests, where elites preferred it over all other sporting activities. Famous sultans such as Saladin and Baybars have loved the sport and encouraged it to be a social activity in their courts.
India is commonly regarded as the birthing place of the modern polo game . The Manipur region in India, where polo is known as ”sagol kangjei,” is an integral part of its evolution – even though much of the game remains the same since its inception.
Initially, polo was seen as a variation of hockey, which is immensely popular in India; and the game was an amalgamation of different sporting activities of the day, including “wrestling hockey” and field hockey. The ruler of ancient Manipur, King Kangba, introduced polo.
The game continued being an integral aspect of Indian sport until Babur, the first Mughal emperor, officially endorsed the game and contributed to exporting it to England, where it’s played to this day.
How The Polo Field Has Changed Since Manipur
Seven players traditionally played polo to each side, each player mounted on a Manipuri poly. They didn’t use any goalposts, so players hit the ball to one of two ends of the field, and they used the long side of a mallet to strike the ball. Players were also allowed to block the ball using any part of their body except an open hand.
The world’s oldest polo field is located in India, where a lot of the sport’s rich history is documented in the Cheitharol kumbaba, a royal chronicle. In 1901, Lord Curzon, viceroy of India, recorded a polo field as 225 yards long and 110 yards wide,
In Calcutta, an old polo club created by two British citizens in the late 19th century contributed to spreading the game to England. In the 20th-century, the game’s enthusiasm peaked, with royal members acting as patrons for polo clubs.
The older version of the game played in Manipur was slower, methodical, and players rarely passed the ball to their mates. Each play consisted of unique movements from the players, and they didn’t train horses to play fast or aggressively like they do today.
Argentine Polo Has Been Massively Influential
Argentine polo was kick-started by English immigrants when they organized the first-ever formal game in 1875 in Buenos Aires. The sport proliferated, and polo clubs opened in towns such as Quilmes, Flores, and Venado Tuerto.
Once the game took hold in the country, Argentinian polo players grew to become the premier players they are known today. Over 80% of the world’s premier polo players are Argentinian, and today, the country is regarded as the center of polo, with the highest number of 10-handicap players.
The Final Yard
Polo has grown to become a major sporting event, particularly for a particular class of wealthy individuals who organize events at clubs and pay to have the best players from Europe and South America to play for a prize.
A polo tournament in England or the U.S attracts the best teams from all over the world, with patrons spending over $1 million to prepare an elite team with well-trained horses.
Today, the World Champions polo league competition (which was launched in 2016) attracts thousands of fans from all over the world, making polo one of the fastest-growing sporting trends in recent years.
What Is A Polo Pony?
A polo pony is a horse that has been trained to play polo — and is usually a full-sized horse with high stamina, speed, and quick responsiveness. Horses are taught from the age of 2-3, after which they begin playing in polo fields by the time they reach five years.
Although the horses used in polo are referred to as a pony, the horses are typically thoroughbred or another type of horse and are not miniature ponies, as the name may suggest. To learn more about the horses used in polo, check out this article: What Horses Are Used For Polo? 4 Popular Polo Pony Breeds.
What Are The Rules Of Horse Polo?
The game is played by four players on each team (though some variations exist), with each player having at least two ponies that they switch up after each chukker to allow each pony a resting period between plays.
Players must strike the ball and drive it through the goal post for a score, and the team with the highest points wins. If you’re interested in a more in-depth look at how polo is played, here is a helpful article: How Is Polo Played? Rules, Concepts, and Equipment Needed.
Is Horse Polo Dangerous?
Horse polo is not particularly dangerous; however, long-term players tend to suffer injuries at some point during play. The most common injuries are falls and being hit with the ball, which may cause severe damage when traveling at incredible speeds.
To learn more about the dangers of playing polo, visit this article: Is Playing Polo Dangerous? 5 Keys to Reduce Risks of Injury.
- 1. Featured image by Monica Volpin of Pixabay.
- 2. Polo, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polo, Accessed 06/03/2021.
- Polo Sport, Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/sports/polo, Accessed 06/03/2021.
- Polo Pony, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polo_pony, Accessed 06/03/2021.
- Horse Polo The Sport, Top Trend Sports, https://www.topendsports.com/sport/list/polo-horse.htm#:~:text=Horse%20polo%20or%20simply%20called%20polo%2C%20is%20a,Two%20teams%20can%20play%20with%20four%20members%20each., Accessed 06/03/2021.