Alternative ways to play Polo

Different types of games are played across the world. Certain games, such as football, rugby and cricket, are extremely popular around the world whereas others, such as baseball and equestrian, are played in a few parts of the world only. Polo is an extremely popular field or outdoor game in Canada and the United States. It is a game that the residents of these two countries enjoy to play and watch. Polo is commonly played on grass, snow, sand and in arenas. There are even more variations on polo in addition to these. This article gives an overview of the variations on polo as well as the various animals that are used for polo.

Beach, snow and arena polo differ from the classic grass polo in a number of ways. The teams and playing field are comparatively smaller, the ball bigger and the chukkas smaller. The rules also value from one variant to another. However, polo is an interesting game in which players hit the ball with a unique stick. The most exciting part of the polo game is that players are expected to ride horses when playing the game. The horses that are used for playing the game of polo are normally referred to as polo ponies. Besides horses, other animals that are used for the sport of polo include elephants, yaks, camels and even donkeys. The players of this sport are extremely talented and take major risks during the game.

On Horseback

A modern variant of the game is known as arena polo. This game is usually played on an enclosed area, which makes the field of play smaller than the usual field. Beach polo is a recent variant that is commonly played on sandy beaches in Miami and Dubai and more recently, in the United Kingdom. Another recent variant is called snow polo simply because it is played on snow on a frozen surface. The set-up of snow polo will vary based on the space available.

Other Variations

Playing polo on other animals besides horses is also common. Other polo variants are mainly played for touristic or recreational purposes. These variants include elephant polo, camel polo, yak polo and even donkey polo.

Elephant polo is similar to the standard sport, except that the animal used is the elephant. Elephant polo is popular in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand, but the UK has also fielded teams. The field is three-quarters of the size of the average polo pitch because of the slower pace of the elephants. Usually, two players ride one elephant whilst the player controls the direction of the mahout in order to strike the ball.

Camel polo is also popular and is played on camels. Similarly, there can be two riders with one person steering camel and the other playing the game. Yak polo is the Mongolian variant. Instead of horses, this version is played on yaks. This version acts as a tourist attraction in areas where it is played and has become extremely popular nowadays. Yak polo has also become popular in Pakistan and is an integral part of the renewed Broghil Festival in Chitral.


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Polo’s Popularity Worldwide

Polo is a sport that requires a lot from not just the horse but the man as well. It has been described as a sport, not for the faint hearted and this is rightly so because playing this game takes more than just knowing how to ride a horse. Having the skill of Pelle, the genius of Tiger Woods with a little bit of Michael Jordan power in one can qualify as the traits needed to succeed in this sport. It is an age where extreme sports have taken root and polo is one that not only entertains the spectators but is equal as satisfying as it is challenging to the players as well. Having been born in Asia a couple of millennia ago as practice for soldiers before they went to battle, it has emerged over the years to be a great sport. Cavalry officers used to play to the amusement of Constantinople around the middle ages, and this is where it caught on.

In 1890, the USPA (United States Polo Association) was formed, and this made it possible to create rules as well as a platform to further make the sport famous. The founders of this association didn’t think that the sport would gain as much recognition as it did and by 1930, it had become one of the most favorite games among the Americans who did produce some legends in the game. It soon gained worldwide popularity and soon the Olympic Games took notice where it was played in front of more than 30000 fans at the Meadow Brook Polo Club on Long Island. The depression, as well as the second world war, stilled the momentum of the game a bit but as soon as they were over, the dominance of the match was back, and the United States could no longer claim sole dominance. With 16 polo clubs in Asia alone, 13 in Africa, which is a huge milestone for the continent considering the sport, wasn’t, started there that far back, 7 in New Zealand and Australia and 42 in Europe. However, The United States still leads with over 200 clubs.

The top rankings in the world of polo, however, have gone to Argentina for over 30 years now. This is certainly because there is a family in Buenos Aires known as the Graciadas that is known for the excellent breed of horses that they have and the kind of agility in athleticism that is unequaled so far. The Heguyas of Mexico as well is also known for this kind of exceptional athletic skills and a rare breed of horses that makes them almost unstoppable in the sport. Players travel all across the world with entire stables of ponies to compete which proves to show further that polo’s popularity worldwide is increasing. The fact that this is a sport that combines the brilliance of man and animal to achieve a particular goal at great lengths is what has made this sport popular in the world. It will continue to dominate, and nothing less can be expected now or in the future of Polo.

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History of the Sport

Polo is a team sport that remains the oldest as claimed by many historians. Although its exact origin is shrouded in mystery, it’s believed that over 2000 years ago, nomads played it. It wasn’t until 600 B.C when the first registered tournament took place. The match was between the Persians and Turkomans in which Turkomans emerged with the victory.

Polo and the Kings

Polo sport was mostly played by Kings, Queens, and Princes in Persia(modern Iran). In addition, it was integrated into the training of the King’s advanced calvary. As time went pay and war activities intensified in Central Asia, many Kings and Emperors, Sultans, Shahs, Caliphs and Khans of the old Persia, and also the Chinese, Arabs, Mongols and Mughals took it up as their favorite pastime.

From these origins, the sport has mostly been linked to the rich and noble members of the society. For instance, in the recent past in Britain, the sport has often been associated with the middle and upper classes. This can be attributed to the fact the sport’s origin in the country started with the militia.

Another reason why polo is often linked with such individuals is due to the fact that it’s played on horseback and demands nearly 10 acres and more than two horses for each game. It’s quite an expensive sport.

The Evolution and spread of Polo

The spread of polo sport from Persia to the East has been credited to the moguls. Across the east, the sport was part of the training of Calvary. Of course this is because of the fact that it resembled military tactics. However, all through its spreading, the game maintained its basic concepts.

Westerners only came to know of the game after it was spread by the British tea planters who were based in Manipur, an area located between India and Burma. They learnt of it from local tribesmen and in one of the exhibitions that normally took place in the area. From there, it later spread to Malta where it was adopted by naval officers and soldiers.

In 1869, officers based at Aldershot organized the first polo game in Britain on Hounslow Health. It was between the 9th Lancers and 10th Hussars. Seven years later, it was exported to the United Status by James Gordon who was a Newspaper owner and a sports enthusiast. The first game in the U.S took place in New York City at the Dickel’s Riding Academy. Later in 1890, United States Polo Association was found. Teams from both Britain and the U.S often met for a tournament dubbed International Polo Challenge Cup.

In the beginning of the 19th C, Captain John Watson of the 13th Hussars came up with the first official recorded rules of the sport. Interestingly, the rules formed the basis of the current international rules. Polo sport has previously been featured in the Olympics, 1936 being the year it was last seen on the games schedule.

Much of the credit for the spread of the game all around the world has been given to the British army.

Today, polo is existent in well over 77 countries. Interestingly, more than half of today’s world players hail from England, the United States and Argentina. Nonetheless, the International Polo Federation continues to put in more efforts in ensuring that the sport is brought back to the Olympics.

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The Rules of Polo

The goal is to score points by sending the ball between the two poles of the opposing team.
The parties are divided into minimum 4 and maximum of 8 periods called “Desert”. In Europe, where the costs of maintaining stable are quite high, the number of periods in a game is often reduced to a minimum, allowing each player to not possessing, not cause and will move a small number horses (each pony can only play a maximum of two consecutive periods not in the day).
Each “chukka” lasts seven and a half minutes, after which the bell rings. The game continued however, and the bell rings again thirty seconds later, and the game ends where the ball is.
If a defender sends the ball behind the end line, the attacking team is entitled to “kick” the ball being placed at 84 meters from the exit point.
After each “goal”, the teams change ends. In case of a tie, an additional, type “sudden death”, is played, the first player to score saves his team. Any player who follows the exact trajectory of the ball in the direction that it was hit has priority over other players if and only if the ball is on the right side of his mount.
No other player can cut the line in front of him, unless he does it at such a distance that no collision danger is to be feared.
A player can go to meet the ball provided they are in the exact center of the trajectory of the ball and take the ball from the right side of his mount: thus be understood that there will be no collision with the horse coming in the opposite direction and will inevitably on the other side of the ball. These rules are important priorities, directly related to the safety of players and their mounts. Any violation of these rules is punishable by a penalty awarded by the referee, the distance he sees fit, having regard to the seriousness of the misconduct. The referee may allow the presence of a defender in front of goal, or reject it.

If authorized to interfere (we say “mark”) a player by pushing the shoulder against shoulder, trying to hook his mallet to prevent a shot, it is forbidden to cut the line materialized by the trajectory a moving ball in front of the hitter, zigzagging in front of an opponent or to approach at an angle too open trajectories.
There are two referees on horseback (umpires), dressed in black white striped, and an off-field umpire (referee or third man). The mistakes, or “foul”, sanctioned by free kicks on site or at distances from midfield, 60 or 30 yards past the goals.
The clock is stopped during play stoppages, that is to say during a fault, when a pony or a player falls or is injured, when a player loses his helmet, or if the ball goes out of bounds . A broken mallet or lost does not cause stoppage of play: in this case, the player will replace or continue playing with the mallet broken by hitting the handle.
There are different kinds of strokes, which can be grouped into two categories: those who send the ball forwards and backs that send him back. The key strokes are the forehand (off forehand side), the back (near size backhand), the offside neck shot, which passes the breast of the horse and played with the wrist rather than arm the offside tail shot, which runs behind the pony and played with the wrist.
There are various defense techniques: riding off, and hooking (which is to hold the gavel of the opponent with his) are the two main.
The orders will give the players on the field are quite codified. “Take the man first” means that the player has to worry about the opponent and not the ball. “Turn it” means that the player has time to turn around to hit the ball better. “Tail it” means that the player must make a back to a teammate.
Between chukkas, there are three minutes off to change the pony. Players can also request a stoppage of play to change the pony. The ponies can play two chukkas in the afternoon, with a chukka pause between. At halftime, it was five minutes off.

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Getting started – what you need in order to play polo

Getting into the playing field without knowing what is expected of you as a player is signing up for failure. Every game has its rule, so does Polo. Rules are everywhere, which is why you need to know the rules before you get into the field. Polo is fascinating; the sight of the horses, the thought of chasing a ball and competing while on a horseback is both exciting and can send a cold shiver down your spine. It is for these reasons that one may be drawn to the game, which is all right .I mean, this game is unique, and its thrilling .Who doesn’t want to experience this in their lives, right? Now that you are interested in the game, the next step is to find out how to get yourself from a mere point of interest into the playing field. Read on to find out exactly what you need to know about polo:-

  • Get necessary training-The fact that you’re green to the game should motivate you to get training. If you are not trained, you may end up being embarrassed when you fail your team and at the same time, you are risking your life. Polo can be dangerous if not played well, that is why you should enroll in a training program ASAP as long as you want to play the game. In case your schedule is a bit tight, you can try weekend classes, after all everything comes at a price.
  • Getting the right attire-What you wear to a game is very important. Wear something comfortable that allows you to move freely without any mishaps.
  • Get a horse-Do not be scared by this. Buying a horse can be expensive especially if you are not able to afford it. The thought of the large amount of cash needed to buy a horse just spoils the fun that comes with the game. Take a breather now, there’s an easier way out; renting a horse. Renting a horse is not only cheaper but also the best option for a polo beginner. You do not know much about the game at this stage so it’s best for you to rent a horse as you save up so as to purchase one in future.
  • Get the rules right=Mastering the rules will keep you safe. Staying safe is very important to you as a player. In addition, by staying safe here, I mean both as a person and in the game .Its common sense that for you to last in a game you must abide by the rules .There’s no way you’ll win if you do not know the rules, let alone abide by them.
  • Practice- Practice makes perfect. Seize any opportunity you get to put to practice what you have learnt from your training sessions .Commitment will always get you good results .It doesn’t hurt to go the extra mile, so why not? Technology has made things easier for most of us nowadays. You can complement your practice with online tutorials .There are plenty of them available on you tube, different websites for polo trainers, name it! You literally have no excuse for not getting the best results out of yourself.

Well, you have it now. It is all up to your commitment and effort. Remember no skill is too hard to master as long as you put your mind into it.

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