1. THE GROUND
…is 300 yards long and 200 yards wide, or if there arc boards down the side (to keep the ball in play) then 160 yards wide. The goal posts (collapsible on severe impact for safety) are 8 yards apart. There is a white line at the centre of the ground and Penalty lines 30, 40 and 60 yards from each back line.
2. DURATION OF PLAY
a) The full game is over six periods, though only four are more often played in this country, of 7 minutes each and are called by the Indian name ‘Chukkas’. Al the end of the Chukka the (first) bell is rung but the game continues until the ball goes out of play or the 7V2 minute (second) bell is rung when the Chukka ends. The next Chukka starts with a throw-in from where the previous one ended, or if a foul the appropriate penalty is taken, or if it went over the sideline the Umpire throws in. In the event of a tie, the game goes on with additional Chukkas until a deciding goal is scored – sometimes the goal posts being widened. There are intervals of 3 minutes between Chukkas and 5 minutes at half time. Teams change ends each time a goal is scored – this has been found fairest with the light ball and when there is a wind; likewise if there is no score at half time, ends are changed.
b) When the ball goes out of play over the sides of the ground, teams line up side-by-side 5 yards back and the ball is thrown-in. If the ball crosses the back line, being last reached by the attacking team, the defending team takes a free hit from where the ball crossed their back line. Should the defending team hit the ball over their own back line a penalty is called and the attacking team is given a free shot at goal from the 60 yard line opposite where the ball went ‘out’ and with no defender nearer than 30 yards. There is no ‘corner’ as in football and no ‘offside’.
The four players in each team are called:
No. 1 Forward, with fast handy ponies to quickly turn defence into attack, slip the opposing back and with accurate rather than powerful hitting, score the goals.
No. 2 Forward, basically well mounted to mark the opposing No. 3 in defence but support his No. 1 in attack.
No. 3 Similar to ‘centre-half in football. He controls the speed and direction of the game and usually his passes to the forwards start an attack resulting in a goal.
No. 4 The back. In defence able to hit strong back handers to his team members, in attack likely to be seen somewhere behind waiting to snap up any chance loose balls that come his way.
Players must wear a protective polo helmet or cap, and no player shall play with his left hand.
Each player is handicapped from minus 2 up to a maximum 10 (the very best players) and reflects his/her ability as if playing a full six Chukkas match. In handicap Tournaments the number of goals start is obtained by multiplying the difference between the two teams total handicaps by the number of Chukkas to be played and then dividing by 6. Any fraction counts as half a goal.
The sticks are made of bamboo shafts and hard-wood heads. The length of the stick varies according to the height of the pony being played and ranges from around 48 inches to 53 inches. The ball is hit with either face of the head and not with the ends as in croquet. The ball, traditionally either bamboo or willow, is nowadays made of plastic.
There is no height limit but most ponies are between 15 and 15.3 hands (4 inches) high. Much of their schooling is devoted to stopping and turning quickly and being able to accelerate, to ride-off another pony and to face a fast approaching pony. Ponies usually only play two Chukkas in an afternoon with a rest of at least one chukka in between. Bandages or boots for support and protection are compulsory and a pony blind of an eye, showing vice or not under control may not be played.
There are two on the field of play with a referee off the field who acts as arbiter in the event of umpires being unable to agree.
8. FOULS and PENALTIES
The most common fouls occur as the result of a player having ‘the right of way’, being crossed by another player which would be very dangerous. A player has ‘right of way’ when he is following the ball on its exact line or is closest to it; he must not cross this line if by so doing there is any possibility of another horse having to check in order to avoid a collision. A player may ride-off an opponent but not by charging-in at an angle. Dangerous riding, rough handling or misuse of the polo stick is not allowed. Penalties vary according to the degree and place of foul. Penalties are referred to by numbers as follows:-
Penalty No. 1. A goal is given for a dangerous or deliberate foul in the vicinity of the goal. The teams line up and the ball is thrown-in 10 yards in front of the goal without the teams changing ends.
Penalty No. 2. A free hit is given from the line 30 yards in front of the goal. The defenders must stand behind the back line until the ball is hit and may not come on to the ground through the goal.
Penalty No. 3. A free hit is given from the line 40 yards from the goal with the defenders as in Penalty No. 2.
Penalty No. 4. A free hit is given, from the line 60 yards from the goal. The defenders must be on the ground but must be at least 30 yards from the hit. The attackers may be ahead of the hit.
Penalty No. 5a. A free hit from where the foul occurred.
Penalty No. 5b. A free hit from the centre of the ground. The defenders must be 30 yards from the hit and the attackers may be ahead of the hit.
Penalty No. 6. A free hit at the ball from a spot 60 yards from the back line opposite where the ball crossed it. Defenders must be 30 yards from the ball; side fouled may place themselves where they choose.