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2018 Event Date: October 7

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A Spectator's Guide to Polo

You say you've never been to a polo match?

Chukkar Farm & Polo Club is a fun, casual setting for an afternoon of polo. Dress comfortably, or dress it up; either is acceptable. Ladies, don't forget to wear your fancy hats for the hat contest! We'll have food and beverages available, included in the cost of admission.

Polo is usually played outdoors on a grass field that is 300 yards long and 160 yards wide, easily the largest field in organized sport. The object of the game is to move the ball down the field and through the goal posts to score a point.

A team is usually made up of four players, but at Chukkar Farm you will see three players on each side; this is to compensate for the fact that the field is slightly smaller than a regulation field. A match lasts about 2 hours and is divided into timed periods called chukkars, each one 6 1/2 minutes long.

Team play is handicapped on the basis of ability, so you'll notice that some chukkars are faster than others. Toward the end of each chukkar you will hear a bell ring, signaling to the players that there is 30 seconds left, and then an air horn which signifies the end of the chukkar. The ball is considered "dead" as soon as the horn is blown.

Play begins when the umpire "bowls" the ball in at the center of the field, at the beginning of each chukkar and after a goal is scored. Players change horses after each chukkar due to the demands placed on the polo pony - galloping for 6 1/2 minutes is about 3 times longer than the Kentucky Derby!

You will notice that the teams also switch goals after each score, to negate any unfair wind, sun or field conditions that exist at either end of the field.

Because polo is played at top speeds, there are complicated rules in place to ensure that the players and horses don't collide. Accidents at these speeds can be extremely dangerous!

First and foremost, players must, at all times, be aware of the location of "the line of the ball". This is the imaginary line the ball creates as it travels from point A to point B. This "line" goes in either direction for infinity, and determines the strict rules about how players can approach and attack the ball (and each other).

The line of the ball changes every time the ball is hit and the primary reason for fouls is because someone has crossed that line improperly. Don't be afraid to ask the announcer if you have a question about why a foul was called. He'll be happy to explain.

  • When two players ride to the ball, both hoping to hit it, they must ride on either side of the "line" so that both will have access to the ball. They must remain on opposite sides of the line, thus minimizing the risk of collision.

  • The line remains set until the ball changes direction (whether it's hit with a mallet, kicked by a pony, or bounced off the boards at the sides of the field).

  • A player may cross the line ONLY when it does not create a hazardous situation such as a collision with another rider.

One form of collision is acceptable - this is called a "ride-off". In this play, two riders traveling at approximately the same speed and almost parallel to each other may bump each other in order for one to prevent the other from hitting the ball. However, this play must be executed carefully to avoid a foul.

During half time, spectators go onto the field to participate in a tradition called "divot stomping" to help replace the divots created by the horse's hooves. This is a good time to refresh your drink and stretch your legs!