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Chestertons Polo in the Park - The Rules of Polo

Polo in the park, Chestertons estate agents

As proud sponsors of Chestertons Polo in the Park, we’ve put together a handy guide to the rules of polo


As proud sponsors of Chestertons Polo in the Park, taking place over the weekend of June 5th-7th, Chestertons has put together a handy guide to the rules of polo.

In order to create a more inclusive, spectator-friendly game, Chestertons Polo in the Park has made a few changes to the game play  whilst still retaining some of the traditional rules. So whether you're an experienced polo enthusiast or new to this wonderful event, this guide will help you understand what's what.


Today, polo ponies stand at a height of between 14.5 and 16 hands (155-160cm). Their agility, speed and alertness – as well as their hardiness – make them ideally suited to the sport.



Each team at Chestertons Polo in the Park consists of three players (rather than the standard four) so that the game can be played on a smaller pitch and spectators can get closer to the action.


Depending on ability, each polo player plays with a handicap of between -2 and +10, with a handicap of 10 considered perfect. There are less than 20 players in the world with a handicap of 10. When a team is formed, all players' individual handicaps are added together to give the team handicap.


The Pitch

A standard polo pitch is 300 yards by 160 yards, but at this event it is a slightly smaller 215 yards by 90 yards with the corners 'cut off' to make it eight-sided. There is a starting marker in the middle of the field and, to keep the ball in play for longer (and help protect spectators), the pitch is surrounded by boards


Goals are eight yards wide and the ball can pass through the posts at any height..


While standard pitches have penalty line markers, the pitch at Chestertons Polo in the Park has a 'D' ring – just like in hockey.



Polo matches are usually divided into  four periods, which are called ‘chukkas’. The first , three chukkas last seven and a half minutes and the final chukka last seven minutes. To ensure that ponies are changed between chukkas, a pony can be played in no more than two chukkas in any one match. To make the game completely fair, teams change ends after each chukka.

Lanson Perfect Start

The Lanson Perfect Start is unique to Chestertons Polo in the Park and provides an exhilarating start to each game: one player from each team gallops from their own goal line into the centre of the pitch to try and get the first hit of the ball.


The most important rule of polo is the 'right of way' (ROW) rule. When a ball is in play, the player established on or at the closest angle to the 'line of the ball' (the extended path along which the ball has travelled or is traveling) has a right of way. 

No other player may enter or cross the ROW, or position their ponies over the line if it poses a risk of collision with the player with ROW. The only way to lose ROW is by being 'ridden off'. Riding off is when a player forces an opponent off the ROW by forcing his pony into making contact with the other player's pony, resulting in them no longer being able to hit the ball.


Players cannot hook over the body of the opponent's pony. Hooking is where the stick is used to block another player's stick to prevent them striking or retrieving the ball while they are taking a swing, tapping or dribbling the ball.


Offside: the ball is tapped on the right side of the pony.

Offside forehand: the ball is tapped in a forward position.

Offside backhand: the ball is tapped in a backward position.

Nearside: takes place on the pony's left side. The player has to twist in the saddle, and, holding the stick in his right hand, bring it to the other side of the pony.

Nearside forehand/nearside backhand: the corresponding forward and backward plays.

Under the neck: strokes performed in front of the pony.

Round the tail: a tricky move performed to the rear of the horse.


A goal is awarded any time the ball fully crosses the goal line, at any height, and regardless of who knocks it through, including the pony. Goals scored inside the 'D' are rewarded with one goal, goals scored outside of the 'D' are awarded two goals.

After a goal, the ball is 'hit out' from behind the goal to restart play.


The game is umpired by one or two mounted umpires and one single side line umpire. Chestertons Polo in the Park uses television playback as a back-up, giving umpires access to comprehensive close up camera shots of the play. 


Hard helmets are compulsory for players. Face guards, knee pads, whips and spurs are optional.


Ponies wear protective bandages around their legs, known as wraps.

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