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Learn About Polo
When most people think of polo, they think of horses and players running on a wide open field. However, collegiate polo is played in a much smaller arena which is typically 150 by 300 ft, and surrounded by at least 4 ft high walls. The game is broken up into four 7 and 1/2 minute periods, which are referred to as chukkers. At any point during the game, each team has three players on the field. Unless there is an injury, these players can only be changed between the chukkers.
Each player wears thick polo boots, knee pads, and a helmet. The United States Polo Association, USPA, requires that each player either have a face mask attached to their helmet or to wear eye glasses in order to protect the face. Each rider will also carry a mallet that is typically between 50 and 53 inches long. The arena polo ball is essentially a mini soccer ball.
Each team uses a string of six horses (possibly a seventh spare horse) durring the game. Each horse will be played twice, once by both teams, in order to eliminate the advantage a school might have due to the fact they have better horses. The strings are used in alternating chukkers. For example, during the first chukker, Team A's string will be used by both teams. During the second chukker, Team B's string will be used. During the third chukker the Team A's string will return to the game, however, the horses used in the first chukker by Team A will be given to Team B and vise versa. This is carried out through the forth and final chukker.
At the beginning of each chukker, the game is started by what is referred to as a bowl-in. In the middle of the arena, each team forms a straight line facing the umpire. The umpire will bowl the ball between the two parrallel lines. Each team starts on the side of the field that they are defending. A bowl-in is also used after a team has scored a goal.
Goals are made by hitting the ball into the goal. However, if a ball is hit from a teams defending side of the field into the goal, meaning that it had to travel more than half of the field, then the team is awarded two points for that goal.
There is a large list of rules that players must follow during the course of a game. These rules are designed to protect the safety of both the horses and riders. Some examples of these rules include no dangerous use of a mallet, no pushing a player into the wall, and no hitting a horse with a mallet. When a rule is broken, a foul is called and a penalty is assigned for that foul. At first, the penalties for the game can be very confusing to new players. A penalty can vary from giving a team an automatic goal, giving them a free shot at goal, or just giving them a regular hit from the spot the foal occurred. The umpires have some discretion in assigning the severity of a penalty for a particular foul. Many factors considered when assigning the penalty include the location the foul occurred (was the other team about to score) as well as the dangerousness of the foul (could a player or rider been hurt).
Overall, the best way to learn about polo is to come out and try it. If you are interest in learning more, contact the Texas Tech Polo Club at firstname.lastname@example.org for info about joining the Tech Polo Club or just coming out to see what it's all about.