When you see a polo player raise his mallet or stick above his head, as it’s called in polo circles, it’s not necessarily to line up a shot. In fact, the raising of a mallet above the head by a polo player is actually a form of protest for a foul, also known as appealing.
While polo, the Sport of Kings, has been around for centuries, it is often referred to as an elite sport. Ladies dress in fashionable attire with large, floppy hats and some of the male spectators look like they walked out of a Ralph Lauren polo commercial.
Tomas Goti of Lechuza Caracas in a polo match at International Polo Club Palm Beach, Florida.
There is no argument that polo is an expensive sport. Low to medium goal play polo ponies range from $15,000 to $35,000 and up with each player owning a string of ponies (typically 4-8 horses.) In fact, polo ponies are elite athletes and their riders accomplished equestrians in their own right. But that doesn’t mean you have to have deep pockets to watch and understand a polo match.
How to watch polo
Your best vantage point for watching a polo match depends on if the seating is field level or in grandstands. Typically, watching from above provides better viewing – unless, of course, the lady in front of you is wearing a large hat!
Understanding polo terminology
- Polo Pony- considered the most essential part of the game, the horses are well-trained athletes, able to turn on a dime
- Positions – Teams are composed of four polo players, numbered 1 through 4, each with a different responsibility
- Chukker – Period of play. Each of the six chukkers are seven and a half minutes long in a single polo match
- Goal – As with soccer, when the ball crosses the line between the goal posts a goal is scored
- Appealing – Claims by polo players for a foul, expressed by the raising of mallets above the head
Stick – a polo mallet
Divot stomp – replacing the divots created on the field during play, by the horses’ hooves
High Goal – Teams are ranked by handicaps. High Goal matches feature top-of-the-line players
Have you watched a polo match? Do you have any tips to share for understanding a polo match?
Capilla Polo Club
Polo Cup in Santa Barbara
Article written and polo mallet photo by Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown. Polo pony photos courtesy of International Polo Club Palm Beach