An Introduction to Playing Polo

After earning her juris doctor from the University of Virginia School of Law, Lisa M. Nousek began working as a clerk for Judge Steven Colloton in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. She is currently a partner in the New York firm of Boies, Schiller & Flexner, LLP. In her leisure time, Lisa M. Nousek enjoys playing polo.

Playing polo requires speed and strength. One of the world’s oldest games, polo involves two teams of four players on horses, each trying to score a goal while preventing the other team from scoring. Once the teams have lined up for a match, the official opens the game by throwing the ball between them.

During a polo match, players either gallop around the field trying to get in line with the ball in order to achieve right of way so they can score, or pass the ball down the field to a teammate. Once a point is scored, the teams switch sides of the field and the game continues.

Although polo requires great skill, polo clubs always seek new members and offer lessons for individuals and groups. Those who cannot ride confidently may wish to seek out a stable for regular riding lessons before attempting to play polo.

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A Basic Overview of Equestrian Polo and Its Rules

The 2013 recipient of the New York Metro Area Rising Star award, Lisa M. Nousek practices commercial liability law as a partner at Boies, Schiller & Flexner, LLP. A sponsor of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the Polo Training Foundation, Lisa M. Nousek is an avid rider and experienced polo player.

Lasting about an hour and a half, a polo match is comprised of six chukkers – seven-minute periods – with three-minute breaks between each and a halftime of 15 minutes. The 10-acre field has goals on either side of its 300-yard length. With two four-person teams, each numbered jersey designates the player’s position and responsibilities.

A polo match is based around which player has control of the ball, called the line of the ball; when the path of the ball’s travel is on a player’s right side, and he or she was the last to strike it. It’s an imaginary line, and a pair of umpires ensure no other players pass through the line of the ball. Defensive players can take away the line of the ball by pushing the controlling player off the line with their shoulder, stealing the ball, hooking the offensive player’s mallet, or bumping the player’s horse, which must be done at a less-than-45-degree angle. For safety reasons, players may only use their right hand.