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.

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