Horse polo: history, rules and equipment

Por Horse TV
NEWS | Eventing, Polo

Horse polo is an ancient and fascinating sport that combines elegance, equestrian skill and competitiveness. With a rich history dating back centuries, polo has become an exciting and elite game played all over the world.

Origin of equestrian polo

Horse polo is a very ancient sport that originated in Central Asia, possibly in Persiana (now Iran) or China, more than 2,000 years ago. The initial practice of polo was related to military training and was used as a way to train riders and soldiers for war. The first historical record of polo dates back to the 6th century B.C.E., when Persians and Turkmen played a match against each other.

The game of polo spread to various regions over the centuries, reaching countries such as India, Pakistan and Tibet. It was in the Manipur region of India that polo gained great popularity and the first formal rules of the game were established.

In the mid-19th century, the British discovered polo during their colonization of India and quickly took an interest in the sport. British officials began playing polo and brought the game back to England.

From there, polo spread throughout the British Empire and reached other parts of the world, gaining popularity among high society and elites.

In 1875, the first horse polo club was founded in England, the Hurlingham Polo Club, which became an important center for the development and promotion of the sport. By the end of the 19th century, polo was already being practiced in the United States, Argentina and other countries, and international competitions began to emerge.

Today, polo is played in many countries around the world and is considered an elite sport. It is known for its speed, skill and elegance, and remains a very popular sport among players and spectators.

Rules of horse polo

Equestrian polo is played according to a series of specific rules:


The game is played between two teams, each composed of four players. Each player has an assigned number indicating his position in the team. Each player on the team has a handicap from 0 to 10 goals. The handicap depends on riding ability, speed and game sense.

Playing field

The polo field is rectangular and is divided into zones. Each end has a goal composed of two vertical posts. The length of the field varies, but is typically about 270 meters long and 150 meters wide.


The object of the game is to score goals by driving the ball through the opposing team's goal using a polo mallet.


The horse polo ball is usually made of hard plastic or sometimes wood. It has a diameter of approximately 8 centimeters. It is hit with the polo mallets to move it and score goals.


Players use polo mallets to hit the ball. Mallets have a long handle and a cue-shaped head at one end. Use of both sides of the mallet head is not permitted.

Duration of the match

A polo match is divided into periods called "chukkers". Usually between four and six chukkers are played, each lasting approximately 7 minutes. Between chukkers, there is a break of 3 to 5 minutes, a break that many take advantage of to change horses.

Rules of the game

Players must follow certain rules during the game. For example, crossing the goal lines in an attempt to defend is not allowed, passing rules must be followed, and intentional physical contact between players is not allowed. Hitting between a horse's legs is also prohibited.


Fouls in equestrian polo can occur for a variety of reasons, such as an incorrect hit, a lack of safety or a lack of fair play. Depending on the severity of the foul, different types of free kicks are awarded (6 different ones are called penalties) or the player is penalized. It is important to note that there are more detailed rules and specifications that apply in official competitions.

What is the equipment of this modality?

The equipment used in horse polo consists of several essential elements for the comfort and safety of the player:

  • Helmet: The helmet is a crucial element for the player's safety. It must be resistant and properly fitted to the head to protect it from possible impacts. Polo helmets are usually made of materials such as leather or plastic, and must meet established safety standards.
  • Protective eyewear: Protective eyewear is an important part of the equipment in polo. They help protect the player's eyes and face from blows and projectiles during play. Polo goggles are usually lightweight, adjustable and designed specifically for use in the sport.
  • T-shirt or polo shirt: Players usually wear a long or short-sleeved shirt, known as a polo shirt. These types of shirts are usually made of breathable fabric and may bear the player's number and team colors.
  • Pants: Polo pants are usually white or beige in color. They are usually loose at the top and tight at the ankles to prevent them from catching in the stirrups.
  • Boots: Polo boots are high, knee-high and designed specifically for riding. These boots offer support, protection and grip to the rider, and are usually made of sturdy leather. They are usually brown in color and have some heel.
  • Spurs: Spurs are accessories that fit on the heels of the boots and are used to give instructions to the horse during play. However, their use may vary according to rules and competitions.
  • Gloves: Gloves are important for grip and control of the polo mallets. They are usually made of leather or synthetic materials, providing protection and good tactile sensitivity.
  • Knee pads and bandages: To protect the player's legs, pants alone are not enough, as these are thin and do not provide sufficient protection. For this purpose, players use knee pads, which are usually made of leather. In addition to protecting the player's legs, it is also important to protect the animal. Therefore, bandages are placed over the horse's legs, not only for protection but also to maintain body temperature.

In addition to these basic items, players may also choose to wear wrist guards and elbow pads to provide additional protection and safety during play.

It is important to note that the equipment may vary slightly according to the individual preferences of the players and the specific regulations of each competition.

 As a curiosity, the horse polo shirt and its equipment strongly inspired what we know today as polo clothing, the shirt with collar and buttons was first used in this equestrian sport.