Polo (the Game, not the Shirt!)-Eldorado Polo Club

Trip Start Jan 01, 2007
Trip End Dec 31, 2007

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Flag of United States  , California
Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Today we decided to take a ride over to the Eldorado Polo Club, where they were having a week-long tournament.  Not really knowing what we should be looking for, we did a bit of research first, so, for those of you who care to know any more about "the sport of kings", here's what we learned: 
Playing Field
Polo is most often played outdoors. The outdoor polo field is 300 yards long and 160 yards wide, the largest field in organized sport. The goal posts at each end are 24 feet apart and a minimum of 10 feet high. Penalty lines are marked at 30 yards from the goal, 40 yards, 60 yards, and at midfield.
There are four players on a team. The forwards are numbered one and two, and are mainly concerned with scoring. Number three is the center half, who assists the scorers and aids in defense. The number three is often the most experienced member of the team. Defense and fast breaks are the responsibilities of the back, number four.
Polo players are ranked yearly by their peers and the USPA on a scale of -2 to 10 goals. Tournaments are held in handicap categories.
There are six chukkers, or periods of play, in a polo match. Each chukker is seven minutes long. There are three minute breaks between chukkers, with a fifteen minute halftime.
The ball is rolled in by an official to start the polo match or resume play after a time out. Each team lines up in numerical order, directly behind the other. The opposing team lines up the same way. The umpire rolls the ball between the two teams, and play begins.
The game clock stops in case of a foul, fallen pony or rider, pony or player injured, broken tack, loss of helmet, or if the ball rolls out of bounds. A player may leave the field to change ponies without a time out being called if the pony is not playing well but isn't visibly injured. A lost or broken mallet does not stop play, and the player may leave the field for a replacement before returning to play, or simply reverse the mallet and strike the ball with the handle.
Two mounted umpires do most of the officiating, with a referee, known as the "third man", at midfield having the final say in any dispute between the umpires. With such a large field and the speed of a polo match, the referee is usually busy.
Polo Mallets
Players hit the ball with the mallet using one of four basic shots:
forehand - to hit the ball forward or laterally to a teammate
backhand - changing the flow of play by sending the ball in the opposite direction
neck shot - hitting the ball under the horse's neck
tail shot - hitting the ball behind and under the horse's rump
A pony goal occurs when a pony, usually by kicking the ball, causes the ball to go through the goal posts. This is natural for equine athletes who love the game as much as their riders. This type of goal counts and is a real crowd pleaser.
Rules-a brief overview
The umpires' primary concerns are right of way and the line of the ball. The line of the ball is an imaginary line that is formed each time the ball is struck. This line traces the ball's path and extends past the ball along that trajectory.
The player who last struck the ball is considered to have right of way, and no other player may cross the line of the ball in front of that player, or push that player off the line. Riding alongside to block or hook is allowed, as long as the player with right of way is not impeded.
Bumping or riding off is allowed as long as the angle of attack is less than forty five degrees, and any contact must be made between the pony's hip and shoulder.
A player may hook or block another player's mallet with his mallet, but no deliberate contact between players is allowed. A player may not purposely touch another player, his tack or pony with his mallet. The mallet may only be held in the right hand. Left handed players are often thought to hit with less accuracy, but guide their ponies better than their right handed peers. Ponies play for a maximum of two chukkers per match, so it's common for a player to have as many as six ponies.
Penalty shots are given from any position the umpires choose from the goal line to midfield, with or without a defender allowed in the goal, depending on the severity of the foul. After each goal, the teams change goals.
The oldest team sport, the exact origin of polo is unknown. Polo was probably first played by nomadic warriors over two thousand years ago. Used for training cavalry, the game was played from Constantinople to Japan in the Middle Ages.
Polo is played in more than 60 countries and enjoyed by more than 50 million people each year.

Despite having done all this research before going to the game, we found it difficult to follow, mainly because the field is so very large, and it's hard to see what's happening, and where. Add to that the lack of an announcer at the match we attended today, and it was mostly a visual experience - a chance to enjoy the beauty of the grounds and surrounding area and the speed and stature of the horse.

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