The world of polo is often viewed as glamorous and wealthy, especially as it is a sport enjoyed by many of our Royals. The form is, however, relatively relaxed and informal compared to other summer seasonal fixtures (the polo season runs from April-September).
Golden Rules for Polo-goers
Spectators are either in the grandstand seating or the more exclusive members' enclosure. The difference is a choice between eating a picnic on the lawn, or being presented with a lavish sit-down lunch, afternoon tea and a continuous champagne. Lunch comes first, then the polo.
Halftime (only five minutes) brings the tradition of divot stomping, where the turf kicked up by the ponies (never referred to as horses) is trodden back into place by spectators.
Dress code is usually smart casual. Standards are rather smarter in members' enclosures, where a badge permitting entry should also be worn.
Top tip: women should wear smart, flat shoes that suit both walking/standing on grass and divot stomping.
Polo Rules: an Overview
Two quartets, or teams, thunder around the field (five times the size of a football pitch) on horseback, hitting a small white ball with long handled mallets.
Teams consist of a forward (goal striker), two midfielders and a back. Players wear knee-pads, hard-helmets and team shirts with a number on the back; two mounted umpires usually wear striped shirts.
The game is divided up into seven-minute periods called chukkas. Each game might be four, six or eight chukkas in length; a bell or hooter is sounded to indicate that the seven minutes of the chukka has elapsed. At the end of a chukka, there can be up to 30 seconds extra time followed by a three-minute break. The ponies (never called horses) are swapped for fresh ones (a bit like new balls in tennis).
Half-time is just five minutes; this is when spectators tread-in the divots (the turf kicked up by the ponies).
There are goals at either end of the field and the teams change ends after each goal. Goals are scored by the ball crossing the line between the goal posts, regardless of who knocks it in, even if it's a pony. The team with the most goals wins.
Players have a rating called a handicap that indicates their ability. A handicap can range from minus two (the worst) up to a maximum best of ten. Games are played where both teams' sum handicaps are weighed up against each other and the team with the lower handicap is given a few goals which will be calculated according to the number of chukkas being played.