What to expect at a Polo Match

August 3, 2021

Wondering what to expect at a Polo Match?

A few months ago I was chatting to a friendly lady in the hotel lobby, when she suddenly invited me to come along to a polo match. ‘We’re leaving in thirty minutes,’ she said. I rushed back to my room and quickly changed into what I thought was ‘appropriate attire’: beige pants, tan sandals with spiky heels, a simple white shirt, and a hat and sunglasses. I had no idea what to expect!

These are just a few things I learned about attending a polo event, which will hopefully be useful if you want to brush up on the basics and find out what to expect at a Polo Match before you go!

Feel like getting more into the rules and history of the game; check out this handy article here.

The basics of polo a Polo Match

  • The umpire throws the ball between the two teams, who are lined up in front of him. This signals the start of the game. It is also how a new round begins after a goal is scored. The object of the game is, simply, to see which teams gets the most goals.
  • A polo match consists of 4-8 chukkas, or rounds, each lasting 7 minutes of actual play. Between each round, there is usually a 3-minute rest. Expect that the game will last anything between one to two hours.
  • Each team has four players. The game is overseen by two mounted umpires and the match referee, known as the ‘third man’, who is there in case the umpires disagree on something.
  • Polo horses are called ‘ponies’ due to their agility rather their size.
  • After a goal is scored, the teams switch sides, starting the next round on the opposite side of the field. One theory is that this rule originated in the old days, when polo fields used to run east-west. Neither team wanted to play for long periods of time with the sun or wind in their faces.
  • Ponies’ manes are shaved and tails are braided to stop them getting caught in the players’ mallets.
  • After each chukka, each player will, ideally, get a fresh pony. However, it is not unheard of for players to go two or three rounds on their best ponies (as long as the pony isn’t tired or overheated, of course).

A half-time tradition

I was just getting comfortable in my seat when everyone suddenly jumped up and rushed to the field. What’s happening now? I wondered.

Following the others onto the grass, I soon found out that my spiky heels were not the best footwear for treading in the divots kicked up by the ponies!

‘Treading in the divots’, or ‘divot stomping’, is not only a very practical solution to keep the ground in good order, but it’s also a great opportunity to mingle a bit with others, and to interact with the players and their ponies.

What to wear

  • ‘Elegant sophistication’ or ‘smart, casual garden party’ are what comes to mind when describing appropriate attire for a polo match. Long floaty or knee length dresses work well for ladies.
  • Men generally wear slacks, a collared shirt and a light blazer.
  • Flat or wedged shoes, or espadrilles, are all good choices when it comes to treading in the divots during half-time. Spiky heels will sink into the turf.
  • Ladies, don’t be afraid to rock your hat and sunglasses!

Extra info

It’s perfectly okay to celebrate good plays, but bear in mind not to do anything too loud or vigorous that might frighten the ponies. (Think golf game, not rugby match!)

Games typically take place between 15.00-17.00, after which the traditional tea, or other refreshments, is served.

Well, dear readers, I think that concludes the basics of what to expect at a polo match! If you have any extra tips, please don’t hesitate to share them in the comments below.

Thanks for dropping by!


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