Rules of the Game


Spectator Overview

Most of the Rules of Polo are designed to prevent collisions between players.

They mostly deal with the “right of way”. In simple terms a player riding along the direction in which the ball is travelling has “right of way” over any player coming at an angle to the line of the ball. To avoid “head on” collisions, players riding in opposite directions must take the ball on the off side (right hand side) of the horse.


While it is permissible to ride an opponent “off” (push them off the line of the ball or out of play), dangerous riding or rough handling is not allowed. A player must not charge in at an angle and cause danger to other players.


The Line of the Ball

The most basic concept in the sport of polo is the line of the ball, a right of way established by the path of a traveling ball.

When a player has the line of the ball on his right, he has the right of way. This can be taken away by moving the player off the line of the ball by making shoulder-to-shoulder contact.

A player can:


  • hook an opponent's mallet,

  • push him off the line,

  • bump him with his horse

  • or steal the ball from him.


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. Riding alongside to block or hook is allowed, as long as the player with right of way is not impeded.


Ride Offs

Bumping or riding off is allowed as long as the angle of attack is less than 45 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.



Penalties vary, according to the degree of danger of the foul. The following penalties may be given:


(a) A goal is given if the cross is dangerous or deliberate in the vicinity of the goal. The ball is then thrown in 10 yards in front of the goal without ends being changed.


(b) Free hit from 30 yards opposite the centre of the goal – defenders to be behind the back line and outside the goal posts, which they must not ride through when the ball is hit.


(c) Free hit from 40 yards; same conditions as (b).


(d) Free hit from 60 yards- none of the defending side to be nearer than 30 yards when the ball is struck.


(e) Free hit from the spot where the foul took place- same conditions as (d).


(f) Free hit from the centre of the ground – same conditions as (d).


For the full explanation of The Rules of Polo, please download the following .pdf.