History of Polo

Origin of the sport

Although the exact origins of the game are unknown, it most likely began as a simple game played by Iranian equestrian nomads in Central Asia, with the current form originating in Iran (Persia) and spreading east and west. In time polo became a Persian national sport played extensively by the nobility. Women played as well as men.

During the period of the Parthian Empire (247 BC to 224 AD), the sport had great patronage under the kings and noblemen. According to The Oxford Dictionary of Late Antiquity, polo (known as čowgān in Middle Persian, i.e. chovgan), was a Persian ball game and an important pastime in the court of the Sasanian Empire (224–651). It was also part of royal education for the Sasanian ruling class. Emperor Shapur II learnt to play polo when he was seven years old in 316 AD. Known as chowgan, it is still played in the region today.

The game spread to South Asia where it has had a strong presence in the north western areas of present-day Pakistan (including Gilgit, Chitral, Hunza and Baltistan) since at least the 15th–16th century. The name polo is said to have been derived from the Balti word "pulu", meaning ball.

The modern game of polo is derived from Manipur, India, where the game was known as 'sagol kangjei', ' or 'pulu'. It was the anglicised form of the last, referring to the wooden ball that was used, which was adopted by the sport in its slow spread to the west. The first polo club was established in the town of Silchar in Assam, India, in 1833.

British and Irish immigrants in the Argentine pampas started practising polo during their free time. Among them, David Shennan is credited with having organised the first formal polo game of the country in 1875, at Estancia El Negrete, located in the province of Buenos Aires.

The sport spread quickly between the skilful gauchos, and several clubs opened in the following years in the towns of Venado Tuerto, Cañada de Gómez, Quilmes, Flores and later (1888) Hurlingham. In 1892 The River Plate Polo Association was founded and constituted the basis for the current Asociación Argentina de Polo.

In the Olympic Games held in Paris in 1924 a team composed by Juan Miles, Enrique Padilla, Juan Nelson, Arturo Kenny, G. Brooke Naylor and A. Peña obtained the first gold medal for the country's olympic history; this also occurred in Berlin 1936 with players Manuel Andrada, Andrés Gazzotti, Roberto Cavanagh, Luis Duggan, Juan Nelson, Diego Cavanagh, and Enrique Alberdi.

The game spread across the country, and Argentina is credited globally as the capital of polo; Argentina is notably the country with the largest number ever of 10 handicap players in the world.

The Team

There are four players in a polo team. Each of them has a handicap from 0 to 10 goals.

The handicap depend on riding level, capacity and sense of play.

The total of the handicap of each player gives to the team its total hadicap. It is only a question of added up all handicap's player.

In offcial tournaments, if two teams playing against each other don't have the same total handicap, the team with the lower handicap wil start the game with an advantage on points. For instance, a team with 26 goals will give 2 goals to the team of 24 goals.

The Field

An official polo game is played on a field 300 yards long and 160 wide (an equivalent would be 9 football pitches!)

The Polo Pony

Initially, there were height restrictions for the horses playing polo which explaines that we are still calling them "ponies". Nowadays the average height of a polo pony is 155 - 165 cm. The polo breedings are coming from all over the world however lots of professionals (players and breeders) keep prefering the breeds from Argetina. The type of horses coming from Argentina is excellent for speed, power and agility.

A great polo pony must be able to stop and turn in a microsecond, and a lot of professional polo players acknowledge that the secret of the success in polo in coming from the horse capacities.


After each goal, the teams change goal side. When a goal is scored the goal/line referees flag up to indicate and confirm that there is a goal. If the flag is straight up it is a goal If the flag is horinzontal it means it's out.


The rules of polo are written down primarily for the safety of the players and the horses. ... When players go beyond the set of rules, penalties are awarded as a means of keeping a check. It is here that a mistake made by an individual results in a penalty for the entire team, but to be embraced by the team with grace.

Penalty 1: instant goal

Penalty 2: 30 yards

Penalty 3: 40 yards

Penalty 4: 60 yards with defense allowed

Penalty 5: Shot from where the foul was made

Penalty 5B: Shot from the middle of the field

Polo basic swings

  • Foward swings: the most common swings! It can be done on the right side or on the left.
  • Back swings: these are usually called "back" or "backhander". You can hit this shot from left or right side.
  • The neck shot: (famous one and always very nice on pictures!) This shot is done below the neck of your horse.

Let's the game begin!

All starts with a throw in from the middle of the field. Each team in position from its side of the pitch.

The referee throws the ball straight and the game can begin