A-Z of Polo

Polo Valley is a polo school based in the beautiful location of Sotogrande, Spain. Clients are given the ultimate polo experience when it comes to service and professionalism. Here, they have given us a rundown of all the vital terms you'll come to learn out on the field. 


Asado, Argentinian barbecue and cultural tradition, at Polo Valley this is served on the edge of the field al fresco


Bocha is the Spanish word for ball. The polo ball is about 3 inches in diameter and 3,5 ounces, traditionally they were made of wood, now they are made of a more durable plastic since the wooden balls would crack.


Chukka or Chukker means a period of play, which is 7,5 minutes. After 7 minutes the first bell will ring meaning that there is 30 seconds left of play. The chukka ends if the ball goes out of the field or a goal is scored in these last 30 seconds.


Divots are the pieces of grass that gets kicked up by the ponies.


Ends of the field - whenever someone scores a goal the teams change ends of the field, so if your team scores in the goal towards the house you will want to score at the other goal next.


 Field. A full size field is 300 yards long and 160-200 yards wide. Don’t worry, we have a smaller sized field so you don’t exhaust yourself on the first canter.


Goaaaaaaal! A goal is scored when the ball goes between the goalposts, even if it is way above the posts, as long as it is in between, it is a goal, and regardless of who knocks it in, including the ponies. Goal is also often used to describe a player, team or tournament’s handicap. So a 20 goal tournaments means the teams have 20 in handicap together and a 4-goaler is a polo player with four in handicap, see handicap below.


Handicap is how polo players’ skills are measured. The handicap system ranges from -2 being the novices to +10 which are the very best in the world, currently, there are 9 players in the world who hold this handicap.


Intervals - 3,5 minutes between chukkas and 5-10 minutes at halftime. Players must change ponies at intervals and cannot play two consecutive chukkas on the same horse.


Knock-in means that someone shoots the ball in from the sideline. When playing a tournament match the two teams will line up on either side of a line and the umpire (see below) will throw the ball in between them. When playing chukkas or an informal match without an umpire one of the team members will hit the ball from the side or end to start the play.

Kenya is the lovely and playful German Shepherd roaming around Polo Valley


Mallet, the stick is made of bamboo and the head is made of wood, there is a flat end and a pointy end, you hit the ball with the side of the mallet head, not the end like in crocket. A foot mallet is a shorter mallet, for practising shots on foot.


Nearside, as confusing as it may be for most, the nearside is the left side of the horse. One way to remember this is that when you want to hit a nearside shot, your mallet will be very near to you like in the picture


Offside is the right side of the horse. Opposed to the nearside when you want to hit a shot on your offside you will have your arm extended away from your body.


Penalty. There are several different penalties in polo; 30- yard, 40-yard and 60- yard, where the ball is placed at the corresponding mark and the player will have to hit it through the goal posts. 60 yard penalties can in some cases be defended by the other team by standing in from of the goal, but as mentioned before if the ball goes between the goal posts, even if it is above them it is still a goal, so very good players will shoot the ball over the opposing team.

Ponies. In polo the horses are called ponies, although technically they are horses since ponies are below 14.2 hands (58 inches or 147 cm) Back in the day before Inches and centimeters, horses were measured by stacking clenched fists one on top of the other, so basically the side of a hand. Polo horses are generally between 15 and 16 hands and this is the height of their withers (the bone at the bottom of the mane).


Questions. There are no silly questions in polo! We all started out not knowing a thing and the only way to move forward is to ask. Which brings us back to Alvaro, who will answer all your questions.


Safety is key in polo. The rules of polo are made for the safety of players and horses. We at Polo Valley take safety very seriously and ensure that all ponies are well taken care of and fit to play. We provide helmets to anyone who does not have their own and we are always very aware of any posing. All equine sports have an element of danger which we must be aware of and therefore take the necessary precautions.

Sideboards are 9 to 11-inch boards laid along the side of the field, if the ball goes over it, the game is stopped and the umpire will throw the ball back in or a player will do a knock in during chukkas. It is ok for the horses to go on the other side of the boards and back on the field. - Stick and Ball, means practising with a mallet.


Thirdman is a third umpire sitting in the sidelines who will decide in case of a dispute between the two mounted umpires.
-Time-out: the umpires can call a time-out for fouls committed, a player can call time-out if an essential piece of tack is broken or if a player or horse is injured. Time-outs cannot be called for a normal change of horse.


Umpires are referees on horseback who follow the game on the field, there is also a third man in the sidelines


(Polo) Valley, the perfect location to learn to play polo.


Wraps, the bandages that go around the horse’s legs - Whites- traditionally polo is played in white jeans.


X-tra time, when the score is even at the end of the final chukka, one more chukka is played, but the game will finish when a goal is scored, this is called sudden death or the golden goal.


Yoga, is the best way of stretching after polo.


Safety Zone: the area around the playing pitch, which is for the spectators' safety.

Find out more about how Polo Valley can get you on your feet, or steed(!), by call us on 0203 651 1965 or by clicking here.