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All About Polo:
Polo - The Game
The Polo Club
Field, Ponies And Equipment
Rules For Polo - Part 1
Rules For Polo - Part 2
Horsemanship - Part 1
Horsemanship - Part 2

Rules For Polo - Part 2

( Originally Published Late 1920 )


20. Whenever two players are riding in opposite for the ball, each shall take or leave the hall on his off side.

If a single player on the right of way meets two or more players coming down the right of way in the opposite direction trying to ride one another off, the single player must give way, even though one or more of the others is forced across the line so that the ball is on his left side.

21. (a) A player ,hall not intentionally strike an adversary or an adversary's pony with his hands, whip or mallet, nor strike the ball when dismounted, nor hit intentionally with his mallet the pony he is riding.

(b) A player -hall not crook his adversary's mallet, unless he is on the same side of his adversary's pony as the ball, or in direct line behind, and his mallet is neither over nor in under his adversary's pony. The mallet may not be crooked unless his adversary is in act of striking at the ball.

(c) A player shall not put his mallet over or under his adversary's pony either in front or behind, or across the pony's fore legs for purpose of striking at the ball, or of crooking an adversary's mallet. A player, however, who rides in from behind on an adversary who is in the act of striking at the ball does so at his own risk and may not claim a foul if the adversary hits across or in front of his pony.

As regards infractions of rules, in which class are put the lesser offenses, such as pushing with the hand, head, or elbow, it is especially provided for the referee in his discretion to give warning before assessing a penalty. He can stop the play and throw the ball in if he thinks the game has been affected unfavorably to the side offended, but he cannot do that and give a half goal penalty as well, as he must do in cases of fouls. This seems to be a fairer way of making the penalty less severe for minor offenses. No referee not a martinet or one looking to throw the game to one side or the other, would think of giving a half goal because a groom put his foot over the side boards in passing a mallet to a player, and yet under the American rules that could be done. It is a good working policy to make the penalties reasonable and proportionate to the seriousness of the offenses.

Other infractions of rules not affecting the result of the game are usually penalized by fines, such as failure to play in uniform, to turn up on time, or playing without a safety helmet. Repeated infractions of rules can be handled by the referee either by suspending the player or by imposition of a fine.

There are certain other niceties which no rules quite cover, as, for example, how quickly the right of way is established along a new line of play. Let us say the ball is going across field and followed closely by the red back. Yellow 2 crosses directly in front of him so close that the back has to check his pony to avoid a collision, but yellow hits the ball before the back checks his pony. If he had missed the ball, it would clearly be a foul because the right of way would then be along the old line. If, however, he has hit the ball, the ball taking a new direction has established a new right of way which he is occupying. The red 'back then is fouling if he doesn't check his pony and avoid the collision. It is obvious that the new right of way is not established instantly because the red back must have time to clear. In other words, the yellow player has got to cross far enough in front so that red can clear him after he hits the ball. But there is nothing in the rules that prevents the curious anomaly that a man may cross another so close that with a technical interpretation of the rules he commits a foul if he misses the ball, and yet doesn't commit foul if he hits it, owing to the creation of the new right of way by virtue of having hit the ball. I think this should not be. It would make for safer play if such crossing were not allowed and the rules definitely prohibited it. And I think most referees would so interpret the present rules. I should.

Another ambiguity in the American rules as they stand today is where two or three players are coming together down an old line of play and the ball changes direction, being backed or cut across. Intelligent self-interest will keep most players from betting in front of a group of onrushing ponies as it is often physically impossible for them to slow up or change and a man might perfectly well be ridden into a technical foul in spite of his best efforts to avoid it. There should be a distinct provision in the rules qualifying the teclmical right of way by inserting a clause similar to that provided in the rule of the Philippine Islands Polo Association quoted in full above.

Nothing is said in English, American, or Indian rules about curving the field. A field that is curved in at the ends so as to cut off 75 feet on each side, or 150 feet or one-third of the total length at the end of the field, is a much faster field to play on, the (lead territory is reduced in an important measure, the cost of the field to build and to maintain is lessened, and the play improved. In describing the field, therefore, it seems as though these advantages might be indicated by including some provision for curving in the ends when giving the dirnensions of the field.

In order to make an absolutely uniform and clear of signals, it is suggested that four bells be sounded five minutes before the beginning of the game; three bells sounded two minutes before the beginning of each period, excepting the intermission, at which time three minutes are allowed; two bells souuded thirty seconds before the beginning of each period; and one bell when the ball is put into play. This leaves room for no doubt on the part of anyone as to which signal is being rung.

It seems as though rules would be more convenient if the duties of the referee are set forth clearly in one paragraph. A referee thus can run his eye down the line of duties and not have to read the rules through in order to pick out those things which pertain to his job. This was accomplished in the Philippines by the following rule:

It shall be the duty of the referee:

A. To order the sounding of the preliminary signal of four bells five minutes before beginning of the game.

B. before the beginning of the game to toss up a coin in the presence of the field captains or representatives of both teams for choice of sides.

C. To throw in the ball at the beginning of the game, at the beginning of each period, whenever the ball goes out of bounds, and after time has been called for any purpose.

D. To carry a whistle which he will blow to indicate cessation of play, either by reason of the end of a period, or because of a foul, or for other reasons, and at the beginning of play when necessary to inform the time-keeper.

E. To decide at what point the ball shall have gone out or over and to see that the ball goes in at the proper point, and to decide whether or not goals or safeties have been made.

F. To enforce rules and to exact penalties for infraction of rules and for fouls as provided for in Field Rules Nos. 16 and 17.

G. To see and award fouls; and, in case fouls are claimed, to judge whether or not they have been committed. For this and for any other purpose the referee is authorized to take evidence from the players, the goal-judges, the timer or scorer, and from such other persons as he may see fit.

The rules of the Indian Polo Association have a good provision calculated to save the strain on men and ponies of a protracted play overtime in case of a tie, that after the first extra period the goal posts shall be placed 48 feet apart instead of 24, thus making it much easier to score. With the same object in view, the Philippine Islands Polo Association adopted the following rule:

9. At the end of six minutes of play the timer's signal shall be sounded and play shall cease unless the ball is within fifty feet of either back line, in which case play shall continue until the ball goes out of bounds by being knocked over the back line or over the side boards, or until it is knocked over the fifty-foot line toward the center of the field, or until a goal is made.

If a period ends by a ball being knocked over the fiftyfoot line toward the center of the field... play will be resumed at the beginning of the next period by the ball being thrown in towards the side boards at the fifty-foot line.

Players should study so as to understand the limitations in regard to crooking mallets. New

players find difficulty in doing this scientifically, and I have seen players who felt that they could not crook on the nigh side of their pony because it was putting their mallet across a pony. The rule is that the mallet shall not be placed across an opponent's pony to crook the stick when the ball is on the other side of the opponent's pony from the player; in fact, the player must be either on the same side of the pony of the opponent whose mallet he is crooking, as the ball, or in a direct line before or behind him.

One of the rules most frequently violated is that which prohibits the use of the elbow in riding out.

Many beginners, particularly if they have been football men in the past, and a good many older players who should know better, keep jabbing with the elbow. The rule provides that riding off shall be done only with the arm kept close at the side and that the pushing be done entirely with the shoulder and the outside of the arm and not with the point of the elbow. Referees should be very particular to warn players against this practice and should not hesitate to award the penalty provided in the rules.

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