For the first time ever, the World Polo Championship is coming to Sydney! Yep, polo teams from Argentina, Spain, the US, Chile, England, India, NZ and, of course, Australia, will be competing at Sydney Polo Club from 21-29 October 2017. Erin Holland will be there – she's ambassador for the WPC 2017. And Women's Health faves including Anna Heinrich, Laura Dundovic and Steph Claire Smith are also regulars at the polo. Why do they love it so much? It's an intriguing sports day out. Here, we give you 13 fun facts about the polo...
1. 'Divot stomping' is a tradition where spectators replace the mounds of earth torn up by horse’s hooves at half-time. Fun!
2. Chile is muy bueno at polo – they are the defending champs!
3. Argentina, England and the US currently comprise over half of the world’s players. Historically, some of the best polo ponies in the world came from Argentina, which is actually considered the polo centre of the world.
3. Polo players are not segregated based on gender or age. Instead, each player is given a rating (a handicap) that determines who he or she can play with.
4. When it comes to handedness, polo is a bit more discriminatory though – polo must be played right-handed.
5. A polo pony is still called a ‘pony’ and not a ‘horse’ as the former minimum height limit for the animal was only 14 hands.
6. Cloning of horses is common in professional polo.
7. The ponies’ tails are wrapped or braided to prevent – not for style reasons, but to stop them becoming tangled with players’ mallets or reins.
8. A polo game is divided into seven-minute periods called ‘chukkas’. There are four to eight chukkas in a game, depending on the standard. There is a three-minute interval between chukkas, and a five-minute interval at half-time.
9. At the World Championship, each player will be supplied with a string of ponies: two ponies per chukka, plus one reserve pony. Tired mounts can be exchanged for fresh mounts between or even during chukkas. So organisers have to source A LOT of horses for the tournament – 280, in fact.
10. Teams change ends after each goal is scored. Confusing.
11. The playing field is huuuuge: 270m long by 150m wide, which is equivalent to three soccer pitches.
12. The polo mallet is traditionally made from bamboo.
13. The four players on each team have numbers from 1 to 4 displayed on their jerseys. Number 1 is a forward and attacking offensive player, responsible for scoring goals. It's not uncommon for the best player on a team to be Number 2 – they have an important role in offence and defense. Number 3 is a tactical player, usually wielding the highest handicap, and must be a long powerful hitter. The primary defense player is Number 4 – they can move anywhere on the field.