Hurlingham Polo Association
HOW TO START POLO
WHAT IS POLO?
fastest ball sport in the world, it is played with four men
on horses to a team. A ball is hit with a stick towards the
goal, one at each end of a 300 yard long by 160 yard wide
field. A game consists of 4 to 6 periods called chukkas, a
chukka is 7 minutes long. Teams change ends each time a goal
is scored. It can be played by men and women of any standard.
The handicap system goes from -2 at the bottom to the very
best at 10. In handicap tournaments the number of goals start
is obtained by multiplying the difference between the two
teams' total handicaps by the number of chukkas to be played
and then dividing by 6. There are usually two umpires on ponies
on the field, and a third man, the referee, on the side line.
Arena Polo is played during the winter, three aside and in
an arena 300 feet by 150 feet.
Where to play? Polo clubs can be found throughout
the Country, many of them catering for beginners. Some of
the Pony Clubs have also taken up polo resulting in an increase
in young players.
Where to learn? The H.P.A. can supply a
list of "Approved Coaches".
Who can play? There is no age limit. The
H.P.A. has 2,000 members of all ages, playing through 51 clubs
and 62 pony clubs.
Equipment? Helmets are compulsory. Pony
Club - only one pony is needed and sticks and balls can be
provided. Clubs - ponies, sticks and balls can be hired for
hour sessions from some clubs. Normal games - a minimum of
two ponies are needed.
How much does it cost? No more than the
cost of keeping a pony, plus a club subscription of, in some
cases, only a few hundred pounds. Like a lot of sports, it
can also be very expensive at the top.
Pony Club: Luke Borwick, Esq., South Lodge, Haselbech Hill,
Northampton, Northamptonshire, NN6 9LL. Tel/Fax: 01604 686
Schools & Universities Polo Association: Mrs Jenny Blake
Thomas, Bolebrook Wood Farm, Edenbridge Road, Hartfield, East
Sussex, TN7 4JJ. Tel: 01892 770 591, Fax: 01892 770 899.
THE HURLINGHAM POLO ASSOCIATION
The Hurlingham Polo Association (H.P.A.) is the governing
body for polo in the U.K. and indeed for many parts of the
Commonwealth; it liaises with similar associations throughout
the world. It has been in existence since 1874, and its object
is to further the interests of polo generally, and to support
by all possible means the common interests of affiliated Clubs
There are 51 clubs in the U.K. who are affiliated to the
H.P.A. and run tournaments for them as well as, of course,
Individuals are members of these clubs and, as playing members,
are associate members of the H.P.A. They play under the rules
of the H.P.A. and are allocated a handicap according to their
The H.P.A. is interested in the welfare of ponies and has
rules concerning them. Grants are given to the Pony Club and
some universities for the encouragement of polo. A scholarship
scheme is run for young players to go overseas to learn to
play polo and to look after ponies.
If you wish to have more information, please send a cheque
for £10 to the above address for a copy of our "Year
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE GAME OF POLO
first recorded game took place in 600 BC, between the Turkomans
and Persians (the Turkomans won).
In the 4th century AD King Sapoor II of Persia learned to
play, aged 7. In the 16th century AD a polo ground (300 yards
long and with goal posts 8 yards apart) was built at Ispahan,
then the capital, by Shah Abbas the Great.
The Moguls were largely responsible for taking the game from
Persia to the east, and by the 16th century the Emperor Babur
had established it in India. (It had already long been played
in China and Japan, but had died out by the time the west
came in contact with those countries).
In the 1850s British tea planters discovered the game in
Manipur (Munipoor) on the Burmese border with India. The first
polo club in the world was formed by them at Silchar, west
of Manipur. Other clubs followed and, today, the oldest in
the world is the Calcutta Club, founded in 1862.
Malta followed in 1868, due to soldiers and Naval officers
stopping off there on their way home from India. In 1869 Edward
“Chicken” Hartopp, 10th Hussars, read an account
of the game in The Field, while stationed at Aldershot, and
with brother officers organised the first game - known then
as “hockey on horseback” on a hastily-rolled Hounslow
Heath. He drew up a short list of 9 or 10 rules; but it was
John Watson (1856 - 1908), 13th Hussars, who formulated the
first real rules of the game in India in the 1870s. He later
formed the celebrated Freebooters team - who won the first
Westchester Cup match in 1886 - and was a foremost player
in the All Ireland Polo Club, founded in 1872 by Horace Rochfort
of Clogrenane, Co. Carlow.
The first polo club in England was Monmouthshire, founded
in 1872 by Capt. Francis “Tip” Herbert (1845 -
1922), 7th Lancers, at his brother’s seat, Clytha Park,
near Abergavenny. Others, including Hurlingham, followed quickly.
Handicaps were introduced by the U.S.A. in 1888 and by England
and India in 1910.
The first official match in Argentina took place on 3rd September
1875, where the game had been taken by English and Irish engineers
In 1876 Lt. Col. Thomas St. Quintin, 10th Hussars, introduced
the game to Australia - he was the “Father of Australian
Polo” and two of his brothers stayed on there as ranchers
and helped the game to develop.
In the same year, polo was introduced to the U.S.A. by James
Gordon Bennett Jr, who had seen the game at Hurlingham while
on a visit to England.
Today, upwards of 77 countries play polo. It was an Olympic
sport from 1900 to 1939 and has now been recognised again
by the International Olympic Committee.
Many thanks to Zahra Hanbury Photography
for their quality photographs.
Please mention Try My Sport when contacting this sports association.