Polo in Barbados


Polo was introduced to Barbados by the British cavalry when they were stationed here in the 19th century, with the first polo match being played in 1884. Polo was suspended for a period of ten years in 1929 until 1939 during the war. Matches were originally played at the Garrison Savannah until 1965, when they were relocated to Holders, St. James.

Polo in Barbados

Barbados is now home to five international standard fields, Barbados Polo Club (Holders Field) in St. James, Lion Castle in St. Thomas & Apes Hill Polo Club in St. James. The other two are Clifton in St. Thomas & Buttals in St. George.

The polo season in Barbados runs from January to May each year. Several international teams come to the island to participate in matches. The most frequent participants are from the UK, USA, Canada, Jamaica, India & Brazil. A popular match is The Ladies Tour, better known as “Battle of the Sexes”, which casts the men against the women. Visitors and locals eagerly anticipate this event and it is always fun to watch.

In 2010, Barbados welcomed the handsome Prince Harry who took part in the inaugural Sentebale Polo Cup at the Apes Hill Polo Club. Sentebale is Prince Harry’s charity  which helps orphans and vulnerable children in the land-locked kingdom of Lesotho.

Polo in Barbados

Polo has become a popular social event in Barbados. Spectators can enjoy watching the game while sipping a cup of tea, or they can have glass of wine from the bar. There is always a lively “lime” after the match so no one ever rushes home!

Polo has been cast with an image of tradition and formality when it comes to dress code. While polo itself is very traditional, the truth is it is a very casual family event. Spectators wear mixed attire, from blue jeans and flip flops to colourful hats and sundresses, kaki’s and button down shirts.

For polo matches this season just visit this website.

Polo in Barbados

Here are some interesting facts about the game

  • Polo is played on a grass field, 300 yards (900 feet) in length by 160 yards (480 feet).
  • There two teams made up of four players on each team.
  • There are four to six chukkas (rounds) for each game each lasting 7 minutes and 30 seconds.
  • The object of the game is to score as many goals in a match. After each goal the teams changes direction. The theory is that the practice of changing after every goal scored originated in the days when many polo fields ran east-west (they’re usually situated north-south now) and neither team wanted to play for extended periods of time with the sun and/or wind in their faces.
  • Did you know that there are no left-handed players in polo? This is for the safety of the players.

Terms Used At Polo

Chukka: The origins of this term, meaning the “basic period of play,” are obscure, although it is thought to have come from India. There are between 4 and 6 chukkas of play (dependant on the level of polo being played) – each lasting 7 minutes, 30 seconds. A bell or horn sounds at 7 minutes to warn the players. A second bell then sounds 30 seconds later to end play. The last chukka ends at 7 minutes with no extra time.

Foul: An infraction of the rules. Most fouls govern the safe riding and the concept of the line of the ball.

Goal: A score which is tallied any time the ball travels between the goal posts, whether hit in by attacker, defender, or pony.

Handicap: The comparative rating of polo players. Handicaps are expressed in goals
(to describe a player’s value to the team, not the number of goals he is expected to score) and range from the beginners’ -2 to 10 goals (the best). Players’ handicaps are added together to derive a team handicap that, in turn, is used to equalize competition. The difference in goals between two teams is awarded to the lower rated team before play begins.

Polo Ball: Approximately 3-1/2 inches in diameter and 4 ounces in weight, the ball is made of hard plastic. At one time it was made of wood or willow root.

Hook: One of the two defensive manoeuvres (the other is the ride-off) allowed in the rules. The mallet is used to block or interfere with another player’s swing at the ball, although it must be used in an approved manner. Unsafe hooking or hitting into a pony is a foul.

Ride-Off: Similar in concept to a body-check in hockey, a ride-off is used to break an opposing player’s concentration, move him off the line of the ball, or spoil his shot. A ride-off is hard and dramatic, but executed properly, does not endanger the horses.

Hit-In: A hit-in takes place when the ball goes over the back line, wide of the goal mouth. The defending team hits the ball back into play from the back line. This gives the defending team a free hit and can often change the momentum of play.

Referee: The Referee, usually on foot at midfield, does not call fouls but is the final word in the case of a dispute between the two mounted umpires. The Referee is sometimes known as the “third man.”

Umpires: These are the on-field officials. Mounted on horses, the umpires wear black and white, vertically striped shirts to identify them. Most polo umpires are active players. The umpires are responsible for” enforcing the rules,” and “keeping proper control over players and teams” in a sport in which tempers often run hot.

Line of the Ball: The imaginary line created by the ball in its sometimes capricious travels. The line of the ball may not be crossed or infringed except in special circumstances. This is the pivotal concept on which many fouls and infractions are based – the interpretation of the line of the ball is usually what the umpires are discussing after they have blown a foul whistle.

Safety 60: A free hit. When the ball rolls over the back line wide of the goal mouth as a result of being touched by a defending man, the attacking team is allowed to hit a safety from 60 yards out to a defended goal. The clock is stopped and the ball is placed on the 60-yard line approximately in line with the spot where the ball crossed the back line.

Near-Side: The left side of the horse

Off-Side: The right side of the horse. By the rules, there are no left-handed polo players. You play with your right hand or you don’t play.

Out of Bounds: When the ball is hit over the side-lines, it is out of bounds. The clock continues to run. Teams line up at that spot and the ball is thrown in by the umpires. Deliberately hitting the ball out in the closing seconds of a match can be an excellent strategic play.

Throw-in: The game is started with a throw-in, whereby the ball is literally thrown in between the lined up teams by the umpire.

Mallet: The instrument used to move the ball. Although fibreglass has been used in its construction, the shaft is most often still made of bamboo. A hardwood head is used and the ball hit with the side of the head.

Player positions

Number 1: The most offensive player. This is similar to the forward position in hockey or soccer. This player should be an accurate hitter, but need not necessarily hit a
long ball.

Number 2: Primarily an offensive player but also responsible for defence, interchanging with the number 3 player. The number 2 player is often the second-highest rated player on the team.

Number 3: The quarterback and play maker. The “3” is usually the highest rated and most experienced player. This player must be able to hit a long ball accurately but be
capable of close-in stick work and ball control.

Number 4: The back. This is a defensive position. However, a good back must be able to not only hit a good backshot, but to turn the play from defensive to offensive in a
flash. The number 4 player is the last line of defence.

Types of Shots

Back Shot: Hitting the ball in a direction opposite to that in which the player is travelling.

Neck Shot: A ball hit under the neck of a pony.

Tail Shot: Hitting a ball behind the pony.

Penalties: Infractions of the rules (fouls) result in penalties being awarded by the umpires to the offended team. The seriousness of the foul determines the degree of the penalty. Designated from 1 through 8, penalties usually involve a shot on goal from a predetermined spot with the clock stopped. The most common awarded are the 2, 3, 4, and 5. In a penalty 5, the ball is hit by the fouled team from midfield; in a 4, from the 60-yard line; in a 3, from the 40-yard line, and in a 2, from the 30-yard line.


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