A widely unknown sport; Polocrosse is very often confused with the very popular sport of polo. Although there are a few similarities, Polocrosse has many different rules and utilizes different skills for both the rider and horse. It was originally created as a winter riding exercise in England in the 1930’s. The sport was then introduced to Australia where it was fine-tuned and a rulebook was created.
The sport is now played in several countries all over the world, but has still gained little recognition. Anyone can play on any kind of horse, however the top levels are incredible to view. The play is high speed with quick-thinking and lots of strategy that may not be visible to the untrained eye. Both horses and riders have catlike reflexes and pull out moves you won’t see in any other equine discipline. There are more quick stops and turns than in polo, where they tend to make larger turns and circles.
Turbo dressage; collection at speed with balance and impulsion.
Although it looks and seems impossible to some, with the combination of riding a horse with only one hand, leaning off to pick up the ball, looking for your teammates while avoiding getting hit by opponents on your way down the long field.
Here are a few key aspects of the sport to help you understand the melee going on in front of you:
Games are made up of a series of chukkas – generally 6 or 8 minutes long – and consist or 4 or 6 of them. Each team has two sections of 3 players, whose scores are combined throughout the game. Each section rotates chukkas with the other, so that both play for half of the game. At most tournaments, teams play 2 games per day over the course of the weekend, for a total of four. There are also two mounted umpires on the field, which is 160 x 60 yards.
King of the One Horse Sports
Unlike polo, players are only permitted to use one horse throughout an entire tournament. Players pride themselves on preparing their horse for the grueling tournament weekends. They must be incredibly fit, healthy, and sound. A new horse may only be substituted in if the original horse is deemed to sick or injured to continue playing, which must be determined by the Horse Welfare Officer or Tournament umpire on site. Top horses get superior care from their owners with ice boots, poultice wraps, and the like to keep them in the best condition possible.
Most Polocrosse clubs hold frequent local practices and are always accepting new members. Since our sport is small, we want to spread the word about the addiction we call Polocrosse. Once you try it, you are sure to catch the bug. It is much more exciting and social than the show ring or a trail ride.
New players can go as fast or as slow as they please. There is no need to buy a special horse, provided they do not kick or bite during play. New equipment is minimal – the requirements are a bridle with a bit without protruding shanks, any saddle without a horn, a breastplate, and polo wraps or SMB’s and bell boots on all four feet.
Common breeds for this sport are Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses, and the horse for every need – Australian Stock Horses. Top playing ponies are fast and agile, and have the endurance to last 4 full games. Performance on the field trumps beauty or breeding any day, and the best of them all are the ones with the most heart. Ask about our stories and you will find both players and ponies from all walks of life.
Preparing for a Tournament
Out of all the equine disciplines, I believe that this is where you get the most bang for your buck. One tournament entry that is generally less than $200 provide you with an entire action packed weekend, including lodging, social events, and at least one meal. Players typically arrive on Friday and play starts early on Saturday and continues all day long. Saturday night dinner is often provided, and then play continues on Sunday. Prizes include useful items, like buckets, bridles, and blankets instead of a cheap ribbon.
We camp out in trailers or tents the whole weekend while our ponies are stable in portable electric pens.
How safe can it be?
From off the field, this sport can be a little scary looking at first. However, we have many rules regarding safety that are taken very seriously. The last thing any player wants to do is hurt their horse, so the fast, full-contact play must be done properly. Crossing too closely in front or behind another player or bumping too aggressively is severely penalized, even as much as a free goal. Each players is given a rating to help decide their division, with ratings based upon their knowledge of the game and spatial awareness on the field as much as their horsemanship and racket skills.
The Best Parts of Polocrosse
You can ALWAYS have fun. At any level the sport is an adrenaline rush like no other.
Everyone is family. Our sport is all-inclusive and everyone is there to have a great time. The players on the other team may be your teammates the following weekend. Despite intense competition, we are all friends off the field.
There is always more to learn. Players are constantly striving to improve their racket skills and teach their horses new moves.