Polo vs. Equestrian: What’s the Difference?

Polo vs. Equestrian: What’s the Difference?

Are you curious about the distinction between polo and equestrian? In this article, we will delve into the unique characteristics and contrasting aspects of these two equestrian sports. Whether you are a passionate rider or simply interested in learning more about the world of horses, this comprehensive guide will provide you with a clear understanding of the differences between polo and equestrian. So, let’s saddle up and embark on this exciting journey to explore the contrasting worlds of polo and equestrian!

Rules and Gameplay

Polo Rules and Gameplay

Polo is a fast-paced and exhilarating sport that is played on horseback. The objective of the game is for two teams, each consisting of four players, to score goals by hitting a small ball into the opposing team’s goal using a long-handled mallet. Here are some of the key rules and gameplay elements of polo:

  • Field: The game is typically played on a large grass field that measures around 300 yards long and 160 yards wide. The field is divided into two halves by a center line, and each half is further divided into three sections called "chukkers."
  • Teams: Each team is made up of four players, and each player has a specific role within the team. The players are assigned positions based on their skills and experience, such as the number one, number two, number three, and back positions.
  • Mallet and Ball: Players use a long-handled mallet made of bamboo or fiberglass to hit a small white plastic or wooden ball. The objective is to strike the ball with the mallet and send it between the goal posts to score a goal.
  • Chukkers: The game is played in periods called chukkers, which usually last for 7 minutes each. There are typically four to six chukkers in a match, with breaks in between to rest and change horses.
  • Rules: Polo has several rules that regulate player movements and actions. For example, players must ride their horses in a specific direction during play, and they are not allowed to cross the center line. Fouls can result in penalties, such as free hits or penalty shots for the opposing team.

Equestrian Rules and Gameplay

Equestrian, on the other hand, is not a single sport but rather an umbrella term that encompasses various disciplines involving horses. These disciplines can include dressage, show jumping, eventing, and more. While each discipline has its own specific rules and gameplay elements, there are some general aspects that apply to equestrian sports:

  • Disciplines: Equestrian sports are diverse and can involve different activities such as horseback riding, jumping over obstacles, performing precise movements or routines, and more. Each discipline has its own set of rules and objectives.
  • Horses: Horses play a crucial role in equestrian sports. They are carefully trained and conditioned to perform specific tasks based on the discipline. The bond between the rider and horse is essential for success in equestrian events.
  • Scoring: In equestrian sports like dressage, judges evaluate the horse and rider’s performance based on specific criteria. The scores are awarded for elements such as precision, technical skills, harmony, and overall presentation.
  • Courses: Show jumping and eventing disciplines often involve navigating a course with various obstacles, such as fences or jumps. Riders must demonstrate control, agility, and accuracy in guiding their horses through the course.
  • Equipment: Equestrian sports require specific equipment depending on the discipline. This can include saddles, bridles, protective gear for both horse and rider, and specialized equipment for jumping or dressage movements.

While both polo and equestrian involve horses, they differ significantly in terms of gameplay, objectives, and rules. Polo is a team-based sport with a focus on scoring goals, while equestrian encompasses various disciplines with different objectives and scoring systems.

Equipment and Attire

Polo Equipment and Attire

When it comes to polo, both the equipment and attire play a crucial role in the game. Polo is a fast-paced sport that requires specific equipment to ensure player safety and enable effective gameplay.


The primary equipment used in polo includes:

  • Polo mallets: These long-handled sticks are used by players to hit the ball.
  • Polo balls: Specially designed to withstand the demands of the game, polo balls are made of hard plastic or wood.
  • Polo saddles and bridles: These are specifically designed for polo ponies to provide comfort and control for the rider.
  • Protective gear: As polo involves intense physical contact, players wear protective gear such as helmets, knee guards, and gloves to minimize the risk of injury.


Polo players have a distinctive dress code that reflects the sport’s traditional roots and provides practicality during gameplay. The typical attire for polo includes:

  • Polo helmets: These helmets are designed to protect the player’s head from any potential impact during the game.
  • Polo shirts: Players wear lightweight, breathable polo shirts that allow freedom of movement.
  • Polo boots: Specifically designed for horseback riding, polo boots provide ankle support and grip in the stirrups.
  • White trousers: Polo players traditionally wear white trousers, which not only give the sport a classy look but also help in keeping the players cool under the sun.

Equestrian Equipment and Attire

Equestrian sports encompass a wide range of disciplines, each with its own specific equipment and attire requirements. Whether it’s dressage, show jumping, or eventing, equestrian sports demand different gear and clothing.


The equipment used in equestrian sports varies depending on the discipline, but some common items include:

  • Saddles: Different types of saddles are used for specific disciplines, such as dressage saddles, jumping saddles, or endurance saddles.
  • Bridles: Bridles are used to control the horse’s movements and include a bit, reins, and headstall.
  • Stirrups: These platforms attached to the saddle provide support and stability for the rider’s feet.
  • Protective gear: Riders wear helmets to protect their heads from potential falls or impacts.
  • Jumping poles and obstacles: In disciplines like show jumping, various obstacles and poles are used to test the horse’s jumping abilities.


Equestrian attire not only serves a functional purpose but also reflects the traditions and aesthetics of the sport. Some common attire elements in equestrian sports include:

  • Riding helmets: Similar to polo, riders wear helmets to protect their heads from injuries.
  • Riding breeches: These specialized pants are designed to provide comfort and flexibility while riding.
  • Riding boots: Different disciplines may require specific types of boots, such as tall boots for dressage or short boots for jumping.
  • Show jackets: In competitive equestrian sports, riders often wear tailored jackets that adhere to the specific discipline’s dress code.
  • Gloves: Riders wear gloves to improve their grip on the reins and protect their hands from friction.

In conclusion, both polo and equestrian sports have their own unique equipment and attire requirements. Understanding these differences is essential for players and enthusiasts to fully immerse themselves in these captivating sports.

Types of Competitions

Polo Competitions

Polo competitions are thrilling events that showcase the fast-paced and exhilarating sport of polo. This traditional sport, often referred to as the "sport of kings," involves two teams on horseback competing against each other to score goals. There are several types of polo competitions, each with its own unique rules and formats.

1. High Goal Polo

High Goal Polo is the most prestigious and challenging form of polo competition. Played at the highest level, this type of polo is characterized by highly skilled players and top-notch horses. The teams competing in High Goal Polo tournaments usually have a handicap rating of 22 goals or above, with handicaps ranging from -2 to 10 goals. This level of competition demands exceptional horsemanship, teamwork, and strategic gameplay.

2. Medium Goal Polo

Medium Goal Polo is a slightly less intense version of High Goal Polo. The teams in Medium Goal Polo competitions have handicap ratings ranging from 10 to 16 goals. This level of competition is popular among both professional and amateur players, providing a great opportunity for upcoming polo enthusiasts to showcase their skills. Medium Goal Polo offers a balance between competitiveness and accessibility.

3. Low Goal Polo

Low Goal Polo is the most accessible and beginner-friendly level of polo competition. As the name suggests, the teams participating in Low Goal Polo tournaments have handicap ratings ranging from -2 to 6 goals. This level allows players of varying skill levels to participate, making it a great starting point for newcomers to the sport. Low Goal Polo competitions focus on skill development, team cohesion, and providing an enjoyable experience for all participants.

Equestrian Competitions

Equestrian competitions encompass a wide range of disciplines that highlight the versatility and elegance of horse riding. While polo is a specific type of equestrian sport, there are numerous other equestrian competitions that cater to different riding styles and disciplines. Here are some of the most popular equestrian competitions:

1. Dressage

Dressage is an equestrian sport that showcases the harmony between horse and rider. It involves a series of precise movements and transitions performed in a pre-defined pattern. Judges assess the horse’s obedience, suppleness, and overall presentation. Dressage competitions are often considered a true test of horsemanship and require riders to demonstrate exceptional control and finesse.

2. Show Jumping

Show Jumping competitions focus on the horse’s ability to clear a series of obstacles within a set time frame. The course typically includes fences of varying heights and technical difficulty. Riders must navigate the course while maintaining a balance between speed and accuracy. Show Jumping competitions are known for their excitement and require both horse and rider to possess agility, bravery, and a strong bond.

3. Eventing

Eventing combines three distinct disciplines: dressage, cross-country, and show jumping. This comprehensive competition tests the horse and rider’s versatility, athleticism, and endurance. Eventing competitions are divided into levels, with each level increasing in difficulty. Competitors must excel in all three disciplines to achieve success in eventing, making it a true test of all-around equestrian skills.

4. Endurance Riding

Endurance riding is a long-distance competition designed to assess the horse’s stamina and the rider’s ability to care for the horse throughout the journey. Competitors cover vast distances, often ranging from 25 to 100 miles, within a specific time frame. Endurance riding requires a deep bond between horse and rider, as they navigate through varying terrains and challenging conditions.

These are just a few examples of the diverse equestrian competitions available. Each discipline offers its own unique challenges and rewards, attracting riders with different interests and skill sets. Whether you prefer the fast-paced action of polo or the elegance of dressage, the world of equestrian competitions has something for everyone.

In conclusion, while both polo and equestrian sports involve horses and require skill and teamwork, there are distinct differences between the two. Polo is a fast-paced game played on horseback with the aim of scoring goals, while equestrian encompasses various disciplines such as dressage, show jumping, and eventing. Each sport has its own set of rules, equipment, and techniques. Whether one prefers the thrill of polo or the elegance of equestrian, both offer a unique and rewarding experience for horse enthusiasts.