Guide to: Arena Polo
How exactly does Polo's equivalent to 5-a-side football differ from the summer sport?
Once September comes around, the UK Polo season draws to a close; allowing players and their ponies to take a well-deserved break. For many professionals though, the prospect of continuing to play the sport they love throughout the winter months is too strong.
Some will head to the Southern Hemisphere, choosing to play in the hotter climates of Australia, New Zealand and Argentina. Others, however, prefer to stay closer to home and test their skills in the Arena.
To put it simply, Arena Polo is the footballing equivalent of 5-a-side - it's a slight variation of the original game, with a few different rules and regulations, but the concept is the same.
Same same, but different
One immediately noticeable difference between Field and Arena Polo is the number of players per team, with the latter having three as opposed to field's four. With the ideal arena being 300ft x 150ft in size, a much smaller field of play than grass polo, fewer players are needed. The smaller pitch size also means that the number of horses needed is reduced due to horses tiring less.
This combination of factors has led to many people viewing Arena Polo as being a more accessible and affordable sister to Field Polo - making it a great alternative for players looking to get into the sport.
With regards to the arena itself, this is boarded from corner to corner and the playing surface can be best described as being a waxy sand. It's for these reasons that the ball used in Arena Polo is inflatable and stitched - similar to a children's sized football - allowing it to cleanly roll and be bounced off of the walls.
It's not just the balls that are bigger in Arena Polo - the image above shows how the sticks used are far greater in size too. Arena Polo's larger inflatable ball means that players require a stick that's lighter and more rigid with a bigger head - allowing for more control and accuracy.
One of the most interesting things about the game is that a player's arena handicap can often be higher than their field equivalent. As a benchmark, a player takes their outdoor handicap and adds an additional goal for Arena Polo. In the UK, Englishman Max Charlton holds a 10 goal handicap; making him one of the best arena Polo players in the world.
There are a number of major Arena Polo Clubs in the UK - including Royal County of Berkshire, Hickstead, Emsworth, Dallas Burston and Black Bears - all of whom host tournaments throughout the winter months and have state of the art facilities for doing so.
The Arena season runs until the end of March, providing players with a great six month period to hone their skills and keep their game at a high level until the UK Polo season starts again.
Enjoyed this guide and want to find out more about the sport of Polo? Head over to our dedicated On-Field page.