A Crash Course In Polo With Nacho Figueras

Leah Bourne

Courtesy of Veuve Clicquot

The game of polo has long been the favorite pastime of royalty, high society, and the rich and famous. With the annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic set to take place tomorrow at Liberty State Park just outside of New York City, we decided a refresher course on the game was much needed. And there is no better person on the planet to give us a quick crash course than Nacho Figueras, easily the most famous polo player in the world (not to mention a Ralph Lauren model and an all around bon vivant).
Figueras, who hails fom Argentina, has been a pro polo player since he was 17, and shared with us that his favorite part of the game is the “horses.” And while Figueras will be sitting out the Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic this year because of an injury, he will be in attendance to cheer on his team.
Here, the five things to keep in mind when watching a polo match.
1. The Basics. “There are four players on each team,” Figueras shared. “My position is three, which is comparable to the quarterback in football.”
2. Know the Lingo. “The line of the ball means that there is an imaginary line between the ball and the player that last hit it,” Figueras explained of the most important polo term. “If someone from the opposite team crosses that line, it is considered a foul because he is creating danger. Another term [to know] is man first because in polo you always say first the man, and then the ball. There are a hundred more terms!”
3. Getting Possession of the Ball. Here’s how the game works essentially. The defending player can push the opponent off the line or steal the ball from the opponent. Another common defensive play is hooking. While a player is taking a swing at the ball, the opponent can block the swing by using their mallet to hook the mallet of the player swinging at the ball. Another play is called the ride-off when a player rides their pony alongside an opponent’s mount in order to move an opponent away from the ball or to take the player out of a play. The rules are enforced in the game by umpires who blow whistles when a penalty occurs.
4. All About the Horses. “We play with more than one horse per game and switch our horses every few minutes,” Figueras shared. “We pick our horses based on ones that we are most comfortable with—it’s great to have horses that are fast and handy.”
5. Mastering the Sport. “The most important part of the game to master is the horse,” Figueras explained. “When you do this, most of the job is done.”