What Clothing and Equipment is Needed for Equestrian Polo

Polo is an exciting yet dangerous sport that requires specialized equipment and clothing to keep players safe while allowing freedom of movement. From helmets to saddles to leg wraps, polo gear is designed for protection, comfort, and high performance.

1. Polo Helmet

The polo helmet is arguably the most important piece of safety equipment. Made of strong leather or plastic, it has ventilation holes for breathability and comfort. A full face helmet with a faceguard protects the face from the ball and other polo mallets during the fast pace of a chukker. The helmet should fit snugly to prevent it from falling off when a rider gets hit by an errant swing. Many polo pros get custom helmets for the best protection.

2. Polo Gloves

Polo gloves protect a player’s hands while providing the grip and dexterity needed to swing a polo mallet accurately. Typically made of leather or synthetic suede, they may have ventilated mesh backs for breathability. Many players wear two gloves for extra grip and safety. Padded knuckles provide impact protection from mallets, horses, and flying balls. Finger holes allow for reins to be held if needed. Like helmets, having properly fitted gloves is necessary for control.

3. Polo Boots

The right footwear keeps a polo player safe while allowing them to stand firmly in the stirrups. Polo boots rise above the ankle to prevent fractures and feature treads suitable for use on grass. Many have extra ankle padding and interior toe caps. Water-resistant leather uppers maintain integrity if exposed to moisture. Soles provide shock absorption to avoid pain and fatigue. Tall boot heights also protect the leg when put next to the horse and avoid painful stirrup rubs.

4. Polo Breeches

Breeches designed specifically for polo feature fabrics with stretch and give to allow athletic maneuvering in the saddle without restrictive pulling or binding. Made of lightweight and breathable performance fabrics, they won’t cause overheating. Silicone grippy patterns on the inside of the leg prevent sliding too far into the saddle. Finally, smooth flat seams prevent painful irritation and blistering, especially if worn with tall polo boots.

5. Polo Shirts

Polo athletes tuck their breeches into their polo boots, requiring a shirt long enough to cover the body and avoid exposing skin while bending, stretching, and swinging in the saddle. Most polo shirts mimic regular polos but have extended shirt tails. Some feature sweat wicking, stretch, and ventilation properties seen in athletic wear. Team shirts represent club colors and logos. Women often opt for athletic tops that provide full coverage while allowing a full range of motion.

6. Knee and Shin Guards

Hard hits from mallets and horses often strike a player’s lower legs, making protection essential. Knee and shin guards slip into interior pockets on each leg of the breeches so they stay in proper position. Made of hard plastic shells covered in breathable fabric, some guards attach together to prevent rotation or displacement while playing. Such guards absorb brutal impacts that could otherwise break bones or inflict nasty bruises and swelling.

7. Elbow Pads

A polo athlete’s elbows also take a beating, especially a skilled rider’s mallet swing arm. Lightweight, slip-on elbow pads cushion forceful hits to this delicate joint. Made with foam or gel padding surrounded by an abrasion-resistant outer layer, quality elbow pads allow full flexibility and airflow. Such pads prevent painful elbow hyperextension and absorb vibration from solid mallet swings on a moving horse.

8. Polo Stick

Often called a mallet, the polo stick or mallet is essential equipment. With strict regulations on size for safety, mallets consist of a bamboo cane shaft affixed with a hard wooden head. For ball control, the mallet head has a unique teardrop shape with a flat side and rounder side. Hitting the ball correctly takes much skill and practice. Shaft flex and head size vary to accommodate player height, strength, and personal preference for optimal ball striking.

9. Polo Balls

At 3 to 3.5 inches in diameter, a regulation polo ball is made of plastic, often with a wooden core. The ball’s size helps it travel well when struck by a mallet at speed. However, plastic balls can be hard on mallets during play, damaging heads and shafts over time, so backups are useful. Natural cork balls were previously used but light plastic became standard for more consistent bounce and aerodynamics off the mallet head.

10. Polo Saddle

Polo saddles resemble English saddles but provide much more security while playing this fast-paced game. Extra deep, padded seats prevent riders from sliding. There are inflatable air pockets for further stability and adjustable girth straps to avoid slipping sideways. Sweat flaps keep the saddle drier during a hard ride. Durable leather wears well with regular use. Another key difference is specialized placement of the stirrup bars to accommodate the stance of a swinging polo athlete versus a regular rider.

11. Horse Blanket

Polo ponies work exceptionally hard during chukkers and need protection from sweat and temperature fluctuations. A lightweight yet warm horse blanket allows muscles to relax and breathe between quarters rather than get chilled. It gives these equine athletes comfort as their heart rates return to normal before continuing the intense match. Well-crafted blankets resist tearing to handle rough play and have both top straps and a tail cord to keep positioned properly in place on a moving mount.

12. Bandages and Leg Wraps

The incredible athleticism of polo ponies while working, turning, stopping, and reversing direction puts substantial stress on their lower legs much like human athletes. Supportive yet flexible leg wraps protect vulnerable tendons and ligaments, preventing strains and inflammation. Breathable quilted layers go underneath for padding. Bandaging techniques require practiced skill so wraps stay secure but not overly tight during sprints downfield.

13. Safety Vest

Lastly, many polo players choose to wear a tailored safety vest providing core protection without limiting mobility. Plastic chest plates slip into interior sleeves and secure closed with side buckles and front zippers. Ribs, internal organs, the spine and back all gain needed padding from forceful blows. Air holes prevent overheating so these special vests are comfortable enough to wear throughout entire matches, reducing injuries from horses, mallets and balls during play.

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