Most of polo’s rules were developed to protect the players and ponies from accidents. The speed and contact of the game make it essential for a player to hold his stick in the right hand and control his pony with the left.
The most important rule concerns a player’s “right of way”. A player following directly in line behind the ball, which he has just hit, has the right of way over other players and so does the player who is closest to the ball after it has been struck. Opponents are not allowed to cut in between the player with the right of way and the ball.
To prevent serious injuries, the tactic of hooking sticks is governed by strict rules. Hooking is allowed only when a player is about to strike the ball. Reaching in front of an opponent’s pony to hook sticks is a foul.
During polo matches, there are three references to watch over the rules. Two ride on the field and make most of the calls. Should they not agree with each other, they turn to the third referee sitting on the sideline. The third referee’s decision is final. A penalty call results in a variety of punishments from restarting play to open opportunities to score. The punishment is determined by the severity of the foul.