New rules for Irish polo as lessons resume in Polo Wicklow

A TEXTBOOK case of playing by the rules marked the return of polo to Ireland as safety measures relaxed with the onset of the second phase of the reopening of horse sports.

Double reins, bandaging of legs and tail are all about protecting the pony during a polo match


Even before any of the 20 students, signed on in groups over three days of beginner polo lessons earlier this month got anywhere near a horse, temperatures were taken and waivers were signed to insure no one was feverish, and there had been no known contact with Covid-19 within the previous 14 days.

Polo Manager Siobhan Herbst (l-r) on the polo ground in Wicklow with beginners Oilbhe and James Belfast, Niki Clince and Gillian Currie


Summer polo in Ireland has languished alongside all other horse sports, the tournament fixtures normally scheduled to begin in early June not expected to begin until late July. Wicklow Polo Manager Siobhan Herbst, however, was playing well within established guidelines while preparing to implement rule changes to allow the normally close-contact sport to resume, at least at the level of polo lessons for the time being.

“We are all outside, so it is not too much of an issue,” said Siobhan Herbst of the guidelines that permit up to 15 players or students on the field at any one time. “If we are playing we are keeping to the current HPA (Hurlingham Polo Association) guidelines. We are playing by the rules so there is no riding off, no throw-ins.”

Throw-ins, which normally start a match when an umpire throws in a ball surrounded by eight players have been side-lined in favour of a coin toss, the winner taking a 60-yard hit to start the game. Ride-offs, where a player attempts to push an opponent away from the ball have been limited to one attempted push before veering away.


The game resumes with the ball being hit back onto the field after a goal is scored.

“Masks are advised and you can ride off, but you have to go away,” Siobhan explained. “We are taking the Irish guidelines into account on general safety measures as well as HPA guidelines.”

Lessons at Polo Wicklow include chukkas morning and afternoon at weekends until fixtures can be played while weekday lessons are scheduled to begin in the next few weeks as the 20km travel radius is expanded with the onset of the third phase of reopening sports.

Polo lessons can be arranged for all ages and abilities on the Polo Wicklow Facebook page.

Kim Mullahey

Kim Mullahey is’s Ireland Correspondent. She holds an honours undergraduate degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Chicago and has taught Adult Education Creative Writing Studies. Through a media career spanning nearly 25 years Kim has written and photographed regional news, national and international horse sports, fashion and lifestyle. Kim lives with her husband and son in Kildare Ireland, and a stray marmalade cat who has adopted the family.

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