The polo match is divided into chukkas, each of which lasts for 7 minutes, with an interval of three minutes between each of the chukker. The name chukka has been derived from the Hindi word ‘chukker’ meaning ‘circle’ and ‘turn’. The short intervals during the play concede the pony to play ferociously without being pessimistic about the fatigue in the next slot of the game i.e chukker or chukka.
Polo- The game of royalties. That’s how it is described. A sport that revolves around horses, their maintenance, its equipment, chukkers, and the skills of the sport that are passed from generation to generation, that you can call inheritance or acquired interest from the eminent families. A grandiose combination of speed, tactics, horses, redundant risks and definitive professionals. The captivating fact is that the origins of this mesmerizing sport, Polo, is hidden in the alluring history of the Indian subcontinent discovered in Manipur in the North East of India around the 1850s. The sport grew expeditiously worldwide but it is still played in its indigenous form in the remote regions of Manipur, Leh and the Gilgit hills of Himalayas. There are players who consider polo as a way of life and how the sport has changed considerably over years which in turn has reflected and advanced their life in so many other possible ways.
Chukkers are the most important part of the sports Polo. To define chukkers or previously called chukkas, the sport of polo is played over four to six periods of play, each of which lasts for around seven and a half minutes of the playing time with the time stopped for executing penalties and can last from one to one and a half hour. The match is divided into chukkas, each of which lasts for 7 minutes, with an interval of three minutes between each of the chukker. At half time, the interval between the chukka is extended to 5 minutes and then spectators are invited to take to the pitch to tread in divots. The bell is rung after every 7 minutes. Without exception, every sport has its own pros and cons. Polo since an endeavor of both, the polo ponies and polo professionals, undergoes an affirmative risk of any one of them contributing to the reason of the loss of one team or one player on the polo field. Therefore, the chukkers were introduced. The short intervals during the play concede the pony to play ferociously without being pessimistic about the fatigue in the next slot of the game i.e chukker or chukka. Polo has a figuratively high demand of ponies and their safety is the first and the foremost consideration of the polo association. Special care is taken that they do not encounter any mishappening because of the sport and thus chukker have their paramount importance during the play. Ponies, if compelled to play continuously, might get exhausted, breakdown or even may die which has huge repercussion. Usually, polo is often alleged to be a sport that mistreats pony, but the entire knowledge of the sport clearly mention that polo ponies aren’t mistreated in any way. Chukker was also introduced in the game for this very reason. The seven and a half minute of the playing duration ensure the maximum output from the pony and the player. The occurrence of a foul leads in the intermission of the game for the players to decide the further proceeding of the game. The game is then resumed for the remaining time period. After every chukker or chukka, polo ponies are changed. The players move out of the field to change their pony and return with a fresh pony in the next chukker. Sometimes, in rare cases, the game is also terminated between a chukker, and then a new chukker starts depending on the rules of the game. As they say, polo ponies are aware of polo, they also know that the rest period will be followed after every chukker. The extensively and efficiently trained ponies are the ones who know the rules and proceedings of the game. Thus the pony connects with the game and the chukker is an interluding part of the game.
The number of times polo ponies can be changed within a match has been a questionnaire. So many people are keen to see the pony playing the full chukkas, whereas at present polo players change ponies at least once during a chukka. Ponies are not as fit in the current scenario as they used to be. Therefore many times ponies are changed between one chukker too. However, polo association is now worried about limiting the number of ponies one brings to the match. “Using one pony per chukka is perfectly possible if you know how to get your polo horses fit and more importantly, how to conserve energy”. Chukkas help the ponies to be more efficient in the game by regaining their energy during the time of rest while the other pony is playing however it can be a disadvantage for the polo player. There is a language that polo player and the polo pony communicate with. Till the time a polo player becomes comfortable with a pony, the chukker gets over. However, a well-trained polo pony would not take much longer to communicate with the player.
THE EVOLUTION OF CHUKKAS AND ITS EFFECT ON THE SPORT
The name chukka has been derived from the Hindi word ‘chukker’ meaning ‘circle’ and ‘turn’. Approximately 20 years ago, polo was played much more dynamically. One pony was played for the whole chukker or chukka at all levels of polo, starting right from the open to the bottom. The skill of the player was testified; how well you can use your riding skills to judge the dexterity of your horse, its potentiality, duration of its run, and when and how much time it needs to be rested. For numerous player, their groom and their organization it is embarrassing to change the ponies during a chukker since, earlier, one pony was comprehended to play two whole chukkas in the open, lamenting the plague of multi-pony changes. Polo, the sport has changed drastically over years. The rules and regulations have advanced over time, which can be contradictory if said ‘advanced’. Pony began playing for just half chukkas and later on only for one-third of a chukka. The virtue and stamina of the pony is no longer a mandated requirement and thus it has diluted the appreciation of good horsemanship.
The ponies that lacked the temperament for polo were now playing on the field and when they got ‘too hot’ they were easily swapped in between the breaks of the chukkers. Ponies could now be used as battering rams for blocking because when they fagged out from the prolonged pummeling and stop and start the game, they could be replaced after the chukker or even in the middle of the chukker. Ponies that are incapable and do not stay sound can be played for short intervals and then be changed after the chukker.
WERE POLO PONIES AFFECTED TOO?
The style of polo has changed . its comparatively slower and there is much more emphasis on the short plays and possession that involves frequent stop/start and changes of direction in the game. The sport is no quicker and doesn't flow as it used to. The chukkers duration and the breaks have affected the horses being bred for polo as well. The desirable traits that we are now losing in polo. The horses no more are entitled to last for the entire chukkar or for that matter have to be compatible physically or mentally to last longer. They also do not have to be robust. With the observing trend of changing ponies, the professionals and breeders have benefitted extremely, for the very reason that swapping polo ponies in the chukker suits them. Players predict that ponies aren’t capable of playing one chukka, because it might exhaust them and they will go lame or go through a bridle. The 48-pony study carried out by vet Alyssia Flander at Kirtlington Polo Club discovered that polo ponies that play the entire chukka or chukker have lower basal heart rates and faster recovery time as compared to polo ponies that played only half chukka. Which implies that ponies that play full chukkas are fitter and are less likely to have fatigue-related injuries or heart attacks. Speaking to ESPN in Argentina in November, Horacito Heguy, the former 10 goalers, and producer of top horses mentioned that they have tried to add rules to improve the flow of the game and reduced the length of chukkas because the players say the horses won’t last a chukka. “What we question them is how can they not last? They still after the years have the same head, four legs, and tail! There is not a single reason that they cannot last now in a chukker if they did before. The reason definitely is the style of play. However, by reducing the number of horses a player can ride in a match, it will obligate them to play as a team. When the team loses importance, horsemanship loses importance. By limiting horses it will be an obligation, the back will have to play back, the three will have to play three and then they will think about passing the ball in order to score”