By Ginny Washbish –
“The University of Louisville has a polo club?” is the standard response when a student
learns that the Polo Club at U of L is currently a Recognized Student Organization.
The second question is normally “Polo? Like, water polo?” Meghan Ziobro, the polo
club’s vice president, says “I just grin and try to come up with something witty like, ‘I don’t
think our horses like to swim.’”
Founded in 2004 by Lauren Hexton, the club sport often goes unnoticed when competing
for attention against the other 300-plus RSOs U of L offers. Having only ten female members,
the team struggles constantly to keep the sport alive at the University.
“Members work so hard recruiting and fundraising and people still don’t have a clue we
exist,” Ziobro said.
According to club leadership, things are going to change this school year. Members of
the club have thought up creative ways to attract attention. “We understand that it is asking a lot
to have students drive all the way to God’s country just to ‘see what we are about,’” says Lauren
Poole, coach. “So, we will bring polo to the campus.”
Last fall, the polo club experimented by bringing two of their thoroughbred mares onto
campus. The club was featured on local TV station WHAS in the morning, and several students
were introduced to the unique RSO. This time around, the club plans on bringing the horses the
first week of classes around noon, making sure to get notice from students.
Recruitment is difficult; the sport may feel intimidating to learn, especially if not having
any previous riding experience. The club also has extra responsibility compared to the other
riding and racing clubs at the university: as they are currently caring for 5 horses, more money
and time must be devoted to the team.
“You may find yourself rethinking some life choices when shoveling manure at 22 on a
Friday night,” says Steph Franklin, string manager. “But it’s all worth it.”
The girls have worked together all summer graining their horses twice daily at
Hardscuffle in Prospect, Ky. When they aren’t picking pieces of hay out of their hair, the girls
are working as polo grooms and assisting with beginners clinics.
“We are all here because we share the same interest in horses. We don’t have time
to bicker and argue over things irrelevant to the sport,” says Brittany Schaefer, second year
The team considers themselves accepting of anyone interested in learning about polo,
saying that they are willing to work with newbies one-on-one. “Many of our most loyal players
are those that came in with no riding experience and simply just fell in love with polo,” says Schaefer
Regulated under the United States Polo Association, the collegiate team must adhere to
different guidelines to stay active. During the school season, the club travels to various schools
like UK and MSU, to participate in tournaments. Piling into each other’s vehicles the team
will stay weekends in hotels out of state, playing a match every day. They meet many people
involved with the sport, giving the U of L club plenty of networking opportunities.
“It’s like you step into a whole different world, you didn’t know existed. Polo has a huge
following outside of the University,” says Poole. The city’s local team, the Louisville Outdoor
Club, has been more than generous to the club this past year. From donating horses, offering
affordable board, and participating in the fundraising match, the Louisville Outdoor Club has
gone above and beyond to keep the RSO successful.
The polo club will be hosting a fundraiser match at the Masonic Homes of Louisville
the last week of September, date pending. It will be marketed as a “tailgating event” to U of
L students. Last fall, the team held the match at Hardscuffle and raised over $3,000 by selling
shirts, auctioning gift baskets, and taking donations. Students have the opportunity to meet each
member on the team while enjoying an exciting match.
With several girls about to graduate, the club’s main priority is to find others interested
in learning more about the sport. For more information on the Polo Club at U of L, visit their
Facebook page or stop by the Equine Business Office on campus.