Passionate Pursuits: Ride On
Written by Abby Jeffers | Photography by Ken Claussen and Play Polo Club
Equestrian sports are known for their elegance and grace, but they have more benefit than just visual: Riding a horse works your arms, legs, and core in an intense full-body workout far from the gym –– and being around the animals is good for your mental health, too.
Fortunately, central Ohio has no shortage of barns where those interested can take horseback riding lessons in any number of styles, from dressage to Western to hunter-jumper. Different barns offer different riding styles and amenities, and some barns offer competition teams. Interested riders can explore different options online or experiment with different types of lessons.
For a one-time workout, take the scenic route on a trail ride through Hocking Hills with Blue Moon Acres, Spotted Horse Ranch, or Uncle Buck’s Riding Stable. These barns provide guided trail tours on horseback through the gorgeous rolling hills of southeast Ohio, and trail riding makes the perfect addition to any relaxing weekend getaway.
Or try something totally new with polo at Play Polo Club, a full-service polo club in central Ohio that provides everything from individual lessons to guidance for purchasing your first polo pony. Play Polo Club, started in 2013, is run by Horace Henriot, a former professional polo player from Belgium who trained in Argentina and played competitively throughout the U.S. and in Europe. Now, Henriot’s family is a polo powerhouse: His sons Alec, Ace, and Ben play in the club, too.
Players can join the club with season memberships, which allow them access to one or two weekly practices (one in Westerville and one in Gahanna), or register to play at bi-weekly Sunday matches. Through Sophisticated Living’s past involvement with Play Polo, including watching numerous matches and playing in even more, we can confirm that players achieve top-notch coaching (and a workout) at every match.
Play Polo also offers a number of other services to make polo as accessible as possible, including Park & Play, where your pony will be tacked up and ready when you arrive, and boarding and transportation services for players with polo ponies. The club’s fields and stables sit on a gorgeous lot just outside of New Albany, where ponies graze in the sunshine and thrive under Henriot’s professional-level care, and Play Polo Club can also source polo equipment like mallets for riders in the club.
Registered players with the Play Polo Club are also required to have a membership to the United States Polo Association, which provides them not only access to USPA tournaments but also benefits like a rule book, magazine subscription, member insurance, and discounts on clothing and equestrian brands.
Each player also receives a U.S. Polo Association handicap, meant to indicate their skill level, and the Play Polo Club has players ranging from -2 (on the beginner side of the scale) to 2 (more advanced). The club also hosts honorary members –– including Brutus the Buckeye –– some of whom have handicaps all the way up to 6.
For those who prefer to lounge in the shade, grab a lawn chair and head to one of Play Polo’s Sunday matches on the lawn of Bryn Du Mansion in Granville –– you may remember enjoying good food and good company at the Sophisticated Living Cup matches of years past. Spectators can watch club competitions and hosted cups alike at twice-monthly matches while resting knowing that their entertainment has a positive impact: certain matches are benefits for local organizations and charities, raising money through entrance fees. Don’t forget to bring gameside bites and a bottle of wine to enjoy while the ponies gallop past.
Get your hands a little dirty this summer and try a new physical and well-being boost by exploring the world of horses in central Ohio. Whether riding or watching, Columbus has plenty to offer equestrian enthusiasts –– one need only look to find something that fits their fancy.