When you live in Calgary, chances are you know a rancher. If you’re lucky, you’ll be invited out for a ride. I’m fortunate enough to be friends with Rachel Herbert, who raises grass fed cattle just south of Nanton, AB, for her poetically named premium beef business, Trail’s End Beef. So when she invited me out to ride savvy Suzy, we had some farm chores to do. And since it was hunting season, Rachel sported a safety-chic orange vest…… and so did I. I also wore a pair of chaps I hadn’t used in a decade, but my style was more Michelin Man than Wild West, thanks to the need to stay warm.On this particular day, we had a mission. These calves were weaned the week before, so now it was time to move them to the farm for the winter, where Rachel and Ty can keep an eye on them.Rachel’s hubby and quintessential cowboy Tyler mapped out our moves…… while Suzy and Jet always seemed to know exactly where to be to get the job done.Being in the saddle for hours was easy in this custom-made cutting saddle by Vic Bennett.First we moved the calves out of their pen, over the hills. My job was to stay in the back and encourage stragglers to get moo-ving. Then it was time to take this show on the road! Rachel spent years on the hunter-jumper circuit, but being a cowgirl is in her DNA — she’s a fourth-generation Alberta rancher. Those cows better get moving before Jet decides to give their butts a love bite.The grass on the side of the road was looking mighty delicious to the calves, so I had my herding work cut out for me… but I managed to snap one more photo while we were on the move. Way up ahead, on Turbo the roan, Tyler was ready to stop any cars that came along. Mission accomplished! But Suzy lingered a little longer, just to let those cows know who is boss.Rachel works the chute, and without that safety vest we finally get an opportunity to see her flawless cowgirl style, complete with vintage scarf. And those fringed chinks! Those are shorter chaps, for y’all who are not up on cowboy lingo. I didn’t know either.It was a novelty to be on a horse with such a lustrous mane, compared to the ponies I usually ride. Besides the cattle we also caught sight of a moose, loping across the ridge. Not pictured here, but emblazoned in my memory forever.Ride ‘em cowgirls. Thanks so much for an amazing day, Rachel and Suzy!
So many great events coming our way for summer in Calgary, including Parkshow this weekend and Stampede! Also, a new direct flight departing Calgary this summer to Chicago, an exclusive shopping night at Burberry, and the poetry debut of a Calgary author. Plus, I got to ride an Hermes saddle! All that and more in this edition of BBTV Update.
My polo ponies may be out in the pasture, but they’re still on my mind… all the time. Are they eating enough? Will they be warm this winter? Gabby (above) is a pro at snow, but it’s the first Canadian winter for Mojito (below).
If you still haven’t rounded up the perfect gift for your horse-obsessed loved one this Christmas, allow me to suggest two books – both charming, but totally different from each other.
Lead with Your Heart: Lessons from a Life with Horses is written by a neurosurgeon with a passion for horses. Dr. Allan J. Hamilton’s writing style is not Dry MD — which is probably why he’s a script consultant for both Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice. His book is a collection of bite-sized essays on training, peppered with examples from horses he’s worked with, and non-horse situations that he believes draw a clear parallel… like kids at the grocery store checkout.Horse Owners’ Essential Tips may have a humdrum name and yawn-inducing cover art, but this is definitely a case of “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Inside, Philippe Meyrier’s down-to-earth conversational writing style, along with cute illustrations, detailing all kinds of great ideas. Tips include natural fly repellent, a cure for chapped lips, and -my favorite- a suggestion to stop ponies from nibbling on wooden fences or stall doors.Both books are a wonderful winter vacation read. I know I’ll be consulting them again in the spring, when it’s time to get my fat polo ponies fit again. Merry Christmas!
When third generation pro Joey Casey checks out the grass at Palm City Polo Club, he can’t help but smile in satisfaction. That’s because not only did he pour his life savings into buying the land and building this new club (it opened in 2014), he also gambled on a type of turf that no one else in the world is using: Latitude 36. When you look closely, it’s lichen-like, and springs back after every footfall.
“It doesn’t seem to tear up as much,” he tells me. But that’s just the green icing on the cake, which Joey promises will be even greener once he starts fertilizing again for the season.
“Grass is there to tee up the ball, but the most important part about a polo field is the footing,” says Joey. “When you stop and turn, it’s the footing that’s providing support, not the grass. That’s part of the reason I got this property. It’s perfect soil for a polo field. And it almost plays better wet than it does dry.”The 35-acre club is in Boynton Beach, just a few minutes south of Wellington. In addition to the 60 stalls, 14 paddocks, hitting cage, club house and fire pit, there’s a regulation-sized arena between the two full-sized fields. People play here every month of the year, although the main season is November through June. Amy Waters is a regular, and so devoted to her signature color that even the vet wrap on her stirrups is pink.
Of course, it’s often easier to give tips while on horseback. Before the game, I was lucky enough to have a hitting lesson with him in the cage. Mike broke down my swing down in amazing detail, and videoed me to show me that I wasn’t letting myself follow through for the whole stroke. Nor was my wrist straight when I made contact with the ball. Key basics I didn’t realize I wasn’t doing. We made progress…… although I’m not sure I managed to retain everything once I mounted up. At least I kept my elbows in during this ride-off. Six-year-old Coppertop, the mellow yet energetic pony I borrowed from Joey, was up for it.Despite my best efforts to bump Gwen Rizzo, Editor of Polo Players Edition, she never missed the ball. She’s a crack shot.It’s a casual atmosphere at Palm City Polo. Why have grandstands, when a tractor will do just as well? Although these folks will have to give up their seats at half time when the tractor will be used to drag the arena, smoothing out all that silty soft Florida sand.Joey’s out with an injury right now, but that doesn’t stop him from helping to capture the moment, including the shots of moi. Thanks Joey!Meanwhile, Mike’s dad is on air horn duty. Look at those palm trees bordering Field One! Wonder why this club looks as if it’s in the heart of a Costa Rican jungle? Turns out, it’s bordered by nurseries on either side. Who have promised not to cut down the mature palm trees lining Field One. Palm City Polo has three levels of play: Coaching League, 4-6 goal and 8-12 goal. They provide horses, grooms and offer boarding. Even better: the Palm City Polo gang are not strangers to the post-game asado.
Art collector and curator Jeanne Chisholm is passionate about polo art. Her massive collection includes sculptures, paintings, drawings, bar accessories and more . She’s so enthused about giving you the scoop on each piece, it’s almost impossible to get her to stand still for a photo herself.
Case in point: Jeanne does not just show me this black and white image, “Polo Spill at Meadow Brook” taken on, June 4th. 1939. She tells me the crowds paid $15 per seat to see the first of three matches between the best players of Great Britain and the U.S. They got their money’s worth! The Americans forgot team work, rode hell-bent for trouble. Up and down the field they barged and banged, hit rocketing shots , rode the English off the ball , committed 12 fouls. Then U.S. No. 1 smacked Aidan Roark out of the saddle, rolling him onto the turf. Mike Phipps comes to his aid, but slides off his white horse and lands on the rump of Roark’s pony. In ten minutes, Roark was back in the game. Everyone was ok.
Town and Country Magazine once noted that she had the largest collection of polo art in the world, and during her 40 years of collecting, she has coordinated massive art undertakings, like the Cartier polo retrospective. Even Ralph Lauren recently turned to Jeanne when he needed create the right atmosphere at his clubby Polo Bar in New York.
So when in Wellington, a stop in to her private gallery is a must. Call ahead for an appointment, and prepare your eyes to be inundated. Polo portraits cover the walls at Jeanne’s townhouse gallery, but it’s just the beginning.
Art rests on every available surface.And in every available container. In this case, the art takes the form of rare and scarce books, notably the 1935 “Hits and Misses” by Paul Brown, which was a limited edition to begin with. Mongolian polo, anyone? These watercolors on linen look like they could be centuries old, but they are painted by the very-much-alive Tsolmon Damba.Rollin McGrail’s whimsical illustrations cover many topics, but the ones with a polo focus are, of course, my favorite. This one was commissioned by Grand Champions Polo Club. And fyi, those pewter ponies at top right double as salt and pepper shakers.Rollin popped in to Chisholm Gallery to personally show me her witty, charming work. Although she’s inspired by New Yorker cartoons, she’ll also do straight-up branding. Despite the fact that section on her website is titled “Delusions of Brandeur.” High-profile clients include Nic Roldan, with whom I recently savored getting up close and personal.Rich Roenisch, on the other hand, did not materialize to give me a personal intro to his bronze, on the left, “Heat of the Game.” Since he lives in Longview, Alberta, and since I often play polo with his nephew Daniel, I guess I can forgive him. The bronze on the right is “When Push Comes to Shove,” by Bunny Connell, a Wyoming sculptor.If you’re not in the market for a bronze right now, Christmas is still coming. Jeanne has these tempting polo trinkets for under the tree. The toast rack can be used as a letter holder. The cocktail stirrers, however, need no alternate use.Or, if Santa Baby is feeling more extravagant, this painting by Royal Family favorite Wilf Plowman is available.Meanwhile, in the boudoir, the walls are still covered with art. But, mysteriously, this room breaks from equine art, turning to another sporting focus: dwarf tossing. But that’s another story.
Have a wonderful winter season, Jeanne and Prince Albert! Thanks for the VIP private tour of Chisholm Gallery!
During my stay in Wellington, I stopped by to see Tato Alvarez (right) and his son Santiago (left) at their rapidly expanding shop, Tato’s Mallets. There are several mallet makers who’ve been on the Wellington retail scene longer, but Tato’s is quickly becoming a favorite, thanks to their excellent customer service and gorgeous product.In 2001, Tato’s was basically a 750 square foot workshop. Now it’s 5000 square feet of polo equipment, leather goods and one of the industry’s largest varieties of equine bits. Look at that sweet blue iron.Tato’s Mallets is polo retail mecca. As anyone who plays this crazy sport knows, it’s rare to find a shop dedicated to our sport. Even a polo section in a store catering to horse owners is unusual. So I had to take a moment. And text a fellow club member that they needed to buy some camouflage girth straps (available here in colors ranging from pink to traditional green). The main thing, of course, is the mallets. Everywhere you look, they’re hanging from something, or leaning up against something else.Sensing my mallet fan-girl-ness, Santi offered to give me a tour of the workshop. Even as the slow season draws to a close, Tato’s has a backorder of 800 mallets, despite a staff of nine.Santi tells me that it’s a misconception that mallets are made from bamboo.
“It’s actually cane,” says Santi. “Polo mallets are made from Rattan. There are 900 different type of Rattan, but mallets are made from Manau.”
He ships them from Indonesia, and buys them extra long, so he can choose the best part of the stick and the necessary diameters.
The thicker part of the cane, at the root, is where the handle goes. With a little help from Tato’s skilled workmanship.Repairs are also a huge part of Tato’s business. The shop will splice new cane onto a broken mallet, matching diameter and flexibility, at 30% of the cost of a new mallet.Meanwhile, the heads are made from Tipa wood, found only in northern Argentina and parts of Brazil and Parguay. Santi was tight-lipped on his high profile customers, but he did confirm that Nic Roldan‘s mallets were in for repairs… with the mysterious middle initial E.
Meanwhile, as the store keeps upgrading, don’t expect a Mate bar too soon. Santi, Tato and the gang have waaaay too much work to do. Thanks for the tour, Santi! Have a good season!