O, Canada! Where else would you want to spend Canada Day? The Calgary Polo Club celebrated our country’s birthday in style, with two polo games and tailgating to the max.The 20-goal game, Alegria vs Hawks, was a fast-paced match and thrilling to watch. Nice reach, Fred.But it was tough to concentrate on the game, with a record crowd partying in grand Canada Day style, along the edge of Palmer Field.Former event planner (and American!) Heather Lilly took Canadian color-coordination to a whole new level with her multi-tiered treats. Spectators competed in a foot mallet competition between games, discovering that hitting those balls can be a little tricky. Back to the real game. It’s always nice when there’s a throw-in right in front of your tailgate. But in this instance, may I suggest utilizing the zoom function?Luckily, the play moved away from the sidelines, and Mr. One was ok. Happy Canada Day!
The first game of Calgary Polo Club’s 2014 season was the perfect time to debut the official team jerseys of… wait for it… Team Blue Besos! In Club League, we’re assigned new team members each week: three regular players and a professional. Even though these guys may be my mortal enemies next week, last night they were the best teammates a girl could have. That’s super-pro four-goaler Big Joe Henderson, from South Africa, on the left. Moi and Simon, next. Doug Byblow playing his inaugural Calgary game. And Francesco Galdon, whose Argentinian heritage means he has polo in his DNA.Simon can barely contain his excitement about our new shirts.Just look at them! Kudos to Cal-Crests Ltd. The Calgary custom apparel company did a stylish, speedy job.The same Blue Besos dream team plays again this Saturday at 11am, in a Club League round robin: 6 chukkers of fantasticness. For fans of either polo or tailgating: come out and enjoy both at the Calgary Polo Club. Gracias for the superb team photos, Heather Lilly!
When I saw the media preview of Odysseo, I was almost overwhelmed. The 50 minute sampler of the show came close to moving me to tears. On opening night, when I saw the complete performance, I wondered if other people in the 2000-strong crowd felt the same way. Then I bumped into Calgary Stampede Princess Carly Weasel Child (wearing a black dress from Heather Crowshoe, no less) and she told me she was moved to tears. So, I present to you the verdict: Odysseo is an amazing show. A gorgeous, mystical, unique spectacle.If you’re not a horse person, perhaps you won’t choke up, but you have to be impressed with the melange of action going on under the big top at Canada Olympic Park. Acrobatic aerials combine with ethereal equestrian expertise and in front of massive movie screens, accompanied by live music. Like Cirque Du Soleil, this is more than a circus. And it definitely ain’t no Lipizzaner Stallions.The show lasts 2.5 hours with a half hour intermission. There are still tickets left, including the ones with a VIP backstage access, where you will experience something similar to my media preview. If you miss it in Calgary, you can catch it in Edmonton starting July 9.
I need another pony.This is Simon, the star on my string of one, at Calgary Polo Club last summer. To play 4-chukker Club League this summer, I need at least two ponies. I’ll have to double them (play them for two chukkers each), which isn’t the best, but it’s within the rules — and at my mellow pace, it’s not too hard on them. Right Simon?Part of my Palm Springs mission, besides enjoying a break from the brutally long Calgary winter, was to come home with another pony. For advice, the first person I turned to was Kyle Fargey. He’s a 3-goaler who runs the polo schools at Calgary Polo Club in the summer and Eldorado Polo Club in the winter. Since stick and balling a horse can be totally different than playing one, it’s advisable to try a new one in a game. Even though his ref shirt makes it look pretty serious, Kyle organizes friendly matches all season long. The horse he’s helping me with here is Lobo, one of his school string. I’ve ridden Lobo many times and he’s one of my faves. Just one little problem — he’s not for sale.I love Lobo, Kyle! Why don’t you just sell him to me? It would make this weekend a lot easier.Another problem? My budget. It wasn’t big, but I had a strategy, visiting the second last weekend of the season in Indio, when players would be looking for good homes for their older, slower ponies, to make way for their own new acquisitions. Tucker was the first pony I tried.Great chukker, Tucker! Boy, did we have a good time. This 16-year-old desert pony has played 4-goal most of his life. This year he played 1-goal at Empire Polo Club, which is still pretty darn fast. But he was perfect for me, with an easy-going, adorable disposition.But it’s a big world out there, with a lot of horses to become emotionally attached to. Next was Carlitos. His owner is so fond of him, he wasn’t even officially for sale. Saddled up, his hide bleached out from the sun, Carlitos looked mellow. When I took him out to stick and ball, it was love at first ride. Super-responsive with a comfortable canter… but then the mellow gave way to a need for speed that my riding abilities just couldn’t handle.Still, look how cute he was afterward! I found myself thinking that if I got him off the oats, and he realized he wasn’t playing 8-goal any more, maybe he’d slow down for me. Then I had to get a grip. Pretty pony or not, I can’t go buying a horse I can’t play in a test chukker. Still, thanks for your help, Bree!Over my long weekend in the desert, I tried so many ponies I don’t have pictures of them all. I only remembered to grab a shot of Tango at the last second — after trying him turned into an hour of pro Santos Arriola analyzing my swing. Thanks Santos! Unfortunately, Tango was too much horse for me. I’m not ready yet to stop on a dime and turn like lightning. I need a pony that will help me out when I give him mixed messages and wrong signals! Or at least ignore them.
Check out this video shot by Santos, giving all the right signals, in both Spanish and English.Back to Tucker. I was getting serious about him. Time for another chukker with Kyle’s Coaching League. Wish we had video of us scoring a goal in the first minute! It just added to the love story.I didn’t mind his knock knees — he felt sound in the game.Conveniently, Calgary vet Candace Crosby, was also playing in Coaching League that day and was available to do a vet check. Many polo peeps will tell you they don’t do a vet check on an older horse, because they just won’t pass. But in addition to his asking price, I was looking at an added cost of almost $1000 for the 3-day trip to Calgary and his border papers. I knew I needed someone to be logical. Because I was swooning over Tucker.After checking his teeth, Candace told me he was probably older than 16, although in polo, you almost don’t need a vet to tell you a horse is older than the owner says. It doesn’t mean they’re lying. For some reason in this sport that I can’t figure out, no one seems to know exactly how old their ponies are. However, I’m not ageist — I like older horses. I was told Simon was 24 when I bought him, but others have put him closer to 100.Candace did a thorough flexion test, checked his toed-out conformation and gave me a long list of issues. They didn’t appear to affect his game, but I had a lot to think about.Palm trees and pools make contemplation easier. If I didn’t have to ship Tucker to Canada, I probably would have bought him, but I decided not to go for it. There was another horse I really liked, but I got out-bid. So now, with June practice chukkers starting soon, I’ll be pony shopping in Alberta. Hopefully another steed will come my way and I’ll be in love all over again.
There are loads of deserts in this big ol’ world, but in Calgary, when we say we’re going to the desert, we mean Palm Springs. Or Palm Desert, Indio or any place in between. Although with the massive sprinkler systems here, it seems more oasis than desert. Flying in from the black, white and brown tones of a miserably long winter to the hi-def technicolor of the Coachella Valley, I felt like Dorothy when she realized she wasn’t in Kansas anymore.My first stop was the Eldorado Polo Club. During their season, January through the end of March, you can find a game being played just about any day of the week. Anyone can watch for free.On Sundays, see the match in style under the white tent of the Clubhouse, with table service for food and drinks.Or pull up your vehicle to the side of the field to tailgate.After, head to the other end of the club for a margarita at the Cantina. You never know who you’ll bump into. Chances are good it could be a Canadian, as evidenced by the ice hockey on the TV in the background. Or it could be country singer Pete Martinez, whose latest album was produced by Dave Matthews.Outside the Cantina, while the sun sets over Mount San Jacinto and the second highest mountain range in Southern California, there’s usually a desert dog who’s feeling social.Beyond the action of the games and the parties, there’s a quiet calm at the club. Tack rooms here had green roofs way before they became a LEEDS trend.Peep into a stall hidden by plywood and you might just find a foal like this one, five days old.On the track, grooms drift by, managing up to seven ponies at once.Up next, coverage of El Paseo Fashion Week and my attempt at a shopping spree that had nothing to do with fashion.
Cavalia’s new show Odysseo opens tomorrow in Calgary. Invited to the media preview today, I have to say this mystical, magical show is like nothing you’ve ever seen.With 70 horses and 49 human artists performing under the big white tent at Canada’s Olympic Park, Odysseo is the largest traveling show on earth. Bigger than U2. With a stage that’s bigger than a hockey rink. It’s twice as big as their original show, simply named Cavalia, which is still touring places like Dubai, Belgium and Australia.Beyond the amazing equestrian and acrobatic spectacle, special effects include high-def computer graphics on a screen called a “cyclorama” — the size of three IMAX screens. When the horses come toward you, it’s like they’re breaking free from a film or a painting.Show creator Normand Latourelle calls this 6-D. “It’s like watching a big Hollywood movie, but it’s live.”Seating seems intimate, yet the big top has enough room for an audience of 2000. Of course, it feels really intimate when you have a front row seat.Dream sequence followed by fantastic dream sequence, enhanced by acrobats, live musicians and a massive merry-go-round that lowers from the rafters, finally transforms to an aquatic vision.300,000 liters of water fill the stage to create a lake for the finale. If you’re lucky enough to have a floor seat, you may get splashed.After the incredible 50-minute preview, I trotted to the stage to take a selfie with some of the stars of the show, like Indigo the Appaloosa and his lovely rider…… and bumped into Normand, who tells me he doesn’t ride. “They put me on the horse once for a picture and I looked like a potato bag.”
But that doesn’t stop him from creating spectacular shows. After all, he helped start Cirque du Soleil without ever trying a trapeze. “Why should I ride? But I can pretty much understand what the horse do,” he says, his Quebec accent coming through. “The rule here is let the horse be a horse. Don’t make them do human tricks.”The natural scenes surrounding the horses were inspired by Normand’s view from home, an hour outside of Montreal. “I watch out my window when I’m in the kitchen. It’s what I have reproduced on stage. So I brought the mountain. I have almost a lake, a forest, all the images we project.”Behind the scenes, the temporary stable rivals pony digs at Spruce Meadows. Performers tend to their mounts before getting out of costume.No lead rope required!Pompon is a Canadian Cross. I didn’t realize that this breed, descended from horses sent to the New World by Louis XIV, was once on the verge of extinction. Now numbering 2500, there are two of them here.This is where the horses poop before the show! I’m not kidding! Thanks to my time at 19 Action News in Cleveland, I’m not afraid to ask the tough questions. And Normand was willing to talk. “We exercise them before. When they poop in the warm up, we thank them. They know it’s the place to do it. So they don’t do it often on stage.”I thought there would be all kinds of crazy hooks and loops to assist the performers, but many of the saddles looked like regular English ones to me.No mares in this barn! All the horses are either stallions, or geldings, like Raz, this six-year-old Arabian.Don’t tell my horse Simon, but I think Raz and I had a little connection.1200 invited VIP guests will be under the big top tomorrow night for Odysseo. I’m thrilled to be one of them, since I have a feeling I could watch this performance a thousand times over and not tire of it. Stay tuned for my official show review, later this week.
It’s just like the old Reese Peanut Butter Cup ad… you got your chocolate in my peanut butter: two of my favorite things combined!
This is a still photo from tomorrow night’s episode of Nashville. I already love the show, but tomorrow night country singer Rayna James takes it up a notch, hunting for investors for her new record label at a polo match. Doesn’t she know they’re all tapped out after hiring pros, buying new ponies and paying their bar tab at the club??
The episode was shot in Tennessee last month at the Nashville Polo Club’s signature event, Chukkers for Charity. The annual fundraiser is hosted by Orrin Ingram at his farm in Franklin.
The Nashville Polo Club didn’t take a site location fee. Instead, Nashville donated $25,000 to Chukkers for Charity, which benefits local charities, Saddle Up and the Rochelle Center. The extras were also working for charity — the Southern Casting Call website listed the 8-hour day rate as just $64!
In the video, shot at the Santa Barbara Polo Club, Britney ditches the patron (played by an English model who exaggerated his riding abilities to get the gig) for polo pro Mariano Gutierrez. Good move, Brit.In real life, Mariano “Guti” Gutierrez spends much of his workday at a flat-out gallop…… so it’s no surprise that around the barn, he likes to enjoy his tranquilo time dressed casually. I figured his favorite fashion items would be trademark Argentine attitude, like the Alpargata shoes that Toms has appropriated, but the boy from Buenos Aires doesn’t wear much of his country’s traditional clothing.Still, when I join the 5-goaler at the back barns of the Calgary Polo Club, I find him at a table covered in the makings of the ubiquitous Mate, the must-have drink of Argies everywhere.
Mariano never planned on being a polo pro, even though he started playing when he was 7. It wasn’t till after he logged a few years in law school that he was lured away by the siren call of the white ball. After a dozen years of playing in places like Paris, Deauville and Aspen, the 34-year-old came to Calgary to play in Fred Mannix’s 20-goal league.
Meanwhile, he has several businesses back in BA. “Soccer there is like hockey here,” says Mariano. The polo player takes full advantage of that, renting synthetic turf fields by the hour. He also has a skateboard shop which sells surf and skater styles. But don’t expect to find him in a pair of board shorts any time soon. “I dress casual,” he says. “Very casual.” And he’s low-maintenance, cutting his hair only twice a year……unlike his ponies, whose manes are shorn on a regular basis.At the game, his Converse are usually close by.Even his mallets are low-key. No flashy paint job on these babies.His only act of conscientious color coordination is a burgundy helmet to match his horses’ burgundy wraps — btw, buen trabajo Amanda!This pony switch could qualify as flashy, except it’s just part of the game for Guti.After riding into the Calgary sunset, Guti plays in Buenos Aires this fall and Indio this winter. Hasta luego, Mariano. Come back next year!
Happiness is… … being told by your dermatologist the week of a big party that your cancer scar is not ready for another round of lasering, setting the stage for scab-free socializing.Happiness is a borrowed Roberto Cavalli dress and Fendi bag. And looking much, much classier than you planned for the Calgary Polo Club President’s Ball.Happiness is being able to wince your way to the car an hour later, where you have a pair of backup shoes, after realizing your feet are not yet ready for high-heeled prime time.Happiness is also no shoes at all. And wearing white after Labor Day, because games continue through September at the Calgary Polo Club.
If you’re filming in Alberta, this town is big enough for the two of us.When Hollywood comes to Calgary, Hotel Arts is a natural choice for a meeting. But when it’s the team producing the next film in the Eastwood legacy of western epics, the art at this boutique hotel simply makes good horse sense. Seen here, Producer/Director Lawrence Roeck and Executive Producer Shana Wilson had just arrived from Longview……where they met with John Scott, Clint Eastwood’s wrangler from Unforgiven, among many other IMDB-worthy accomplishments too long to list here. But does that little Brad Pitt flick Legends of the Fall ring a bell?Let’s just say when Hell on Wheels needs saddles, John Scott has a loaner or three. Between rustling props from farms in the foothills to moseying through this art-laden lobby in the heart of Calgary…
… pre-production on the feature starring Clint Eastwood’s son Scott is keeping Lawrence busy. Meanwhile, at Hotel Art’s new Yellow Door Bistro, Ennio Morricone isn’t part of the DJ selects, but Lawrence does his best Good, Bad and Ugly anyway — under the watchful eye of yet another equestrian objet d’art.Maintaining LA standards, we paired Dungeness Crab Salad with St. Supery Sauv Blanc. Food not visible because we gobbled it all up. It was a very serious meeting. Which led to a very serious article on creative financing.
Afterwards, I went out front to collect my ride from the valet…… the bike, not the Bentley. And discovered another thirst-quenching service touch.Thanks, Hotel Arts! Diablo starts filming in Alberta early 2014. Dress, Diane von Furstenberg.