PaperCity Magazine

June 2018- Dallas

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Clockwise from top: Legends Horse Ranch owner Ignacio "Nacho" Estrada. Horses being walked during a recent tournament at Legends. Pro polo player and Legends instructor Wyatt Myr. Robert Payne Jr. and Wyatt Myr during a match at Willow Bend. 59 the sport, and the numbers of patróns, or sponsors, footing the bill for players and teams, dwindles. In 2017, the USPA registered 5,000 polo players nationwide, and 597 throughout the southwest. In Dallas, only about 80 people play polo, "And that includes anyone with a horse and mallet knocking the ball around a field," says USPA member Vincent Meyer, who has been supplying equipment to players for 42 years through his Dallas-based company, Texas Polo. Several factors play into those numbers, and chief among them is the cost. Getting started can set you back a minimum of $100,000 for tack, a trailer, and four horses. Accessibility is another factor, with most local polo facilities located far north of town, where development has migrated and the traffic-snarled journey to play, take lessons, or watch a game can take hours. L ongtime polo pro I g n a c i o "Nacho" Estrada is bucking all those challenges at his newly opened Legends Horse Ranch, 33 miles southeast of downtown Dallas in Kaufman. Estrada bought the land because of its proximity to downtown and the Park Cities, where most of his customers live and work. The trip along US 175 takes about 35 minutes, and a bit longer at rush hour, notes Estrada, who commutes each day from Highland Park, where he lives with his wife Kimberly Pearcy, the ranch's manager. "The location is important," he says. "People can jump in their cars after work and be here really quickly." The 34-acre facility is a full-service boarding polo and hunter-jumper equestrian center, with 140 stalls, trailer hookups for big events, and a five-room farmhouse for rent. In addition to a grass polo field and outdoor arena, Legends offers a covered arena and race track, amenities not many centers in Texas have. "We're multi-use for polo, hunter jumper and Western performance horse shows, dressage, extreme cowboy racing, and boarding and overnight stays," says Estrada, who has a varied background in horsemanship. Born in Mexico City, he started riding at age six and later became a charro — or cowboy. At 16, he became a hunter-jumper competitor, and taught for 20 years in Mexico City. Estrada picked up polo 15 years ago when he moved to Cancun, where he started the Yucatan Peninsula's first polo school and club. He moved to Dallas three years ago when he married, playing polo at private farms such as Margaritaville Polo Club in Burleson. Polo is at the heart of Estrada's mission at Legends, with a focus on keeping the sport alive by teaching and training new players. "Most clubs focus on people who already know how to play," he says. "The gap between young and old players is very big around the world. There are almost no kids, and hardly any in their 30s." To bridge the gap, Legends h i r e d t w o i n s t r u c t o r s , i n c l u d i n g Gordon Lamb from England, who teaches the basics of riding and jumping. Visiting in- structors also teach clinics in polo and other disciplines of horsemanship. When students are ready, they graduate to classes taught by Estrada or Wyatt Myr, a pro player and farrier. Myr was a state champion barrel racer growing up in Michigan, and took up polo in college. "I was hooked immediately on the speed and the fun of polo," he says. After college, he spent years competing professionally with teams along the East Coast. He moved to Dallas 10 years ago to help run the Polo Training Foundation, a national organization established in 1967 to promote clinics and interscholastic and collegiate polo. The PTF, which was located on a ranch in Burleson, closed in 2010 during the recession. "The economy hurt polo, and the last decade has been a rebuilding time across the country," Myr says. "At Legends, we're trying to grow new players and teach them how to play safely." One of Estrada's goals is to make polo affordable by providing everything students need, including trained polo ponies, saddles, tack, chaps, helmets, and other equipment. Lessons are $75 each, or 10 lessons for $500. Next year, group camps for children will be offered. But the future of the sport may lay in arena polo, a newer, fast-paced version of the ancient outdoor game. Popular around the world for its speed, arena polo is also easier on the pocketbook, since the game can be played with only two horses. In the U.S., interscholastic and intercollegiate polo is played strictly in the arena, and Legends has already hosted the Texas arena league. The arena is where all Legends' new students learn to play polo, says Estrada, because it's much easier in an enclosed environment. Care is taken t o e n s u r e s t u d e n t s are strong riders before tackling polo on the field. "Polo is difficult and takes effort and skill," says Estrada. "Everyone wants to play fast, but if you teach it the right way, and mix good technique with fun, people stay interested." The center's graduated teaching methods and coaching new players has roots in the USPA's "step-up" program, pioneered by Norman Brinker four decades ago at Willow Bend. Estrada is banking on the idea that Dallas' love affair with polo that started with Brinker never really went away. "There's still the money and the interest here for polo," Estrada says. "The key is to make it available to people who want to play."

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