PaperCity Magazine

June 2018- Dallas

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Clockwise from left: Texas Polo saddles. England-made bits. Owner Vinnie Meyer. Texas Polo whips made in England; horse blankets woven by a heritage mill built in 1850. Texas Polo's plastic balls. Throws woven at a heritage mill. Mallets made by hand in Florida. 61 first, converting players from wood to plastic," admits Meyer. "Mostly it was gradual, and through word of mouth." In 1976, Meyer began distributing his plastic polo balls under the Texas Polo label and manufacturing them from the same Brownwood facility as his lawn equipment. Charles Smith, a retired semi-pro and member of the USPA Hall of Fame, started using Meyer's plastic balls after Meyer gave him one to try. "I never went back to a wooden ball," Smith says. While other makers of plastic polo balls followed, "Vinnie's are still the ones all the high-goal players want," he says. Today, Texas Polo balls are the official ball of the United States Polo Association and are used at clubs around the world, including the royal Guards Polo Club at Windsor Castle. For Meyer, polo balls were just the tip. Forty years ago, there was limited access to quality polo equipment — the best U.S. distributor, he recalls, was in Long Island. Soon he began selling classic wool saddle blankets, double-woven at an heirloom mill in Brownwood. And when a prized set of English knitted leg wraps for his horses finally wore out, Meyer had a special knitting machine built in North Carolina and shipped to Brownwood so he could make them himself to sell. By the late '70s, Texas Polo's business was growing quickly, spurred along by Dallas' growing enthusiasm for the sport, in large part due to Norman Brinker. Meyer got out of the lawn-manufacturing business and moved his young family to Dallas. With the same intense level of research he put into making his revolutionary polo ball, Meyer began designing saddles, whips, bridles, mallets, and other tack. He consulted with top players to make tweaks to his designs, and in 1982 he brought those designs to England — to source the best artisans to make them. Texas Polo saddles, which cost $2,800, are handmade from cowhide and pigskin in the English village of Walsall, where the world's best saddles are made. Walsall's Society of Master Saddlers bestowed Texas Polo with first prize, the only time a polo saddle has received such an honor, says Meyer. Texas Polo is also known for its hand-forged stainless steel, copper, and bronze bits made in England; boots handmade in Texas and Nebraska; personalized jerseys; and mallets handmade in Florida by an Argentine polo player. Adolfo Cambiaso and Facundo Pieres, considered the best polo players in the world, have endorsed and used Texas Polo saddles for years, and Prince Charles, Sam Shepherd, William Devane, and Tommy Lee Jones have numbered among Meyer's high- profile customers. Meyer, who is nearing 80, gave up playing polo years ago. But he remains a fixture at polo clubs and matches around the globe, where he continues to be inspired by suggestions and requests from polo players. A small Texas Polo storefront in the West End also functions as a distribution center for website and phone orders, which are on the uptick with the economy, he says. But devoted customers still pay personal visits, as did one player from Uruguay who recently stopped stopped by while in town. The entrepreneur who once conceived the world's best polo ball from a plastic fertilizer hopper, and parlayed his fervor for the sport into a thriving global enterprise, never thinks about retiring. "I still love it," Meyer says. "I look forward to coming in every morning."

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