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Faintly, at first, came the boom-cha-boom-boom ... boom-cha-boom-boom. The $500 black Taurus and the dented pickup turned off the country road and cut through pastures framed by white fences--rolling thunder drawing nearer and louder until even the party boys on the picnic blankets near the playing field turned to see what was coming.
So begins one of the best pieces of equestrian journalism that you'll never read. That's one of the lead sentences to Gary Smith's unforgettable article, The Ride Of Their Lives, published in Sports Illustrated back in 2004. It takes ten web pages to capture it all, but if you want to see just how interesting an article centered on horses can be, have a read.
Polo makes the news today, and not because there has been a special medical development or any sort of tragedy related to the game. The opposite is true. Polo? has been doing something very good. It's as if someone, somewhere finally read Gary Smith's article.
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Nacho in slo-mo: he rides a 180-degree turn. Note: no equestrian looks good in slo-mo!
Nacho--who is known as much for being a model for Ralph Lauren and a sidekick to Oprah as he is for his polo ability--went urban last week. But the suavest of the suave wasn't just posing with Manhattan skyscrapers in the background. He was posing next to someone who never expected to be at his side.
New York's new Liberty State Park hosted its first ever polo match and charity event:? the swanky Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic. The celebrity power of Nacho and his Argentine entourage attracted 6,000 people, an impressive list of celebrities and raised money for a charity that has so much--and yet so little--in common with high goal polo and glittering charity events.
Among the special guests was a young polo player named Kareem Rosser. He would play alongside Nachos? on the famed Black Watch team. On that day, a young man from the wrong sort of neighborhood in Philadelphia would be in the toniest location in New York with one of the world's most glamorous fashion icons. And everyone would know his name.
The beneficiary of the event was a little known program in Philadelphia's Fairmount park. It's called Work to Ride and it has the most unusual and almost unthinkable way of bringing together inner city kids and horses. Just ask Kareem Rosser.
Work to Ride is a polo program for underprivileged inner city youth. Their barn is home to the first all African-American polo team. They started in 1999, driving to local matches in a beat up old car, so poetically painted in our mind by Gary Smith. But fast forward to 2011, when Work to Ride's team won the National Interscholastic Polo Championship. And they won it again this year, too.
Work to Ride is exemplary in that it is bringing together horses and urban kids in the most unusual of sports--the game of kings. But it is by far not the only urban-based program to give kids access to horses. Taking the Reins is a non-profit organization in Los Angeles that involves teenage girls in horse care and riding. I'm sure there are many more programs around the country fighting for some publicity, while Work to Ride basks in the attention that coverage like Sixty Minutes, CNN, ESPN and Sports Illustrated bring.
Let's say good-bye and thank you to Nacho with a video from his attempt to teach Conan O'Brien how to play polo:
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It's nice to see that two superstars can have some fun on horseback--and not take themselves too seriously. There's a lesson, right there!