Story courtesy of Lisa Iannucci for www.getmoresports.com
Ashley Busch is a competitive polo player, model, global ambassador of the U.S. Polo Assn., and an entrepreneur. At the age of five, Busch found her love for riding and, in 2011, began her career as a member of the U.S. Eastern Circuit Polo team. She also is a model represented by Wilhelmina Models, where she is best-known as the face of U.S. Polo Assn. as their global brand ambassador and has been featured in several global campaigns.
Recently, Busch turned another of her passions for swimwear into a business by collaborating with La Isla’s Founder and CEO, Enrique Sanchez-Rivera. In the spring, she will launch this new “beachy chic” collection with a portion of the proceeds donated to various causes. If her last name sounds familiar, it’s because Busch is also married to NASCAR champion Kurt Busch.
What was it about polo that drew you to play when you were younger?
I started riding at age five where I showed hunters. Riding and horses have always been a passion of mine. What drew me to polo was the fact that it was a team sport. The speed of the game was exciting, the comradery was fantastic and overall it was different than what I had experienced in the show ring.
Why play competitively? Where does this competitive side of you come from?
I grew up playing all kinds of sports, so I have always been a competitive person. Both my dad and brother were also athletes so that instilled a natural competitiveness in me from a young age. My brother played lacrosse and soccer, and my dad was a professional sailboat racer and football player in high school. Throughout most of my childhood, my father and grandfather would compete across the country in sail boating competitions, so I have a competitive spirit that was just part of the family.
Polo isn’t as popular in America as it is in other countries. What do you think needs to change to make it more popular?
Polo isn’t as popular in the United States because we have so many other sports that are more prominent, such as basketball, football and baseball. Not only that, but there are less North American players than South American or Mexican ones. In order to expand the audience, it needs to become more mainstream. Attaching a good cause to an exhibition would be a great way to encourage people all over the world to watch polo, which can help teach more people about the game in general. As society understands the game more, televising polo can become more common.
You have been quoted as saying, “My goal with that is to represent women as a whole and show them that polo is a coed sport…If you put your mind to it, you can do anything men can.” I love this, but again, women aren’t into polo here like in other countries. What are you doing to draw attention to the sport for women?
While the ratio of women who play polo in each country remains constant, the number of women that participate in games is something that needs to improve. Women aren’t at the forefront of the sport, and that is what I am trying to break through. My goal, in general, is to obtain more viewers for the game, and show women that they can be successful in any career, even if it is male-dominated.
Then you have the modeling side of your life. What was it about modeling that made you want to pursue that as a career?
It was never something I planned on pursuing, actually. My work with U.S. Polo Assn. enticed me to look into that aspect. The more I did it, the more I learned what brands would represent my interests and myself best, and now it is something that gives me an opportunity to be a positive role model for women. Now I love it since I’m able to authentically represent something that I love and want to stand for.
With everything you have going on, including your new swimwear business, how do you find the time to workout and stay in shape?
Working out has always been part of my life, and something I always had to do to stay at the top of my sport. Exercising is just permanently engrained in my schedule. I don’t necessarily fit it in, I view it as an activity I have to do. Plus, I find it important to always make time to spend on yourself.
You’re married to a pro racecar driver and that’s a dangerous profession. How does it feel when you know he’s racing and anything can go wrong?
The first few races I ever watched, one of them being at Daytona, I was in complete shock with the amount of wrecks. Ten cars could be wiped out in a matter of seconds. But, as I began to learn, I saw drivers get up and walk away from the crashes all the time with no injuries. I started to understand more about the technology of the car, and just how incredibly safe each one is. In all reality, being in a car like that is safer than playing polo, seeing as a helmet is the only gear we have to protect us.
What kind of advice would you give to someone about traveling and staying fit?
Make sure you take time out of each day to do at least one thing. You don’t have to be in a gym to burn calories. You could do simple tasks like walking your dog, doing sit-ups in the park, or going for a bike ride. Although, in some cases, it is okay to have a few days off so you don’t overwork yourself, but in that time, it’s important to eat healthy to avoid backtracking.
Why start another business? Also, you are donating part of your proceeds, which is great. To what?
My reason for starting a swimwear business is simple: I have always had a passion for swimwear and fashion. Throughout my life, I have collected swimwear and still do to this day. As for donations, I haven’t decided yet. I am currently going back and forth on which method is best; switching charities every month or letting the buyer decide which charity they want to donate to.
Besides Kurt, can you name five other athletes you admire and why?
Steph Curry: I love having the opportunity to watch him play. Curry has a unique poise and finesse on the court and fantastic sportsmanship, and has presented himself as a great role model that has changed the game of basketball.
Serena and Venus Williams: Nobody can really argue that they are two icons of tennis that represent women being able to stay at the top of their game and dominate. They have set such a high standard for women’s athletics that I’m always challenging myself to match.
Nacho Figueras: He doubles as a star polo player and the face of Ralph Lauren. I’m grateful to his efforts of helping to make polo mainstream through charity events and attracting bigger crowds to games just for the fact that people want to see him.
Sunny Hale: The best female polo player in the world in her prime. She was the first woman to win the U.S. Open and was the highest-rated woman of her era. So many people, including myself, saw her as a role model that broke the common mold.
Brandon Phillips: He’s a consistent teammate of mine, as well as a leukemia survivor. As one of the top players in the sport, Brandon is a successful representation of what can happen when you never give up, regardless of the situation you are given. He is definitely an inspiration to me.