Serving the polo community nationally as a traveling clinician, USPA Certified Polo Instructor, and the only female USPA Professional Umpire (arena and outdoor), Robin Sanchez is also actively involved in the USPA Equine Welfare Committee, educating owners on horsemanship and advocating for polo ponies. Nominated for her years of dedication, Sanchez became the third woman honored with the 2018 Clint Nangle Equine Welfare Award during the USPA/Polo Training Foundation awards ceremony at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington, Florida. First awarded to Clint Nangle in 2014, this national award is presented annually to highlight an individual who dedicates their time and energy to caring and advocating for our equine partners.
Growing up in Texas, she currently resides in the Northeast of the state in the small community of Winnsboro, Sanchez was first introduced to horses through rodeo and western events. Exploring other equestrian disciplines as a child including jumping and dressage, Sanchez ultimately committed to focusing on polo as her father Buzz Welker managed Willow Bend Polo Club in Little Elm, Texas. Over the years Sanchez learned from prominent polo coaches and instructors including Billy and Corky Linfoot, Jeff Atkinson, Graham Thomas, Rege Ludwig and Ronnie Tongg. She combined that knowledge with her strongest horsemanship influences in the late Ray Hunt, dressage trainer Kathy Connelly, and her husband Ricardo who also trains horses.
Over the course of her impressive career Sanchez has assumed many different roles as diverse as her riding background, coaching several Intercollegiate/Interscholastic (I/I) teams and managing polo clubs and polo schools all across the country. Spending many years as a Field Director for the Polo Training Foundation (PTF), Sanchez ran and coached the PTF’s Florida Junior Polo Program from 2000 until 2007 and Brushy Creek Polo Ranch in Burleson, Texas for the following three years. A well-rounded horseperson, Sanchez is also a Hurlingham Polo Association certified overseas polo instructor, a Certified Horsemanship Association Master Instructor and clinician, and Professional Horseman with the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA).
“I think in equine welfare one of the most important aspects is people becoming more educated on how to care for their animals. It’s about recognizing that horses all have individual needs and are at different levels. The care regime for a horse that is playing the 20-goal is not the same as a horse playing 2-goal polo.” – Robin Sanchez
Having met Sanchez over 10 years ago, president and delegate of Texas Military Polo Club Karl Hilberg, recalls that from all their interactions the main theme which always stood out was her emphasis on taking care of the horses. “Her obvious love, knowledge and concern for the real athlete in our sport, our horses, comes through every time you meet Robin,” Hilberg said. “She teaches you about how to care for them, manage them, and determine if they have any health issues.” Working alongside Sanchez during an arena polo clinic at Brushy Creek, Hilberg observed her ease and proficiency for teaching I/I students to properly care for their horses. “I think in equine welfare one of the most important aspects is people becoming more educated on how to care for their animals,” Sanchez said. “It’s about recognizing that horses all have individual needs and are at different levels. The care regime for a horse that is playing the 20-goal is not the same as a horse playing 2-goal polo.” A passionate ambassador for all horses at all levels, Sanchez expresses her greatest appreciation and respect for polo school and I/I horses whose patience allow for hundreds of people to be introduced to riding and polo every year.
Centered in the importance of horsemanship, Sanchez’s philosophy and experience has enabled her to educate countless others and make a positive impact on the quality of horses’ lives. “This award in my opinion is one of the most important that could be given out because the horses are everything in our sport,” Sanchez exclaimed. “It not only recognizes the person, but it recognizes horses and I think the horses are so important and such a big aspect of what we do.”