Nothing beats the thrill of horseback riding. Thousands of years of human history, from the Mongol nomads to the Native American tribes of the Great Plains, should prove enough why it remained a hot sport. The wind blowing past the ears, the landscape changing right before the eyes, all while astride an animal so loved and trusted. Gus Aguirre’s family knows this feeling well—but for the longest time, he didn’t.
Growing up with a grandfather who raised racehorses and a father who didn’t just play Polo, but also owned a Polo club of his own, Gus lived around horses for as long as he remembers: “I was six years old when I started riding, and I played my first Polo game at 12. Riding horses was so normal for me. I didn’t really appreciate it, I didn’t enjoy it so much, and I felt like that was what my dad was pushing me to do. I wanted to go and do other things, like play football,” he tells ABS-CBN Lifestyle.
Gus’ naturally competitive spirit pushed him to excel at football, where he began making his name with the Makati Football Club as a young boy, going on to play twice in Europe for the Gothia Cup. He also played as a midfielder for the Zobel Junior Archers in high school, and had high hopes to keep this up until he tore an ACL twice. He was then forced to retire from football.
But the same champion spirit still burned inside Gus, and so with his father’s encouragement, he decided to pick up the polo mallet again. Being left-handed made adjusting to the game especially difficult for him, since “In polo, you can only hold the mallet in your right hand. If you’re left-handed, which I am, you just have to suck it up. That’s probably why it was so discouraging for me in the beginning.”
Gus’ improvement came in little steps, but with his dad behind him, Gus managed to improve—“After many days of me going up to my dad and saying, ‘I suck, I don’t want to play this,’ but still staying in the sport and keeping it at it, I eventually moved to Australia in 2012 when I started to take it seriously. That was when I started to excel, and I was able to start playing professionally in Australia.”
Gus began to work up the ranks in Polo from there, where he began with a handicap of 0 (beginners to Polo play with a handicap of -2, and the best players in the world are ranked at 10), and eventually made his way up to his current ranking of 4. In those eight years, Gus competed in some major Australian tournaments, qualifying toward the finals of some of them as well, such as the 2017 Melbourne Cup, or the Australian Open.
Yet, to Gus, these didn’t close to competing in the SEA Games. “It’s a really big deal for me, because it’s amazing to have more support than you normally would playing for a club team. When you’re with a club team, you just have the support from the people involved in the club you’re playing for, while playing for the Philippines has the whole nation behind you. I think that’s pretty special,” he muses.
Competing at that level, however, isn’t enough to satisfy him. Gus wishes that he was able to win all the way and come home with a gold. Right now, he already has his sights set on farther goals. Returning to Australia to train more is high on his priorities, and he hopes to keep competing and training until he can reach a handicap of 7 or 8, and eventually follow his father’s footsteps and compete in tournaments in Europe as well.
In his own personal life, too, Gus has been hard at work, joining his father at the reins of the Aguirre’s many businesses, which include real estate, radio, and even a cemetery. He sums up so much of his life best when he talks about it like this: “To be good at something, you have to dedicate a lot of time at it. Right now, my focus is Polo, but when I finish, I’d like to get involved and try to do better with the family business.”
On Gus: Hoodie, adidas
Produced by Camille Santiago | Photography by Vyn Radovan | Grooming by Muriel Vega Perez and Team MVP | Hair by Francis Guintu of Aveda Philippines | Styling by Aldrin Ramos | Special thanks to WeWork Philippines, Aveda, and Teriyaki Boy | Shot on location at WeWork Philippines, Menarco Tower, BGC