Horses have been a part of Susan Harris’ life since she was just 4.
She has been riding horses that long.
The first horse the former Poway resident owned was named Major when she was 13.
“I wished for a horse that first Christmas after I fell in love with them,” Harris said. “I cleaned corrals, sold user cars, babysat, anything to make money to get my own horse.
“I discovered I had to keep working because horses are expensive friends,” she added.
Her love affair with horses blossomed into so much more and continues to grow decades later.
From the White Horse Polo Ranch in Escondido, which she owns and operates, Harris is breaking down the barrier between people and horses.
The younger she can bring someone in contact with one of the eight horses — Lulu, Gusty, Rebel, Rio, Max, Harriet, Pele, Dulce and Mercedes — at her ranch, the better.
Her passion is still riding horses — her horse is named Mercedes — but has become more than just riding.
Harris is one of growing number of women in the country and around the world playing polo, a sport mostly played by men for decades. Places where she plays include the Poway Valley Riders Association grounds.
The horseback ball game is played between two teams on a field trying to score by hitting a small ball with a long-handled wooden mallet while riding a horse.
For Harris, who said she was hooked on polo after watching just one match in Lakeside, polo allows her to spend even more time with her precious horses while also enjoying the sport of polo.
Most matches consist of four chukkas, which would be like four quarters, with each chukka lasting 7 1/2 minutes. Sometimes, a match could consist of six chukkas.
“You better be ready to play for an hour,” summed up Harris.Newsletter
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Last June, polo took Harris to a new place. She was invited by the American Polo Association to Morocco for an all-women polo tournament.
The journey to Morocco took several days, starting from San Diego and going to New York, where she needed to take a COVID test before proceeding to Barcelona, Spain, and concluding the trek in Tangiers.
“I got vaccinated in New York and I took a million masks with me on the trip,” Harris said, laughing.
Spreading the word on polo in general, and about women’s polo specifically, is Harris’ mission statement, just on a larger scale beyond North County.
“My motto is polo is for everyone,” Harris said. “Horses are amazing.
“Plain old riding is definitely not as much fun as playing polo,” she said. “Once new kids, a lot of whom get started with lessons paid for by grandparents, get used to how big the horses are by walking alongside of them and then riding them, then it’s time to see if they want to give polo a try.”
Harris said her favorite souvenirs from Morocco were a hat from the Marrakech Polo Club and a headdress for Mercedes.
Most times when Harris plays, it’s mostly in a game with men.
“There are now more women playing polo than ever,” said Harris, who majored in applied math with concentration in scientific programming plus minors in astrophysics, music theory and composition from UC San Diego. “In the past, women had to dress as men to play polo.
“The tournament in Morocco was a good will tour to advance women in polo around the world. It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing for me,” she said. “It took a long time to fly over to Morocco, but it was well worth it for me.”
Mainly the trip was worth it because she spent even more time with horses.