Polo playing veterinarian riding high in Ocala

OCALA, Fla. – After being dark for about 15 years, the Ocala Polo Club is back in full swing. Lauren Proctor-Brown is the Director of Operations, handling finance and marketing, schedules and coaching. She’s affectionately known as the Master of All Things, or the ‘MOAT.’ Proctor-Brown does all of that, plus another important job in Marion County.  

What You Need To Know

The Ocala Polo Club is back after being in the dark for the last 15 years
Dr. Lauren Proctor-Brown helped revive the club and also cares for horses as a veterinarian
The club has now grown to about 50 riders

After being revived in 2020, the Ocala Polo Club’s off and running. Lauren Proctor-Brown brought her passion for all things horses and channeled it into this new group. 

“We’re now at year two of hosting a full winter season and it’s growing like gangbusters and it’s really exciting,” said Ocala Polo Club Director of Operations, Lauren Proctor-Brown. 

The club’s grown to about 50 riders. And in polo, Lauren says the relationship between the player and their horse involves a different bond that brings them closer together.

“The horse is having an inner horse conversation while we’re out there but we’re also having a horse and rider conversation at the same time,” said Proctor-Brown. “It’s really more free than other horse sports like jumping.” 

They played the match on an area the size of nine football fields, so there’s plenty of room to let loose. 

“It’s an incredibly difficult sport. It’s marrying riding a horse and swinging a mallet. It’s commonly called, trying to play golf during an earthquake,” said Proctor-Brown. 

After practice, it’s time to relax and refocus. 

“These guys get a lot of attention, so it’s time to spend some attention on myself, I guess,” said Proctor-Brown.

Lauren’s not only impressive on a horse. She also rowed in high school and then for Louisville. But being a D1 athlete pushed her body to its limits. 

“I pushed through admittedly too much and it was a big life lesson to learn you could do so much harm to yourself in pursuit of your dreams,” said Proctor-Brown.

She now has arthritis in her back, and multiple bulged discs. The injuries led to 15 steroid injections and six sensory nerves cut, giving her a new outlook. 

“Can’t give anything to the club, I can’t give anything to my players, I can’t give anything to my own horses or other people’s horses,” said Proctor-Brown. “If I want to have that much to give I have to fill up my own fuel tank.” 

In between taking better care of herself, Dr. Lauren also cares for horses throughout the Ocala area. 

“I don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a vet. It’s written in my baby book. It’s what I wanted to be when I grew up,” said Proctor-Brown.

Lauren says being around horses at a young age taught her how to work hard and be grateful. Then she continued that through school. 

“I went to a school that had an equine business program because even vets are in a business to keep your horses healthy,” said Proctor-Brown. “Worked really hard in college and I had a double major in business and biology.” 

After graduating from Louisville, she got her doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Cornell. 

“My clients appreciate that we take a really well-rounded approach to the horse. We’ll do adjustments as well as acupuncture to keep their horses fit,” said Proctor-Brown.

The vet uses a lot of preventative medicine and techniques on these high-level athletes. 

“There’s a lot of pressure to keep someone’s animal in perfect shape, in perfect condition so they can compete,” said Proctor-Brown.

Cayla Van Der Walt is one of Lauren’s clients, and she’s also a Paralympian in dressage.

“My horse is obviously a top athlete, so I want the best for him, so in order for me to do that I need to put a lot of trust in my vet,” said Paralympian Cayla Van Der Walt.  “We’ve become pretty much family at this point, with all the problems my horses have given her.” 

Those relationships with her clients and their horses make everything worth it for Lauren. 

“When I dreamt of this, I don’t think I ever imagined how hard it would be. Nor did I imagine how incredible it would be,” said Proctor-Brown.

Back at Florida Horse Park, Lauren’s riding high, watching the polo club grow and succeed. 

“I think it’s really becoming what we wanted, which was a really local club that really was what the people wanted to do and was fun,” said Proctor-Brown.

And she hopes to enjoy the sport for years to come. 

“We’ve got the strategy and the team side down, I mean it just hooks you cause it’s got everything a horse kid could want,” said Proctor-Brown.

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