From Belgium to Argentina, then back to Europe and finally settling himself in America, Horace Henriot traveled the world while riding a horse and stick and balling. A former 4-goal player, Henriot grew up in Antwerp and started playing polo at the age of 13 motivated by the many Argentine players who lived in his city during the 90s. His desire to improve brought him to South America and, after a 10-year hiatus living in Europe, Horace’s love for the game resurfaced while sharing his passion with his children. Love took him to Columbus, Ohio, the home of his wife, and it was there where he decided to teach polo. That’s how Henriot founded the Play Polo Club (Westerville, Ohio) in 2013. “I had no intention of building a club,” Henriot told CLICKPOLO. “I just wanted to teach people how to play and that’s why I named my place Play Polo.”
In just the first year, over 200 people in the Columbus area tried polo, and 20 of those people began taking regular lessons, including some who bought polo ponies. Things can change quickly and when Columbus Polo Club, the only polo club in the city, shut down, Play Polo changed into Play Polo Club. Henriot shared, “Columbus had around 15 players and that’s how we started. Their president, John Albers, who is also our USPA Delegate, was instrumental for us. When we arrived, he gave us horses so we could start and when the club closed, he came to play with us. He is a great person [and] a true polo ambassador.”
The Play Polo Club has a 30-acre ranch, pony lines for around 30 horses and 30 members who play on four polo fields: Los Gemelos and South of Zero in Westerville, Ohio, the Ackley Polo Field in Gahanna, Ohio, and the Great Lawn of Bryn Du in Granville, Ohio. Their season runs from the end of May until September and their highest level of play is 6-goal tournaments.
Play Polo Club’s season runs from the end of May until September and features tournaments up to the 6-goal level. ©Play Polo Club
Five years ago, Play Polo Club paired up with the Puesto Viejo Polo Club in Cañuelas, Argentina, which gave them the opportunity to hire some of their pro players during August. Henriot remarked, “During those months, we play the Pro-Am leagues. It’s a pro pool where half of the club pays to play with the pros. Every weekend, we organize a new cup and the pros play with different teams. They also practice with us and give polo clinics. We find this is an affordable way to play with a professional and improve your game, plus the people who don’t pay can continue playing with no pressure.” This year, besides the two pros from Puesto Viejo, Matías González, who was born in Columbus, was there for two weeks. Pleased with the outcome, Henriot added, “It’s an experience we are going to repeat.”
The vision of Play Polo Club is to make entry into the polo world as easy as possible in order to grow the sport in the greater Columbus area. Services such as having your horse tacked up and ready (Park & Play), horse transportation, finding your ideal polo pony, and sourcing polo equipment make this possible. The Play Polo Farm boards many of the polo ponies and the polo fields are ready, safe and beautiful. A solid organization working behind the scenes makes it possible for players to simply enjoy the great game of polo. “We also value giving back and leveraging polo for the greater good through hosting charity polo matches and offering service opportunities,” noted Horace.
Play Polo Club is also a member of the United States Polo Association and a multi-year award recipient of a USPA Polo Development Initiative grant.
In just the first year, over 200 people in the Columbus area tried polo, and 20 of those people began taking regular lessons, including some who bought polo ponies. ©Jen Risch
THE ALLIANCE WITH PUESTO VIEJO IN ARGENTINA
Horace Henriot talked with CLICKPOLO in Puesto Viejo, in Cañuelas, Argentina. This city in the outskirts of Buenos Aires is the home of some of the best polo organizations in the world like La Dolfina and La Natividad and has become one of the key polo spots in Argentina in recent years.
Puesto Viejo was founded by Jeremy Baker, an Englishman who visited Buenos Aires in the 90s, fell in love with the city, and left London to establish his club in 2003. Like many others, Henriot is in Argentina to improve his game alongside his older son Alec, who has a 1-goal handicap and will stay during the whole season pursuing his dream of becoming a professional polo player.
For any alliance to work, it must be to the benefit of both clubs. While there are obviously many Argentine players employed abroad, Puesto Viejo and Play Polo have found a more financially stable way for clubs to have better Argentine players playing in the United States during the season. Because Puesto Viejo has a hotel inside club grounds and over 70 horses in its polo school, the club can host U.S. guests for polo holidays or clinics.
Henriot explained, “We started with a week of polo holiday experience in Argentina and have extended now to polo tournaments for our more experienced players who want to take part in tournaments and not just practices. As our members are usually very busy, they leave Ohio on Thursday, practice on Friday, play a tournament during the weekend and return home on Sunday night.”
A solid organization working behind the scenes makes it possible for players to simply enjoy the great game of polo. ©Play Polo Club
This keeps Play Polo members involved in the sport when they cannot play during the winter in Ohio. In return, during the winter in Argentina, Puesto Viejo now sends two higher handicapped players to Ohio every year to help teach and improve the level of the practices and tournaments.
This Argentine/U.S. alliance has helped the sport of polo in central Ohio. Play Polo Club hosted their first Pro-Am league this August with the support of Puesto Viejo Polo Club. Play Polo also buys most of their horses from Puesto Viejo. Henriot shared, “The horses from Argentina are ideal for people new to the sport because they are easy to handle and I find it is also important to help the Argentine polo economy in order to continue to grow.” He continued, “I think this is something other clubs from America can replicate. Prices are very reasonable, and polo is great. Our members fell in love with polo and the polo culture and return to Ohio willing to keep improving.”
Henriot and his son, Alec, have also taken additional efforts to make Argentine polo ponies accessible to the polo community through the creation of “Argentine Polo Ponies.” Well-accustomed to matching horses with riders, the duo works to scout horses from Argentina and connect them with players looking for ponies. Those interested can visit Argentine Polo Ponies to learn more.PLAY POLO CLUB