Nov 30, 2020 3:07 PM
“I believe in the planning and preparation process.” – Maureen Brennan
Women’s polo keeps growing, with many important tournaments around the world. While the Argentine Open is about to start, the Texas Women’s Open recently took place at Houston Polo Club (Houston, Texas). Four teams of up to 20 goals played for the title and in the end Maureen Brennan’s Iconica proved to be the best.
“I believe in the planning and preparation process. I always expect to reach a final and know I can win as long as I am in the final. The reason I say this is because that is how I plan everything…from the last day of the tournament, which is the final, back to the time we put the team together months, if not longer, in advance. How and when to start the horses, shoeing schedule, thinking about team strategy far in advance, organizing practices, best group of the string to play at time games arrive… all of the details,” Maureen told CLICKPOLO.
Maureen’s involvement with horses started when she was very young as an amateur show jumper when she was unexpectedly introduced to polo. “I began playing in 2001 after an invitation to do an exhibition match 'Show Jumpers with Mallets' at Great Meadow Polo Club near my farm in Middleburg, Virginia. I had such an incredibly fun time and huge adrenaline rush playing that little exhibition that I made a decision the following season in Wellington [Florida] to sell all of my show jumpers and just play polo.”
Maureen relocated to Florida in 2018 in what was a new chapter in her life, and she changed her team’s name from Goose Creek to Iconica. “It is also an entity to purchase investment horses with my father Donald Brennan and Mariano Gonzalez. And it is also the name of my polo facility in Wellington. I wanted a word that was meaningful in both English and Spanish and could be pronounced the same.”
Do you admire anyone in polo?
"This could be a big list but I will keep it brief: I admire every player that gives 110% every game. Adolfo Cambiaso, I admire him for his genius and ability to evolve in the moment and for the long term. He is a revolutionary. He always seems to be four steps ahead of everyone just like he is on the field. Sunny Hale, I admire Sunny because she approached this as I see life….not as a woman playing a man’s sport but as a polo player/horse person trying to be the best through personal effort and surrounding yourself with the best. The kids who play with freedom, that is what I really need to improve in my own game, not overthinking."
"I played the Texas Women’s Open with Madi Outhier who is 18 years old and who I have known since she was about two. Kylie Sheehan* who is a good friend, and I have known Hope Arellano* since she was a young girl so this was like playing with my nieces.
Her mother Kristy Outhier is a very good friend. Kristy reached out to me early summer to play with Madi as it was going to be Madi’s last year living at home and having the opportunity to play the Texas Women's Open and Madi really wanted to do this with me which made me feel very honored.
We entered this tournament with confidence knowing that we all would be self-mounted on very good strings. We are fortunate to stable and live together at the amazing Outhier Ranch. We were additionally fortunate to have Julio Arellano in our camp along with Kristy to be our coaches. They were both incredible in sharing their wisdom, insight and hugely positive support which all translates to even more confidence as a team.
What are the most important tournaments you have played?
"Starting further back I would say the 2006 USPA Gold Cup® in Aiken, South Carolina, when we went to overtime in the finals against New Bridge/La Dolfina. That year Cambiaso won everything around the world and we were the only team to even bring him to overtime. To this day it is still one of my favorite teams, games and group of friends: Adam Snow, Mariano Gonzalez and Martin Zegers.
Since 2006, I have won the WCT [Women's Championship Tournament] Finals and the U.S. Open Women's Polo Championship® several times and those are important to me as I approached every one of those tournaments with an organized plan as I would any prestigious 'mixed' tournament. And I always played with friends, people I admire and respect; Sunny Hale and Kristy Outhier as the base of those teams. Winning the Silver Cup® multiple times (Adam Snow, Martin Zegers, Cote Zegers) was also memorable and at the time we were the only team to win it back-to-back years.
In 2019, having my own team in the U.S. Open Polo Championship® is definitely a career highlight especially since we made it to the semifinals in a field of 16 teams; Sebastian Merlos, Matias Magrini, Peke Gonzalez*. I had subbed in many times on many different high-goal organizations but having my own team was by far more fulfilling.
Receiving Best Playing Pony blankets is really the ultimate prize and most gratifying whether it is my personal string or ones I bred but owned by other players. However, I would be thrilled to hold up the U.S. Open Polo Championship® trophy one day!"
What does polo mean to you?
"This will sound very cliché and maybe far-fetched but it means everything to me. I consider my transition from show jumping to polo as one of the three most significant events in my life. It gave me a much different and wider perspective not only on horse life but life in general. I see real parts of the world that most don’t see on traditional vacations.
I have been introduced to alternative solutions to situations that I may not have previously come to on my own. I met an entirely new group of people that are completely misrepresented in the media; polo people are more family oriented and down-to-earth cool and interesting people than the myth of elitism the marketing world would like everyone to believe. I have met individuals who have become my best friends and support system."
What do you think of women's polo in America?
"That is a big topic because I think for many, unfortunately, the cost has grown out of proportion to the gratification. I will stick to just a few comments on women’s polo and developing players.
Within the past two years, two new high-level women’s tournaments have been created; the East Coast Open Women's Polo Championship and the Women's Pacific Coast Open and Sarasota Polo Club [Sarasota, Florida] is raising the goal level of its women’s tournament. That demonstrates there is still positive momentum in the growth. I don’t think we have reached our peak yet, were are still improving. The difference is that women’s polo may have more amateur and sponsor type players on each team and fewer high-rated professionals than mixed polo. Right now I would say that our biggest hurdle for polo in general is creating more high-rated players.
At 7 goals Hope Arellano is our highest rated U.S. outdoor player with five players rated 6 goals. Hope has all the right things going for her yet that is hard to duplicate in this country for other women. Access to high-goal polo, high-goal players, high-goal practices and horses. Starting young with correct guidance, living in the barn and around polo 24/7 just like most Argentine kids.
The only way I see that we can match this development experience is by channeling younger players (13 years for example) through a well-crafted long term program in Argentina since very few have a chance to grow up in a polo family that is well organized and in the middle of 'all things high goal.'
Female players, both young and mature, need to participate in high-quality mixed polo as much as possible. Understanding the flow of the game and field strategy is more obvious in open-style games. Of course one would need to be with the right teammates that use the whole team and move the ball down the field. A good team in traditional matches can provide the best foundation for what polo looks and feels like.
There is currently a pool of girls and young 3- to 5-goal women that are very talented and have been playing for many years in the interscholastic programs (arena) as well as women’s and mixed grass polo. We should be focusing our attention on these girls. In order for these young players to progress they need more guidance and training in field strategy, discipline, good strings, horse management to protect the string they have and connecting them with mentors.
Women’s polo should continue to improve and grow as long as it uses top professional umpires for the top levels and treat the female players as players who are knowledgeable about the sport and take it as seriously in both time and effort as all other polo, has clubs hosting the tournaments that treat it as professionally as all other tournaments, is played on the best quality fields available at any given club and can develop young talent into high-rated players which at the end of the day usually means a player needs to be mounted."
*Hope Arellano and Peke Gonzalez are active members of Team USPA. Kylie Sheehan is a Team USPA alumni. Team USPA is a USPA program designed to enhance and grow the sport of polo in the United States by identifying young, talented American players and providing mentored training and playing opportunities leading to a pool of higher rated amateur and pro players and the resultant giveback to the sport of polo.
Effective Date: Saturday, May 16, 2020
The suspension of USPA Tournaments and Events will be lifted for USPA Member Clubs in locales where hosting polo matches and tournaments is permitted under applicable state and local laws, executive orders and similar decrees. The USPA Member Clubs in these locales are encouraged to follow all such requirements of their state and local authorities with respect to polo operations. In addition, we also encourage all USPA Member Clubs to take the precautions recommended by the CDC. We are preparing a detailed list of best practices for USPA Member Clubs as they return to hosting USPA Tournaments and Events and plan to circulate these guidelines within the next week. We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation closely and will notify you if we determine a different course of action is necessary.Read More