Jul 21, 2020 4:11 PM

Sarah Siegel-Magness

As a woman who has experienced both walking the star-studded red carpet and being teammates with Prince Harry, Sarah Siegel-Magness has a spoiler alert for us all: nothing is better than the game of polo, not even the Oscars. Coming off a well-deserved win in the 12-goal Pacific Coast Circuit Intra-Circuit Cup with her team Dundas, Siegel-Magness is solely focused on perfecting her game, leaving behind her Hollywood film career (Oscar-nominee for Best Picture for Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire) five years ago to commit everything to the sport. Fascinated with horses growing up in Colorado, but unable to be around them due to her father’s severe allergy, Siegel-Magness was first immersed in the sport via the vibrant polo community of Costa Careyes, Mexico, during her wedding in 2001. Returning over the years and eventually planting roots, mother and young son Cable began their polo journeys simultaneously, ushering in a new legacy of family polo. Now that the sport has captured her undivided attention, she weighs every potential business opportunity against her newest obsession, finding that most do not measure up or ignite the same level of passion. Training with the intensity and dedication of a pro, Siegel-Magness is preparing in every way possible to carry Dundas’ winning momentum into Silver Cup® competition at Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club in Carpinteria, California.

©Jennifer Graylock
Dundas' Sarah-Siegel Magness on the field. ©Jennifer Graylock

“Sarah [Siegel-Magness] is one of the most enthusiastic and passionate people in polo that I have ever met and had the privilege to play with. Her determination to improve and succeed is so infectious and she is so keen on supporting both women’s and mixed polo. We need more Sarahs in the sport!”  – Sarah Wiseman, 2019/2020 U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship™ teammate

Sparking her interest from the initial encounter, Siegel-Magness’ involvement with the sport began with spectating and awarding trophies at Costa Careyes Polo Club in Jalisco, Mexico. “I used to watch and think polo was such a majestic sport and I liked how fast the horses were moving, but the turning point for me came when I got on the horse and hit the ball,” Siegel-Magness said. Taking a single stick-and-ball lesson 10 years ago while in Mexico, she left feeling so inspired that she returned to Colorado and purchased all the necessary equipment, but never had the opportunity to play in the states. Determined to learn when the family bought a home in Mexico, Siegel-Magness took up the reins and a mallet and never looked back. “For the last five years polo has been my obsession and had 100% of my attention,” she revealed. “I directed and produced films and I had my own clothing company, but now every holiday revolves around polo. I gave up my entire professional life to learn to play because what I realized is if you want to be an exceptional polo player it has to be your entire life.” Unknowingly getting her start under one of the most recognizable players in the sport, Memo Gracida, Siegel-Magness spent her first two years learning from the polo legend who she met in Mexico. Later training with Joe Henderson, Siegel-Magness’ world began to expand as she was introduced to the pro pool in Indio and polo in Santa Barbara, California.

2020 Pacific Coast Circuit Intra-Circuit Cup champions Dundas ©David Lominska
2020 Pacific Coast Circuit Intra-Circuit Cup champions Dundas (L to R) Mariano Fassetta, Santi Torres*, Juan Cruz Marcos, Sarah Siegel-Magness. ©David Lominska

Described by many as one of the hardest working sponsors, male or female, in the game, Siegel-Magness’ undeniable discipline and drive is fueled by her desire to make up for lost time. Driving three hours round trip almost daily from her home in Los Angeles to play one hour of practice in Santa Barbara, she is unphased by the commute because she is both fanatical about polo and devoted to her family. Prioritizing team practices, Siegel-Magness seeks out every opportunity to learn more about the game from experienced individuals around her. “I practice penalties every day, I do not miss stick-and-ball practice, doing drills or the hitting cage,” Siegel-Magness said. Spending five to 10 minutes in the hitting cage to warm up and running six miles before every game, Siegel-Magness’ routine helps her manage the pre-game jitters (along with her polo pup companion, teacup schnauzer Rosie). Open to trying a variety of methods to improve her swing, Siegel-Magness has sought out ingenious tools from both the polo industry and others including an Equicizer, weighted mallet (used in the hitting cage) and parachute made for golf clubs. “The weight on the mallet has really helped me follow through and feel where the momentum is,” Siegel-Magness shared. “The parachute functions to create resistance so the mallet moves slower and I have to work harder to do the swing.” Proactive in her pursuit, Siegel-Magness is constantly assessing her performance and reflecting on what she could be doing more effectively. “When I go to bed at night I’m rehashing my day of polo,” Siegel-Magness shared. “Even when I was on vacation after winning the 12-goal tournament, sometimes I couldn’t sleep thinking about what I could improve on because I love polo so much.”

Sentebale Polo Cup
Siegel-Magness was teammates with Prince Harry in the 2019 Sentebale ISPS Handa Polo Cup at Roma Polo Club in Rome, Italy.

Intentional with her time and motivated to absorb as much as possible, Siegel-Magness makes it a point to utilize her teammates during stick and ball as well as the game. “I rely on each one of them to work with me in different ways,” she commented. “After watching our games we talk about what I did on the field and what my weaknesses are and during stick-and-ball practice we focus on those areas.” Soaking up every ounce of time with her pros, Siegel-Magness works that much harder to ensure she is always in position to contribute to her team. Capitalizing on each of her teammates’ strengths, she often develops specific skills with an individual pro. “Each of my pros have a different perspective and I like that because one will see one thing I need to work on while another will see something else,” Siegel-Magness explained. “Also each of them are really proficient in one skill in particular, so I’ll work with one pro on penalties and another on ball control.” Ironically opting for individual sports including gymnastics and ice skating growing up, Siegel-Magness loves being able to rely on her teammates and the camaraderie which comes from embracing the team sport dynamic.

Dedicating six days a week to her craft during the high-goal season at Santa Barbara, Siegel-Magness is thankful to share her love of the sport with both her husband Gary and now 16-year-old son Cable. Playing polo in Colorado before they were married, Gary returned to the sport as a result of his wife’s deep passion to play the game, rounding out three of the five family members. “Just knowing we’ll spend time together stick and balling or during games guarantees a certain amount of family time every day and I love it,” Siegel-Magness exclaimed. “Polo has brought our family together so much and I’m the only mom who plays a sport with her son, who Cable knows, so we are on a different level of mom and son.” Playing with and against her son in Santa Barbara, Siegel-Magness has enjoyed watching him excel and his most recent success winning the first 12-goal tournament at Santa Barbara post suspension and earning Most Valuable Player. Each parent preferring a different speed of polo, Cable also joins his father for games in Mexico where it all began. “It’s so fun to watch them play, I actually really enjoy being on the sidelines and not playing myself,” Siegel-Magness said. “My husband is very happy playing the more casual polo played in Mexico while I’m incredibly competitive and like to play higher-goal polo.” Creating and sharing memories together all over the world through their polo connection, Siegel-Magness and Cable have even played with Nacho Figueras in Rome and at high-profile Veuve Clicquot events.

Sarah Siegel-Magness played for San Saba in the 2019 U.S. Open Women's Polo Championship™. ©David Lominska
Sarah Siegel-Magness playing Tobi for San Saba in the 2019 U.S. Open Women's Polo Championship™. ©David Lominska

Born with a natural work ethic, Siegel-Magness has greatly appreciated connecting with top high-goal organization Valiente and having the unique opportunity to be mentored by 10-goaler Adolfo Cambiaso in Denver, Colorado. “He [Cambiaso] has been really helpful to me and definitely invested some time in helping me improve,” she said. Admiring Valiente’s mindset and their unflinching dedication to polo, Siegel-Magness has similarly adopted a Valiente mentality when it comes to her game. “In Santa Barbara you won’t see me socializing at the parties because I’m completely focused on getting better at playing polo and that’s what I love about Valiente,” Siegel-Magness revealed. “Everything is focused on polo which is the way I like to do business.” Over the past year and a half, she has purchased many Valiente horses for both her and Cable’s strings, steadily switching out horses to keep up with her rapid growth and tournament level. Recognizing that just having exceptional horses would not be enough without a top class regimen, Siegel-Magness credits her grooms who have kept them in peak condition. “I was lucky that the grooms who worked for Bob and Rob [Jornayvaz] are working for me this summer,” she said. “They work like clockwork and are so good at what they do. Having these professional grooms has taken our organization to the next level and I attribute a lot of the success to them.” Utilizing a Kraft Water Horse Walker for conditioning as well as Centurion Systems magnets to reduce inflammation, Siegel-Magness is always striving to be on the cutting edge of the sport to accelerate the process. Making a complete transition from knowing nothing about polo to balancing a full-time polo career, this animal lover’s barn is home to more than just polo ponies, including three donkeys, three mini goats and one full sized, three sheep, two mini ponies (Cookies and Cream) and the newest addition, Marty the baby zebra.

Participating in all types of polo (including snow and beach), Siegel-Magness is also now a passionate advocate for arena and women’s polo which have both helped her in mixed games. “I had no idea how fun women’s polo is and how talented the women were until my first game,” Siegel-Magness said. “Dawn Jones asked me to be on her team in the 2019 U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship™ and that was my first experience playing women’s polo, competing for the most prestigious cup!” Although the 2020 tournament was cut short, she has already put her team together for the 2021 season. Exposed to high-goal arena polo during a rainy winter season in Santa Barbara, Siegel-Magness discovered her obsession with the game and wished she had the opportunity to compete in college. “If I had more time and a dedicated string for arena it would be my ultimate goal to play both,” she said. “It’s a nice compliment to the field and my defense got so much stronger after I played in the arena.” As the only woman on the roster in the Silver Cup®, Siegel-Magness is used to being one of, if not the only woman, on the field, but she is hoping to utilize skills from playing women’s polo to her advantage. “In women’s polo you don’t rely so heavily on long passes,” she revealed. “A lot of times when the ball is dropped or a player gets taken out the opportunity to gain possession comes so fast that you learn to be quicker at the short game which in turn helps in mixed polo.”

©Aspen Valley Polo Club
©Aspen Valley Polo Club

Taking safety just as seriously as she does her practice regime, Siegel-Magness believes that one of the most critical keys to longevity in the sport is the simple prevention of career-ending injuries. Never getting on a horse without an eventing vest and a mouthguard, safety gear is a number one priority for Siegel-Magness. Sporting a face mask, double knee pads, elbow pads and shin guards, she advocates for more players to take increased precautions, successfully convincing two of her pros to wear a vest and all to wear mouthguards. “The vest is a game changer, it covers your collarbone and prevents you from breaking it,” Siegel-Magness shared. “Also a mouthguard significantly reduces the chance of getting a concussion.” Acknowledging that often times players including her son would not willingly elect to wear more safety gear, she believes it would benefit not only the individuals but the sport itself if it was to be required. “One thing I see with sponsors is they come in and get roped into playing at a higher level than they are ready for and then they get hurt,” Siegel-Magness said candidly. “To be able to sustain new players for longer amounts of time you have to keep them safe.”

Choosing to seize every day, Siegel-Magness has made a tremendous amount of progress in five short years (including starting her own USPA Member Club Cancha de Estrellas Polo Club), but continues to be humbled every time she steps on the field. “Polo has taught me to have more patience,” she said. “Every time I play I realize how much I still need to learn and patience comes with recognizing this sport takes time to get better. No matter how much you learn from others, time in the saddle and in the game is the best teacher because you have to experience each scenario for yourself.” As she gears up for the Silver Cup® on her 16-goal string, Siegel-Magness is likely to bring back one of her favorites, a striking paint mare named Tobi who she played in two chukkers during the 12-goal final.

Dundas 16-goal team
Silver Cup® Dundas team (L to R) Sarah Siegel-Magness, Roberto Zedda, Santi Torres, Mariano Fassetta.

Inspiring many of her friends who attend her games at SBPRC and are exposed to polo through her aspirational imagery on Instagram, Siegel-Magness advises to start with a lesson, get educated about the sport before you begin and take it one step at a time. “I think the arena is a great place to start because it requires less horses,” she said. “Most people don’t have the luxury of time to devote to polo and that’s why I suggest the arena because its much less of an investment in time and money to begin there.” Setting her sights on the long-term goal, Siegel-Magness has discovered the importance of daily disciplines and that putting in the extra time that nobody sees is ultimately the key to lasting success.

Watch Sarah Siegel-Magness compete for Dundas in the Silver Cup® beginning Friday, July 24 at 1:00pm ET. All games of the tournament will be livestreamed on Global Polo TV.

*Santi Torres is a graduating Team USPA Member. 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.