Grant Ganzi atop one of his favorite horses, Onyx, in front of the Santa Rita Polo Farm in Wellington, owned by Melissa Ganzi, his mother
Melissa Ganzi, one of the top female polo players in the world, along with her husband, Marc, and J5 equestrian Bob Jornayvaz, formed the World Polo League in 2018 in order to play a challenging 26-goal game. The trio has been riding high ever since—bringing the best polo outside of Argentina to loyal fans around the world and creating a foothold in both Aspen and Wellington. Recently, we caught up with the international star between her global polo tournaments to find out about her life, training routine and plans for the upcoming 2020 polo season.
Horses saddles hang in the barn, awaiting usage for practice and competition
What motivated you and Marc to form the World Polo League? We wanted to preserve the highest level of polo and its rich, hallowed tradition in the United States. The World Polo League is the only 26-goal polo, as well as the highest level of polo played in the world outside of Argentina. The league attracted the best players in the world, including Adolfo Cambiaso, Pablo MacDonough, Juan Martin Nero, Pelon Stirling, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Nacho Figueras and Nic Roldan. It also showcases the world’s best equine athletes, and 80% of the game is based on the horses, so to play the highest level of polo, the players need the most exceptional equine partners. To play the best, you need the best.
A variety of polo mallets
What is it like for a woman to be a competitive polo player in a male-dominated sport? It’s challenging for any woman in a male-dominated sport, but polo is one of those unique sports that the playing field is level, much like show-jumping and sailing, where women play with and against men. I have a passion for polo, and riding alongside my male teammates, playing against some of the best players in the world on grass, beach, dirt and snow is so rewarding. I’m a team patron and play at the top level in the sport and have encouraged other women, including my daughter, Riley, to get involved with polo. With both the title of the first woman in history to win the 35th annual Snow Polo World Cup St. Moritz and being selected as best playing patron by Deutsche Bank, I’ve held my own against male players. I was also the first woman to win The St. Regis World Snow Polo Cup in Aspen and the Bendura Bank Snow Polo World Cup in Kitzbühel, Austria.
What is it about polo you love? The horses, first and foremost. I love my equine partners and appreciate their willingness to give their all. I also love the adrenaline rush playing at speed, and camaraderie among players and their families.
One of the nation’s best veterinarians and the Ganzis’ traveling vet, Daren Tamplin, listens to a horse’s heartbeat during a regular checkup
Polo is a grueling sport that requires so much strength and endurance. How do you keep your strength and nutrition up throughout the season? I start each day with cold-pressed celery juice, which I have been doing for the past two years. I travel a lot, and this used to be an odd request and not possible; however, now it seems to be mainstream. Unfortunately, like many women, I suffer from anemia, so I take Nature’s Plus chewable iron with vitamin C and a herbal dietary supplement daily. I also eat red meat, which is contrary to a lot of other diets, but it’s important for me. To further keep my body in top condition, I have a physical therapist that works with me on a regular basis, specifically on a separated shoulder injury I have from an old polo accident. This requires a lot of preventative care and treatment throughout the season. Lastly, I spend a lot of time outside in the sun riding, so I use a lot of sunscreen. I often change the product so my skin doesn’t get too used to one type, and I try to get as many HydraFacials as possible for cleansing and skin hydration.
What do you hope to achieve with expanding the World Polo League from Wellington to Aspen? Actually, we had an unofficial kickoff of the WPL in Aspen in 2018. There, we played the WPL event The Triple Crown of Polo Trophy in Denver and Aspen. Our main focus of the organization is to continually improve our league and special events. We had an extremely successful Palm Beach season in 2019, followed by WPL Miami Beach Polo, and then the WPL traveling tournament, The Triple Crown of Polo, of which its last two legs are played in Denver and Aspen. In 2019, we also fielded polo teams in Argentina. In 2020, Nic Roldan will be the captain of the World Polo League Snow Polo team in Kitzbühel.
farrier balancing the horse’s show while placing the shoe on its hoof
That’s a busy schedule! Will the 2020 World Polo League calendar be as busy? Yes, and, in addition to four tournaments and women’s mixed doubles in the World Polo League’s second season, we also have a full schedule of tournaments at various levels at Grand Champions Polo Club from low to high goal. We will host the $100,000 World Cup (0-40 goals), $50,000 National 12-goal Sterling Cup and Women’s Championship Tournament Finals. We also have a WCT Ladies Weekly League, The Polo School, a stand-alone USPA club, Club Chukkers and Polo on Demand.
With a demanding travel schedule, can I ask you what a typical day is like when you are in Wellington? I get up early, answer emails and head to the barn. Then, depending on our game schedule, I either have a morning practice or game. Either way, I head to the field and train in the afternoon. If I have an afternoon game, I get as much paperwork done as possible and always stretch before. I try to end my days at my barn taking in the gorgeous sunsets. They are truly breathtaking.
Grant Ganzi, 21, is one of the youngest players competing in high-goal polo, and in his World Polo League season debut early 2019, he won the Founders Cup with his Grand Champions team.
Photography by: Nick Mele