17 Questions is a feature series where we introduce different women polo players around the world. In this feature, we talked to Cotterel Polo Farms’ Jennifer Luttrell Benardoni. A dedicated woman of polo, she currently holds a .5 handicap and juggles her time hitting goals and working for her club.
1. Since when are you interested in horses?
“My mom, Claudia Luttrell, raised and showed horses most of her life, so I grew up riding with her. I don’t remember a time that I haven’t been obsessed with horses.”
2. How did you get into polo?
“Growing up, I saw polo in magazines and on TV and I always wanted to try it. When the time came to go to college, I chose Colorado State University so I could join the polo team. From the first hit of the ball, I was hooked and have never looked back.”
3. Who is your first coach?
“At the time I entered college, CSU did not have a coach. Instead, the varsity players gave the lessons. I was very fortunate with the group of players that the school had at that time and had the opportunity to learn from Erica Gancdomcar-Sachs, Jimmy Seward, Alex Gooding, and several others. After college, Erica got me started playing outdoor at the Denver Polo Club.”
4. Who are your heroes on the field?
“Adolfo Cambiaso is my all-time hero in polo. He is the whole package – amazing player, trainer, breeder, team mate, coach, and one of the nicest people you will ever meet in polo.”
5. What’s the best training tip you’ve ever received?
“Focus 100% on what you are doing, whether it’s playing or schooling horses.”
6. How do you bond with your horse?
“I love to spend time with my horses outside the field, whether it be in their stalls or turned out to pasture. You really get to know their individual personalities when they are relaxed. I also ride and take sets as much as possible, to really get in tune with their moves, so I know what to expect on the field.”
7. Best horse care tip?
“If you want to be professional, always have your horses look their best when you show up to the field, manes roached, wraps and tack clean and placed properly.”
8. Who is your polo best-friend?
“My husband Francisco Benardoni is my polo bestfriend. As a player and manager of our organization, he understands and enjoys the crazy life we live. We are obsessed with polo and horses and I am fortunate that we can spend as much time as possible doing what we love together.”
9. Which position do you love playing the most in and why?
“#1. It was the first position I learned to play, and it has become very natural to me. I love to run and try to score as much as possible.”
10. What is more important in a team: trust or communication? Why?
“Trust and communication go hand in hand for me. I believe that communication between players must be built first. Then once your team knows what the other players will do on the field, then trust comes and your team will flow together and be better for it.”
11. What’s your ultimate must-have when playing?
“Fun! This is a dangerous sport, and none of us is going to get rich playing polo. So for me, every time I enter the field, my goal is to have fun!”
12. Would you rather play mixed or women’s polo? Why?
“Having played both mixed and women’s, I prefer mixed. The mixed games are more open and I have more fun playing open, fast polo.”
13. For you, what makes polo the best sport?
“It’s a team sport, not only between the players but also with the horses. There is no greater feeling than when you, your horses, and your teammates flow together.”
14. What’s your best win throughout your career?
“Winning the Copa Zafiro in La Dolfina Polo Club two times. The first with Adolfo and the second with Poroto Cambiaso.”
15. What’s the worst polo misconception you’ve ever heard of?
“The worst misconception in polo is that the horses are abused and not taken care of well. Polo players understand that without the horses, we couldn’t play polo. The horses are athletes and need to get proper nutrition, conditioning, training, health care, rest, and recovery to be able to do what they do. Polo horse owners, players and grooms take better care of their horses than they do themselves!”
16. If you could live the life of one polo player for a day, who would it be and why?
“There are so many amazing players out there, I couldn’t pick just one. I love to learn from as many people as possible!”
17. Complete the sentence: “Polo makes me ______.”
“Polo makes me happy, fulfilled, and complete!”
Photographs by Pablo Ramirez, Kaile Roos, and Emilia Soldivier