17 Questions With Houston Polo Club’s Grace Burgert

In this feature, we talked to Grace Burgert, a law student and polo player who was recently the Russell A. Sheldon Interscholastic Player of the Year.


17 Questions is a feature series where we introduce different women polo players around the world. In this feature, we talked to Russell A. Sheldon Interscholastic Player of the Year awardee Grace Burgert. Formerly playing in Houston, she later on joined University of Virginia, where she recently graduated from. The lady player is currently studying law for summer, and will continue to pursue her studies full time next year. “In the meantime,” she says, “I will be using polo as my ‘passport to the world’ and visiting as many clubs as possible.”

  1. Since when are you interested in horses?

“I grew up occasionally attending riding lessons, but I became serious about riding when I began competing in American Saddlebreds at the age of nine. I showed in the saddleseat youth division called ‘Academy’ for several years before I transitioned to showing five-gaited horses with the adults.”

  1. How did you get into polo?

“I got into polo when I was around 13 years old. My stepfather, who was working with Scott Wood of ERG at the time, started learning to play with Martin Munoz out in Brookshire, Texas. It took a few months for them to convince me to try polo. But once I did, it didn’t take long for me to ditch my tails and bowler hat for whites and knee pads.”

  1. Who is your first coach?

“Mark Prinsloo of Houston Polo Club was my first coach. He was with me from the first time I held a mallet until my final Interscholastic game in my senior year of high school.”

  1. Who are your heroes on the field?

“Most recently, I have taken a lot of inspiration from fellow Virginia Women’s team players. Our program has an incredible history, and it’s been an honor to be a small part of that. Some of the women who come to mind are Issy Wolf, Julia Smith, and Jessica Schmitt, as well as my co-Captain, Maddie Grant.”

  1. What’s the best training tip you’ve ever received?

“When I was playing in an 8- to 10-goal tournament at the Brookshire Polo Club during my senior year of high school, Toto Collardin told me that if I was ever alone in transition or on defense during a match, that was a goal for the other team. That way of thinking continues to remind me to stick with my man and to be tough on defense.”

  1. How do you bond with your horse?

“I enjoy all aspects of horsecare to bond with my horses. But my favorite way to bond with them is to take a trail ride or visit them while they’re turned out. It is so important to me that I get time with my horses outside of a competitive environment and to enjoy their company in a comfortable manner.”

  1. Best horse care tip?

“Don’t neglect a thorough warm-up. Horses need it as much as humans do!”

  1. Who is your polo bestfriend?

“My four teammates at UVA—Maddie Grant, Liz Owens, Katie Define, and Alana Benz.”

  1. Which position do you love playing the most in and why?

“In the arena, I prefer #1 because I love getting a chance to set up my team for a goal right out of the line-up. Outdoor, I prefer #2 because it is a more flexible position where you get to play both offense and defense throughout the game.”

  1. What is more important in a team: trust or communication? Why?

“I think trust in a team enables good communication.”

  1. What’s your ultimate must-have when playing?

“My must-have while playing this past year was a team huddle before a match began. For the Virginia Women’s team, this was a chance for us to organize our game plan and come together as a unit before going into the arena.”

  1. Would you rather play mixed or women’s polo? Why?

“In the arena, I would rather play women’s because I love playing with all my friends and the aggressiveness of the game. For outdoor, I prefer mixed polo because it’s usually more open.”

  1. For you, what makes polo the best sport?

“I love that polo allows us to combine horses and team sport into one, which few other horse disciplines really allow.”

  1. What’s your best win throughout your career?

“This is easy—Women’s National Intercollegiate Championship with the University of Virginia in 2022.”

  1. What’s the worst polo misconception you’ve ever heard of?

“There are a lot of bad ones. But one that bothers me is that arena polo can’t be fun. In response, I say, ‘You’re playing with the wrong people!’”

  1. If you could live the life of one polo player for a day, who would it be and why?

“I would love to live a day as Izzy Parsons because I think her life is so cool! She gets to play incredible horses and polo, and then go on trail rides through the African savannah with elephants, zebras, and more.”

  1. Complete the sentence: “Polo makes me ______.” 

“Polo makes me happy. I play polo because there is nothing I would rather do—it’s a one-of-a-kind sport.”

Photographs by Oana Moore, Jessica Schmitt, Kris Wooten
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