Back in 2017, POLO LADY first met up-and-coming player Naomi Schroeder. Four years and a change in handicap later (she went from 3 to 4 goals in women’s!), this passionate lady is on a constant quest to further improve in polo—and to chase after a full life ahead of her.
Naomi was introduced to polo early in her life. Her dad played polo, she tried stick and balling, and the next thing she knew, she’s on top of a horse to play her first pro tournament at 17. She recalls how, “everything was totally new to me, and I remember how excited I was every time I went to the barns.” Naomi found it very challenging and can’t help feeling the jitters, especially before every game.
Today, she still gets nervous during games. But persevering to get better, her confidence went up the ranks, too. “I have built an even closer connection to polo than I had before. I dedicated a lot of time to the sport, my horses, and our organization, as I wanted to be more involved in the daily life of my horses. I always try to learn new things and find ways to improve,” the polo lady shares.
Her dedication led her to take up Equine Science to know more about horses. These animals are her biggest passion that she could even imagine working in that field one day. Even though her time with these four-legged creatures was tampered by the pandemic last year, she’s optimistic that things will soon get back to the normal track.
“I usually spend all the time I can spare around my horses. Last year, for the first time I can remember, I wasn’t able to sit on the back of a horse for as long as seven and a half months. But right now, I just hope that things will get better this year and that we can go back to playing a more or less ‘normal’ polo,” Naomi relates.
Get to know more about this rising name below as Naomi spills her thoughts on women’s polo, playing polo together with her sister, horses, and standing out among the rest.
How can you describe yourself now as a polo player?
“I think what describes me best is that I am very ambitious—in polo, improving my skills, and my horses. Some might even say that I can be too ambitious because I can get really angry at myself when things don’t work out the way I want them to.”
What can you say about the significant rise of women’s polo in recent years?
“From my point of view, the development of women’s polo in recent years is amazing. When I started playing, there were barely any other girls playing. But today, there are tons of women’s tournaments all over the world with a very good and high level.”
How do you encourage fellow women in diving right to the sport?
“I think the main problem with polo is that most people see it as a very elite and inaccessible sport. But that’s not the case at all. Therefore, my advice to everyone who wants to try polo is to simply do it. There are clubs and polo schools in pretty much every country nowadays where you can try the sport. And the best part of the sport is that the polo community is like a big family.”
Your sister Tahnee also plays polo. Would you say that the sport helped bring you closer together?
“Luckily, my sister and I were always super close. But for sure, polo helped with that, too. It’s a sport we both love and have shared for many years now.”
How do you build your rapport with horses?
“Each horse is different, which is why each connection I have to them is different, too. I built them by spending lots of time with them. Not just riding and training them, but also just being around them. Sometimes, I just sit down in the middle of the paddock and watch them for hours, cuddle with them, and watch them eat. Being around my horses gives me so much peace. Which is why after a stressful day, I love going to the barn to just calm my mind. When I am surrounded by my horses, it’s like the world stands still for a while and I forget everything else.”
Can you tell us your best memory with your favorite horse?
“I don’t really have a favorite horse as each one of them is so different and I have amazing memories with all of them. But to name one, I guess that would be the first polo mare I ever owned. Her name was Negrita and I learned riding and polo with her help. She was basically like a dog and would follow me around the barns wherever I went, so my connection to her was really very special. Unfortunately, she died a couple of years ago. But without her, I don’t know if I would have fallen in love with this sport to such extent.”
What is your advice on improving one’s game?
“Practice, practice, and practice some more. I think improving really comes down to the time you are willing to spend on training and the dedication you have for the sport.”
What is your secret in standing out among all the players out there?
“I think the most important thing to stand out, not just in polo, is to be yourself and not change in order to fit in.”
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Mariel Abanes is the Managing Editor of POLO LADY Magazine.