Coast & Ranch: Polo in Santa Barbara
I was over the moon when the invitation came earlier this year from Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club to participate in their final matches and festivities of the 2017 polo season. What a perfect grand finale to our packed summer of pop up shops in amazing destinations, such as Jackson, Aspen, Vancouver, Portland, the Hamptons, and Greenwich! And then suddenly, with the blink of an eye and whirlwind of a summer, it was time to head south.
The evening before my trip, I received an invitation from Meghan Gracida to join her and her husband Memo Gracida on my way down to "stick & ball" in Santa Ynez at sunset. Stick & Ball, as you know is our brand; "stick & ball" is also the insider polo term meaning to casually practice polo and to hit the ball around. It was a magical, warm welcome from the Gracidas and their polo guests from Mexico.
We "stick & balled" at Piocho Ranch with an orange California sunset draping the field. Memo, one of the world's best polo players, gave me incredible pointers on my swing- a real treat! Meghan, his lovely wife, also plays polo, but don't be fooled by her sweet nature as it is matched with a growing fierce skill of the sport! The game was played until the sun sank deep into the Pacific, then we ponied up in a car caravan to the Hitching Post for some local Pinot Noir and a fabulous Santa Ynez style ranch dinner.
Another short jaunt south by thirty minutes and we arrived at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club. Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and Santa Ynez Mountains, it is truly polo in paradise. Stick & Ball enjoyed sponsoring the last few weekends of the Santa Barbara polo season with Von Dornberg of Germany. Under the tent, our clients enjoyed our luxury lounge by the polo field sipping wines by Summerland Winery and, of course, equestrian-inspired shopping.
After a long summer string of pop up shops across the country, the magic of Santa Barbara offered a more relaxed balance of work, exercise, and time with friends back in California. I relished morning walks on the Montecito Beach with one of my dearest girlfriends, picking fresh avocados and citrus from her backyard before a day of "office time" catching up on new designs and production.
After work, I headed to the club to study under South African polo pro, Joe Henderson, who skillfully helped to tweak my polo swing in time to be invited to play fun "practice chukkers" with emerging polo patron and movie producer Sarah Siegel Magness, along with her friends and family. To do a little double duty on my grip and swing, we frequently hit the tennis courts at the polo club for a different kind of stick & ball.
With all the sporting, I welcomed fabulous dinners at the San Ysidro Ranch and Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore. Nestled at the base of the mountains, San Ysidro Ranch is the epitome of Santa Barbara's laid-back, "country luxury" while The Biltmore hugs the California coast; both are must do's when in the area.
And Oh How Life Is amazing when an already spectacular week was topped off by being a part of the first annual Polo & Wine Festival, headlined by singer Macy Gray. Hearing her beautiful voice echo on the polo fields while sipping incredible wines from the Santa Barbara area appellations was a delight. These work days in Santa Barbara -flanked by polo and tennis, fresh air, sunshine, incredible food, wine and friends - left me, once again, "sideways for Santa Barbara."
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Many thanks to David Lominska for the beach ride, polo playing, and award ceremony images. Polo & Wine images by Kyla Sunn.