Polo Players Edition

FEB 2019

Polo Players' Edition is the official publication of the U.S. Polo Association. Dedicated to the sport of polo, it features player profiles, game strategy, horse care, playing tips, polo club news and tournament results.

Issue link: https://polo.epubxp.com/i/1074504

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Page 11 of 67

10 POLO P L A Y E R S E D I T I O N Lequerica's prove it is always easier with family by your side, and CJ and Sheila's playful natures infuse fun into every element of the process. When it comes to the day-to-day work, the Lequericas are fortunate to have had a steady flow of apprentices over the years, particularly young aspiring polo professionals. Team USPA members such as Remy Muller, Russell Stimmel and, most recently, Neil Osburg, along with his fiancé Ashlie Manno, have dedicated time to learning the trade. "We do enjoy teaching," Sheila said. "All of those boys that have worked for us are amazing. CJ can't stop talking enough about Neil, he has a natural feel on a horse. We've learned a lot from him too, it's not just him learning from us. Everyone has something to teach." Ten minutes in their company and you feel like family, making it easy to recognize how it is they maintain quality help, considering the heavy workload. A working operation, CJ stresses the importance of constantly fine-tuning his craft. "It's kind of never-ending," he said about why he has dedicated his life to the job. "Once you think you've figured it out, you haven't. That's what keeps me going. Trying to get better, trying to get the horses better. If I'm not improving, I'm quitting. Once you stop learning, it kind of all goes out the window." The couple's differing backgrounds in horses offer a unique perspective on training that incorporates a myriad of disciplines, including dressage—which may come as a surprise in the land of cattle and cowboy hats—but the end result is as the Lequericas put it, a soft and supple horse. While Memo Gracida asserts that both CJ and Sheila are equally talented in their own right, their dynamic partnership produces horses that reflect the best qualities of each trainer. CJ's years of high school rodeo produce a great stop and rate in his trainees, while Sheila creates a solid handle across the neck. When any up-and-coming young horse is lacking in either, they often trade for an ideal finish. It was a chance meeting between CJ and Whistle Uys at a bar in Florida that set the stage for one of their biggest and longest working relationships—Graymar Farms. Almost a decade into the partnership, the Lequericas have a consistent flow of 2-, 3- and 4-year-old Graymar groups that cycle through their program, each staying approximately 16 months. Similarly, they train Charlie Armstrong's babies—embryos out of clones of world-renowned American Thoroughbred Sage, who became a star of Argentine polo. The most easy-going of humans, CJ and Sheila Lequerica are the epitome of cool— knowledgeable, confident, yet insanely modest in their achievements. When asked about a favorite horse they have trained, they unanimously answer Bucky, a dapper buckskin gelding and staple of the U.S. Open Women's Handicap with his uncharacteristic flowy mane. The 14-year- old Quarter Horse heartthrob, with numerous Best Playing Pony awards to his name, not only plays polo, but rodeos with their children, and can be roped off of to help pony and start colts. It isn't until you prod them that you make the connection between their organization, Graymar, and a famous chestnut mare named Olé—formerly known as O'Lace—played by 10-goaler Facundo Pieres in the 2018 Florida and English seasons. Or Nic Roldan's chestnut mare Cullette (alternate spelling Culotte), trained and sold by the Lequericas to Canadian Todd Offen, later purchased by Roldan in 2005 and has since become an essential part of his 26-goal string. The list goes on and includes Memo Gracida's famous Sprite and Mariano Aguerre's bay mare Denial (previously called Denali). "Whistle's brother, Neels Uys, was working for us and rode that mare [Olé] a lot," Sheila recalls. "Neil Osburg rode that mare too. It's not just us, it's kind of a group—we all put our time, we all contribute. They are not finished when they leave here. Maybe second grade—and Whistle and his guys go on to put the finishing touches on them, we just put a good foundation on them." "Just" being the operative word. Bucky is one of the Lequerica family's favorite horses. Bucky not only plays polo but rodeos with the children and is used to rope young colts. KAYLEE WROE

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