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Behind The End Lines With Polo Groom

Elly Brien

By Caroline Roche

Behind every good polo player is a great horse. Behind every great horse, you will most often find an incredibly hardworking, dedicated and passionate groom, who loves the sport as much as he or she loves the horse. Each featured Sunday match held at the International Polo Club Palm Beach requires at least 78 horses to be prepped and ready for play, and it is no small feat to organize that many horses at once. Each horse requires care, training and love, both on and off the field. The grooms of polo are instrumental to a team’s success, perhaps even more so than for other disciplines. To get an insider’s look into the daily life of a groom, we sat down with Elly Brien, the top groom at Mariano Aguerre’s highgoal polo operation. A native of Ireland, Brien first started her involvement with polo 20 years ago at Peter Brant’s White Birch Farm in Greenwich, Conn. Seven years later, Brien began working for Aguerre and has been on his team ever since. It is common in the polo industry — as well as the equestrian world in general — to see frequent movement of grooms and players alike. Why has she stayed in one place for so many years? “It just clicks for us,” Brien said. “It just works, so we stayed!” It wasn’t always about polo for Brien. She began her barn days back in County Waterford, Ireland, with show jumpers,

Keeping Mariano Aguerre’s polo horses in top form is Elly Brien’s mission.

first competing herself and then working for professionals. She made the trip over to the United States first with jumper barns before finding her way to White Birch. “I was always more interested in polo anyway,” she said. Even after all these years, however, she’s not quite interested in playing on the field. “I love riding them around, but I was never any good at sports, so I’d probably never hit the ball,” Brien joked. “I wouldn’t have the hand-eye coordination and be able to ride at the same time.” Her daily routine is similar to most other grooms in the horse world: wake up, feed the ponies, muck out some

stalls, do some grooming before the horses are exercised, and maybe ride a few of them herself. However, in Brien’s case, she has 12 to 15 horses to look after, not just three or four, which is typical in most other disciplines. It’s a long day at the farm with her boyfriend sharing the general duties. The pair also does most of the fitness training, such as taking daily sets and riding singles. Then, there is the preparation, organization and trailering to weekly practices or games. They are with Aguerre and his horses 24/7 for whatever they may need. Having that background in two disciplines offered unique insight on the big-

“I have a soft spot for all of my horses that we take care of,” Elly Brien said. “It’s hard to have one favorite in the polo sport.” wellington the magazine | january 2019

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Wellington The Magazine January 2019  

January 2019 | ON THE COVER Polo great Mariano Aguerre, profiled this month, has been a force to be reckoned with on the field for three dec...

Wellington The Magazine January 2019  

January 2019 | ON THE COVER Polo great Mariano Aguerre, profiled this month, has been a force to be reckoned with on the field for three dec...