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Horse Play

Tina Borgatta | October 3, 2016 | Feature Features National

You could say Shelley Geiler and her Orange County Polo Club teammates have been horsing around for nearly 30 years—but come next spring, they'll settle down for good.
Shelley Geiler rides her polo pony La Perla on the site where her family is building a ranch for the Orange County Polo Club.

Shelley Geiler was just 3 years old when she felt her first crush. “It was definitely love at first sight,” she says of the gentle old quarter horse on her great uncle’s ranch in Arizona. “I think I rode that poor horse from dusk until dawn.” That was just the beginning—by the time she turned 7, she was competing in equestrian events. And in junior high, she discovered her true passion: polo. “There’s nothing else like it,” says Geiler, a player with the Orange County Polo Club, which holds its last game at Coto de Caza Equestrian Center next month. She and her family are building a grand new facility—Rancho Silverado Stables. By the time high season hits in June, the club’s 20 players will enjoy top-notch amenities, including locker rooms, stables designed for polo ponies and a clubhouse overlooking the arena in Silverado Canyon.

In case you haven’t guessed, the Geilers are the club’s longest-running—and biggest—benefactors. Her father, Denny, grew up around horses and spent summers driving cattle. Later, he watched his daughter ride competitively and was inspired to join her on the equestrian circuit. Until, that is, Geiler’s mom bought him a polo lesson as a birthday gift. “I think he... bought his first polo pony within a month,” says Geiler, whose husband, John, prefers surfing over riding, despite his wife’s devotion to the sport. She owns four playing horses, plus a few “retirees” that new players can ride. Her daughters (Caroline, 3, and Josie, 5) foster an early infatuation: “Josie has become a good rider... [and] Caroline rides with me double. Every time she gets on she says, ‘Faster, Mommy! Faster!’ So we’ll see where that goes.”

GEILER’S HOTS
Beek sandals, the Environmental Nature Center, the Alvear Palace Hotel in Buenos Aires, folks who pay it forward

GEILER’S NOTS
Potty training, intolerance, beets, ball hogs, folks who are all hat and no cattle



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