By Lauren R. Giannini
It was a brilliant package deal when Tiffany Busch and Gaston Rodriguez signed on as the professionals at BG Polo and Equestrian Vero Beach in Florida: two respected US Polo Association players, brimming with enthusiasm and passion for the game, motivated by their love for Vero Beach and the club’s traditions. Fun and family were priorities, along with getting more kids learning to play — they’re carrying these goals forward and looking for even greater success when their second season begins this winter.
Tiffany and Gaston believe that, first and foremost, polo is fun. They utilize an easygoing yet progressive style of teaching that works well with kids of all ages. Last season, their youngest student in the Saturday morning polo school was 7, the oldest one 12. A few “older” kids were persuaded to give polo a whack and had a blast even though they were content to watch from the sidelines at Sunday matches.
“Gaston and I really focused on getting the kids out there,” said Tiffany. “We had a polo school Saturday mornings and on Sundays we did an exhibition match with the kids before the regular game. They rode out there and hit the ball around, and the parents were out there cheering them on. The crowd loved it.”
Teamwork is important, on and off the field, and Patta Conboy, BG Vero’s general manager, has been working closely with the club’s new pros. Patta, employed by Bobby Genovese after he purchased the facility in August 2014, was the catalyst behind hiring Tiffany and Gaston.
“They’re awesome, and it’s great working as a team with them,” said Patta. “I’m super impressed with Tiffany. I’ve known all her family for years as my family has lived in Vero Beach for a long time. She’s very conscientious — a hard worker, great player and team player, who really gives back to the community and the children. Gaston’s wonderful. He moved here, he had his children here. He fits into that family-oriented style of polo. He has a terrific reputation in the polo world and through the local families who worked with him for years. It’s been a sheer pleasure working with Tiffany and Gaston. They have huge hearts. They’re both here for the right reasons and they’re both excellent with kids.”
Like two sides of the same coin, Tiffany and Gaston are similar and different, yet totally on the same wavelength, especially when it comes to polo.
Roots in Polo and Vero
Tiffany, who’s currently USPA-rated at 1.5 goals Outdoor, 7 Womens Outdoor, has been compared favorably to her mentor and role model, the late Sunny Hale. Born and raised in Vero Beach, Tiffany’s earliest memories include watching her father, Peter Busch, play polo. She enjoyed riding as a family activity with her two sisters and three brothers. They all learned horsemanship from Peter and Joan, their mother, whether they were in Vero Beach or at their ranch in Montana.
“My family marks their calendars with the 16 Sundays during Vero’s polo season and, unless they’re traveling somewhere, every Sunday they’re out there,” said Tiffany. “That’s how I grew up, watching my Dad play polo — all of us kids and cousins, playing on the sidelines, watching polo, just having a good time, polo bringing everyone together. That’s what Patta, Gaston and I are focusing on at Vero.”
Gaston grew up in Argentina near Hurlingham, possibly the most renowned polo club in the world, where he learned the game from his father and some of the best polo players. In 1993, when he was 15, Gaston started to accompany his father, professional polo player Remigio Rodriguez, to the U.S. for the Florida season. The annual visits provided opportunities for Gaston to establish himself as a good horseman and aspiring player, complete with great work ethic. In about 2003, the annual visit became a permanent move, and he spent several years working for and playing with Charlie Replogie, patron of the Ocean Grill team.
Totally serious about polo, Gaston’s working to rebuild his string of ponies to improve his USPA rating of 3 goals Outdoor, which had been 5. He’s also convinced that the key to BG Vero’s future is for kids and families to learn the game. He spends the winter in Vero Beach, spring and summer in New York, autumn in Argentina and California, then heads back to Florida where his ex-wife and their two daughters reside. Now 9 and 7, the girls, who are crazy about horses, have started learning to play polo.
“I love the fact that my ex-wife loves Vero Beach and that my kids are raised there,” said Gaston. “I love that I have friends and family there. I have been going back to Vero for many, many years. The most important things in my life are my kids. My mom passed away very young. My father works in polo in England. I have one sister, but my family is in Vero Beach. I was working there when I was young. Now I’m working with BG, with Tiffany, and with Patta. I’m very lucky.”
“I was working at Vero Beach when I met Tiffany — she was about 15 and just starting to play polo,” Gaston said. “She became one of my best friends in the world. We have played against each other and on the same team for about 11 years. I have been teaching polo for more than 15 years. When we were offered the job of managing the polo club at Vero, we talked about it, about what kind of polo the club needed, and we said to each other, ‘I’ll do it if you do it!’ Our goal was to bring the family back to the game and make sure it was safe and fun.”
Tiffany and Gaston teach polo on the actual field of play. They mark each other (show and tell in action) and stop the game to explain rules and violations as the situations take place. This method of “learning by doing” proved very successful last season from beginners up to tournament play. As for BG Vero’s Sunday matches, the “Tripod”— as Tiffany, Patta and Gaston call themselves — exceeded expectations with a healthy attendance that topped 1,600 spectators at All The Marbles, their final match of the season.
The Florida season, especially for horse sports, runs January through April, when local children are in school and there’s an influx of “snowbirds” and enthusiasts from all compass points. It came down to people realizing that good changes were taking place at BG Vero. Equally helpful is the fact that both polo pros are great with kids, whatever their age. For example: Tiffany’s Tyrannosaurus Rex antics landed on Facebook, YouTube and in print.
Fun & Games at BG Vero
When asked about the T. Rex capers, Tiffany started laughing and said, “We had a Halloween party at my mom’s, that’s why I had the dinosaur outfit, and I wanted to go to the barn in it and get on my great mare, Carisia. She knows me inside and out. I’ve had her since she was 4 and she’s 14 now. I didn’t inflate the costume right away. I just got on and trotted her around the barn. Even when I inflated it, she didn’t care. Then I called Patta and said, ‘Let’s do a video.’ Patta has a great sense of humor and she was totally in. When I started stick-and-balling, I couldn’t see anything. I was sweating like crazy, and my mare was like, this is cool, whatever you want!”
Fun, family, friends, tradition, community, great sportsmanship — these are the building blocks of BG Polo Vero. Visitors receive an enthusiastic welcome that’s more like a homecoming. Even if you don’t know the first thing about polo, no worries – that’s where Tiffany and Gaston excel: building spirited teams and getting newcomers to give polo a whack.
For information visit verobeachpolo.com.
Photos by Gail Daman