By Katie Navarra
Paige Flanders Luplow, a Houston, Texas, based instructor, is preparing the next generation for the sport of polo. Although she didn’t play until she was a teenager, she learned from two of the sport’s most accomplished riders. Her father, Charlie Flanders, was a 5-goal outdoor and a 7-goal indoor player. He coached the Isla Carol polo team to two consecutive North America Cup wins and a US Open Championship win. Her mother, Barlee, was rated 2-goals outdoor, and started the Houston Polo Club’s polo school and Step Up program with Daren Livingston and Mark Prinsloo.
Paige is continuing the family polo tradition at Houston Polo Club and providing young riders an opportunity to get involved. Paige, who is a 0-goal indoor player and a 3-goal in Women’s, also teaches the Houston Polo Club’s bi-annual polo school with her mother and Mark Prinsloo. Sidelines had the chance to catch up with the rider, trainer and polo player to learn more about her life and her Flanders Polo and Riding Lessons program.
When did you begin playing polo?
I never swung a mallet until I was 14. There weren’t as many children playing back then. My true passion was the horses. I loved to ride and spent as much time on horseback as possible. My mom bought me two Quarter Horses and I competed in local hunter under saddle and Western pleasure shows, including those held at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. When I finally decided to pick up a mallet and join Houston Polo Club’s polo school, I was hooked. Not long after that, we took our first family trip to play polo in Argentina, something I recommend to anyone interested in the sport, and I really fell in love.
What inspired you to start playing at 14?
My mom: She was such a force on the polo field in my younger days, and still is. I wanted to be like her. Plus, it was something we could do together. My brother started playing as well. As much as little brothers can be a pain, I look back on those days with fondness and love that polo is still something we can all enjoy together.
Do you still travel to Argentina?
Yes! After going with family three times, we started taking clients there. I now take a group from Houston for a polo vacation every other year. It’s the most fun and a great way for students to really improve their polo in a short amount of time.
What was it like growing up with two parents at the top of the sport?
It was wonderful. My parents followed the polo circuit and we got to know some incredible people all over the world. It was a somewhat unconventional childhood. It included a lot of travel and homeschooling, but it was filled with horses — what could be better?
Did you play polo in college?
I played briefly at Colorado State University where I studied psychology and business. Then I went on to earn my master’s in occupational therapy from Texas Woman’s University.
Do you work in the occupational therapy field?
Not at this time, though I do maintain my professional license and fulfill the continuing education requirements. I started my riding program in 2012 while in graduate school to help cover my tuition. I was an instructor under my mother when I was in high school and college; I was so blessed to learn from her. After finishing graduate school, I decided to follow my passion for horses and teaching. My goal is to give students a strong foundation so that they become well-rounded horsemen capable of pursuing any equestrian discipline.
What type of training do you offer?
In my program, we teach hunt seat, polo and Western lessons. We’ve also begun helping an adult student prepare for a Paralympic dressage test. I own a string of 15 lesson horses from small ponies up to full-size horses. I saw a need for a barn that offered a broader base for riding that wasn’t available when I was growing up.
Do you currently play polo?
I play every opportunity I’m given, but right now we’re focusing on building our business. I also have a small breeding program to potentially build a personal string and supplement my husband’s string. I married Drew Luplow in 2016 — we met through the Colorado State University polo club and reconnected when he relocated to Houston. He currently manages and plays for Team Gurka in the 12-goal in Houston. We own four broodmares and have five prospects of varying ages from foals to 3-year-olds. If one of the young horses doesn’t work out on the polo field, it’s nice to have another avenue for them in the lesson program.
Which polo tournament you’ve played in is your favorite?
The USPA Women’s Handicap is always a fun tournament. I’ve played in it many times and it’s a great group of ladies.
It sounds like polo has been a family tradition for you and your husband. Do you plan to continue that tradition?
Drew played polo growing up with his family in Sheridan, Wyoming. He then went on to play at Colorado State University and University of Wyoming. He moved to Houston to pursue his polo career in 2012, and continues to play in Houston and Sheridan in tournament and club polo. We don’t yet have children but we do hope that they will enjoy riding and polo as much as we do.
For more information, visit www.flanderspoloandridinglessons.com.
Photos courtesy of Paige Flanders Luplow