SHERIDAN — Polo is fun and affordable. That’s the message Ethan Galis is trying to convey through his lessons at the Big Horn Polo Academy.
Galis began playing polo in college at the University of Texas at Austin, and he calls himself an addict. Just when he thought he was burnt out of the sport, he was sucked right back in by an internship opportunity with the U.S. Polo Association.
Galis received an email from the USPA looking for someone to help develop other college students and recent graduates in the sport of polo, and that email came just in the nick of time.
“Truth be told, I was about ready to call it quits with polo,” he said. “I didn’t have the horses or anything to keep me in the sport, but then I got the email from the USPA about an internship.”
That same internship program brought Galis to Sheridan this summer.
It is Galis’ goal, in teaching the sport of polo, to get others to simply enjoy the sport as much as he does. Well, almost as much as he does; the guy’s hooked. He lives for the sport.
He says Sheridan’s polo community is a great place for him because the laid back mentality the riders have is similar to his.
That’s not to say he doesn’t get competitive, though.
Galis began competing in various equestrian disciplines when he was 9, was team captain and president of the UT Austin polo club and has attended clinics and worked under different mentors. He definitely has experience on a horse.
When talking to him, you can hear his competitive side creep out, but the seemingly never-fading smile on his face suggests how much fun the sport can be.
Galis wants to relay that passion of polo to as many new players as possible, which means making it affordable.
“There are those clubs out there that make it a little bit easier financially, and Big Horn is definitely one of those clubs,” he said. “They’re more focused on getting people out and making it extremely reasonable.”
He wants to show people that it’s not impossible to play polo and have fun without emptying their bank accounts.
“There’s another side of polo that people don’t get to see,” Galis said about the common misconception that polo is a rich man’s game. “What we called it in Texas was Redneck Polo. You rent a horse and maybe at the end of the day you’re only paying 80 bucks for a good clean chukker.”
Although polo is seasonal in Wyoming, he gives credit to the Sheridan community for making it successful.
“The beautiful thing about this place is that all these people are just looking to have fun playing polo,” he said of Sheridan.
Sheridan has two polo clubs, the Big Horn Polo Club, a public club, and the Flying H Polo Club, which is private.
Although the Flying H features a higher and faster level of play, Galis was impressed at how they don’t encroach on the Big Horn club, and vice versa.
“The two clubs work together really well, and you don’t really see that in a lot of places,” he said.
Galis, who works mostly with the Big Horn Polo Club, is using his summer in Sheridan to prepare himself for one day reaching his ultimate goal of starting his own club in Texas.
Not only is he using his time here to perfect his teaching skills, but he’s also keeping an eye on how things at the Big Horn Polo Club are run.
“Houston has a very competitive environment,” he said, speaking of the Houston Polo Club, the biggest in the country. “But I’d like to get something a little more affordable in Texas. I’d like to set up something similar to this (Big Horn Polo Club) in Austin that’s affordable and more club based and more relaxed.”
For now, though, Galis has his mind focused on Sheridan and keeping young players engaged in the sport. He’s been pleased with the turnout through the first half of the summer but is always hoping for more riders.
Galis hosts polo lessons three times a week — Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays — and encourages anyone that is interested to give it a shot, even if you don’t have a horse of your own (he has them for rent.)
Those interested can contact Ethan Galis at (817) 991-1366.