Polo Life:

Horses, Sport, 10 and Zen

On Professional Polo:
Although on more than one occasion I considered shifting to a different career with a more consistent source of income and fewer expenses, the rewards of sticking with professional polo have been profound. I get to work outside. I love the feel of horses under me, as well as the constant challenge of maintaining and improving their on-field performance. There is longevity, relative to other sports, because the horses are my legs for getting around the field. There is the stimulus of playing with different combinations of players; there is the chance of getting to know them, through a common objective, as people as well as teammates. And one of my initial attractions to the sport—traveling around the country and world—still has not gotten old. Beyond all else, however, it is the competition, the raw basic feelings of intensity of playing a sport something like ice-hockey-on-horses, running around at speeds of up to thirty mph, that I am addicted to. It makes me feel alive. Yes, there is such a thing as a professional polo player, and I count myself as one of the fortunate few to lay claim to it.

— Adam Snow & Shelley Onderdonk

On Horses:
Not only humans play the game of polo—one of the most salient aspects of the sport is that it is played on horseback. Behind that simple fact lies an entire world—of breeding, training, caring for, conditioning, and feeding these amazing equine athletes. The key to winning lies in accomplishing the endless work and building the vast knowledge and skill sets required to show up to the field with eight horses ready to play a game. The best team tactics and most skilled ball-handling ability of the player are worthless if he/she can’t get there; arriving at precisely the right time and place on a field which is 300 yards by 160 yards is the job of the seasoned polo pony, each and every seven and a half minute chukker of its life.

Imagine preparing not only yourself for the finals of the U.S. Open, but readying eight other sentient athletes as well. And they can’t tell you if they need more work, a spell of rest in the pasture, or where they might feel soreness. Yet, preparing them to perform at their best—getting the feed and exercise right, the injuries diagnosed and healed, settling on the tack and bit selections so that both horse and rider feel comfortable—is easily as important as the human player’s preparation. Here is where the sport gets complicated.

— Adam Snow & Shelley Onderdonk

On Marriage:
I often recounted the quote, “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” before I embarked alone for another polo season at a distant venue. I said it aloud for both Shelley and me to hear as she drove me to the airport. It represented words of hope. And mostly it has proven true.

Going into marriage we had had some experience at this long-distance love affair, interspersed with charged reunions. Her being two years behind me in college meant that I was already travelling and loving from afar during the first years after my graduation. My love letters from the solitude of the Argentine pampas nurtured me, and, hopefully, Shelley too. And the fact that we persevered, chose to be loyal to one another—even before a marriage document somehow put more force to this precept—gave us confidence that we were capable of sustaining our relationship in the face of constant travel and separations. I never had much doubt. It was not only that I was “in love” with this person, but I also liked living for some higher ideal. Whether this notion was romantic or real wasn’t so important; that ideal had become the person I wished to spend my life (at least when we were together) with. She brought out the best in me.

— Adam Snow & Shelley Onderdonk

Juan Carlos Harriott, one of the greatest polo players of the 20th Century, has said “If you find yourself out there on the polo field galloping around with nothing to do, try thinking.”  Adam and Shelley have written a book that gives us a clear insight into what it means to play polo at the highest level–while thinking.

— Tommy Lee Jones, actor, director, polo player

Polo Life” offers a window into the life of an extraordinary couple and details their remarkable dedication to the pursuit of excellence in the sport of polo.

— Melanie Smith Taylor, Olympic Gold Medalist, horsewoman and author

This book is more than a sports memoir–it’s the chronicle of two open-hearted, big-brained people building an unlikely life together by focusing on and cultivating the common ground between them; values, home, mindfulness and respect. It’s a love story on a lot of levels; love of one another, of the sport, the horses, home, their children, friends and family. At times, it reads like a new-age spirituality piece, but at others it is downright hilarious and exciting. It is beautifully written– two wonderfully distinct voices find a way to harmonize without denying moments of tension and clash. What I love the most about this book is that there’s very little cynicism — you seldom find narrators so prodigiously intelligent and well read who nonetheless choose earnestness. Also, there’s something in this book for a wide array of readers– polo and/or horse fans, mindfulness/psych nerds, literature buffs, Modern Love enthusiasts, athletes, scholars and more.

— Rebecca Bloom, Communications Bloom

Polo Life” is an intimate and beautiful portrait of Adam and Shelley’s world—it features warm, open and honest narratives by both of them on the successes and challenges of their professional and personal lives.

— Eliza Lee, PhD, Psychologist

Cinch up tight and toe your stirrup because you are about to experience why Crocker Snow asked Yale for a refund. Not since Abby Hoffman’s Steal This Book has a man approached his profession like Adam. With his wife Dr. Shelley Onderdonk and a cast of international characters, this tale takes on a Roy Rogers and Dale Evans meets Sigmund Freud all the while exploring the oxymoron American Polo player.

— Sam Morton, horseman and author of “Where the Rivers Run North”
among other titles, Sheridan, WY

So you think you want to be 10 goals? Adam Snow and Shelley Onderdonk debunk the “Pretty Woman” image of life as a professional polo player.

— Gwen Rizzo, Editor & Publisher, Polo Players’ Edition

Adam and Shelley have found a way to apply the fine horsemanship that has emerged from the teachings of Ray Hunt and Tom Dorrance to the world of polo. Which in modern horsemanship is to honor what we consider to be the Michelangelo and DaVinci of our time.

— Buck Brannaman, horseman and author

I don’t think I have ever read a book written by a husband-and-wife team that so beautifully captures their distinct, yet jointly shaped insights, experiences, and expertise. That is only one of many reasons to read this book. Adam belongs to a long line of Yale polo greats; Shelley, a veterinarian, allows us to see and appreciate the polo ponies they raise, ride, and nurture. This is also a book about the challenges of being a professional athlete, of maintaining a balanced life, of pursuing a dream, and finding the joy of performance in the midst of top-level competition. But let us cut to the chase. This is, above all, a book about the international world of polo: the throw-ins, chukkers, and Bentleys. As Shelley says about Adam, ‘he lived, he played, he wrote.’ Together they have produced an inspiring book about an intriguing world and a life of quiet mastery, love, and commitment.

— Jay Gitlin, Yale University

We had the good fortune to spend the winter at Adam and Shelley’s farm in Aiken, and it was obvious from the beginning that both Adam and Shelley have a gift with horses, and a gift with each other, and make an incredible team. We got a sneak peek at this book and gained a lot of valuable insights into our own journey on the path of high performance horse sports from their story. Thanks for sharing your story guys, you’re an inspiration!

— Matt Brown and Cecily Clark, Event riders and trainers