A Modern-Day Cowgirl"A lot of people think polo players want to go gallivanting around in their Aston Martins and fly around in their private jets, but it's not like that."
Erica Gandomcar-Sachs perched in a saddle for the first time when she was just 3 years old, and started to play polo by the time she was 8. Today, she is a polo champion who has won numerous accolades — including a Colorado Sportswoman of the Year award in 2001 — for her leadership in the sport. She has played professionally in tournaments across the U.S. and around the world in countries ranging from New Zealand to India, Jamaica and Singapore.
"Polo is like hockey, golf and chess at 35 miles per hour," she explains, comparing it to hockey due to the physical aspect and golf because of the swing involved. "My passion is the chess game. You have to think multiple plays ahead of time. The variables are always different. That's where the chess game comes into play."
Growing up at Cottonwood Riding Club, the Gandomcar family business, bred her love of polo and all things equestrian. "A lot of people think polo players want to go gallivanting around in their Aston Martins and fly around in their private jets, but it's not like that," she says. "The polo player is actually sort of a modern-day cowboy. They'd rather hang out with their horses. They're real down to earth."
Gandomcar-Sachs divides her time between playing polo and helping her family run Cottonwood Riding Club, which she describes as a horse park because of its range of equestrian disciplines. She also teaches polo to people of all ages. "You get to see everybody at their happiest," she says. "It doesn't ever seem like work. And you get to be the author of so many memories — a little girl that rides a horse for the first time, or a doctor who's been taking lessons and playing polo for so long … and he plays in his first tournament and wins."
Cottonwood Riding Club is also home to the Denver Polo Club, which has hosted a variety of charity tournaments, raising funds for local schools and nonprofit organizations. When the Gandomcar family learned about Renee Coble, a local woman with stage 3 breast cancer, they created the Renee's Friends Fund and hosted charity events to support it. The fund has now taken on a life of its own and continues to help women with breast cancer pay for everyday living expenses.
Although Gandomcar-Sachs has watched Denver grow into a "great metropolitan city" over the years, she says she still prefers supporting the local mom-and-pop shops. "I know how much blood, sweat and tears have gone into them," she says. For unique shopping experiences, one of her favorite haunts is True Love, an independently owned boutique shoe store on South Broadway. When she and husband Ian feel like hitting the town for a meal out, they enjoy chef-owned restaurants such as DazzleJazz. "It's one of my favorite places to bring people for brunch," she says. "It has live jazz music, and a wonderful spread unlike anything I've ever seen before."
When asked what the best thing is about being able to play, live and breathe polo for a living, Gandomcar-Sachs has an easy answer: It's the people she meets. "I am so lucky, because I get the chance to play polo and meet so many people all over the world and from so many walks of life," she says. "It's been a really fun adventure."
Check out Erica's Denver.