LAKEWOOD RANCH — Buck Schott has always loved horses.
Growing up with a polo player for a father and a riding instructor for a mother, it was only natural for the University of Kentucky senior to follow suit. As a child, Schott would spend two to three weeks doing nothing else but riding.
“I just love being around horses,” he said. “There’s always something to do whether it’s grooming them, treating injuries, going on trail rides or practicing …”
But like most young boys, Schott’s attention eventually drifted to other things — primarily other sports — and it would be another two or three years before Schott would jump back into the saddle.
It wasn’t until his junior year of college while playing goalie for the Wildcats lacrosse team that Schott was introduced to the University of Kentucky polo team. A lifelong friend, who knew little about riding, was on the team and asked Schott to come out.
He’s never looked back.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Schott competed in his first outdoor season last summer, and in December Schott arrived at the Sarasota Polo Club where he has spent the past four-and-one-half-months playing polo for the Genesis Group.
This year’s polo season at Sarasota Polo Club marks Schott’s first time playing at the East County facility. The season concludes Sunday with the Mercedes-Benz of Sarasota Ringling Cup, featuring a Tropical Delights tailgating theme and the best playing pony award.
A FAMILY AFFAIR
When Schott first arrived in Sarasota, he had to adjust to playing eight-goal games —something he wasn’t at all used to.
“When I started here it was a little over my head,” Schott said. “I had to adapt really quickly because the speed of play is so much faster.”
And he did just that.
Schott and his teammates won two of their 10-goal games and advanced to the final of another game before falling in overtime.
“This is probably the best team I’ve been on,” Schott said. “It’s four guys who wanted to go out and give 100% every time.”
But perhaps the most memorable game of the season was when he got to play against his father, Trey, who began playing polo in 1971. Buck Schott had the task of marking his father for the entire game. And although his team eventually lost the game, Buck Schott scored the game’s first two goals and kept his father from scoring altogether.
“He didn’t get a goal off, which was fine by me,” Buck Schott said. “He’s got a lot of experience and he can get really into it. I don’t know if I’d rather play with him or against him.”
Since arriving in Sarasota, Buck Schott has spent at least three to four days a week practicing for both outdoor and arena polo.
The Schott family brought 20 polo horses with them to Sarasota for the season, including Mercedes — Buck Schott’s favorite polo horse.
Trey Schott got Mercedes when she was about 4 years old. She was soon diagnosed with Potomac Fever, of which only about 1 in 500,000 horses survive. But as luck would have it, veterinarians diagnosed her symptoms wrong and gave her an antibiotic that actually ended up saving her life.
Over the years, both Trey and Buck Schott have continued to train and play polo with Mercedes. But last season, Mercedes got her leg tangled in the wire of an electric fence and had to have surgery, forcing her to rest for six months. It could have been the end of Mercedes’ polo-playing days but instead the horse has only continued to thrive on the field.
“She’s one of my best horses,” Buck Schott said. “She’s fast and really handy. A polo horse needs to be able to stop quickly and spin. The better polo gets the better horses you need. She’s got the most history, but somehow she manages to keep going.”
And although he’s done playing in Sarasota for the season, Buck Schott plans to remain in the area until the end of the month. At that point, Schott will return to Lexington and begin practicing with the University of Kentucky polo team while finishing up his agricultural economics degree.
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].