Polo is a sport known to be dominated by white rich males and 19-year-old Shariah Harris from Philadelphia became the first black woman to play high-goal polo. Harris is a sophomore at Cornell University and is excited about this barrier-breaking opportunity.
“It’s great. Everything’s going by really fast, actually so it’s been great. This is something I’ve always wished I could do but never thought would happen. It’s pretty amazing.” – Shariah Harris via Huffpost
Harris started playing polo around 9 years old after her mom took a detour while driving. The wrong turn led them to an area where other black children were riding horses. Harris and her mom were interested and found out that the stables were run by a non-profit called Work to Ride. This program allows inner-city underprivileged kids to work in the stables and care for the horses, in return, the kids are taught about horsemanship and equine sports.
“As a mother of three children on a single income, I saw it as an opportunity to make their lives better,” her mom, Sharmell Harris, told the Hartford Courant. “Instead of a soccer mom, I became a barn mom.”
Harris began working at the stables, she arrived early in the morning to feed the horses, clean the barns, do maintenance work and other tasks. She admits to not being that good at riding, but said she found a special comfort being on the horses.
At 12 years old she found her passion for polo and joined the organization’s team. She sharpened up her polo skills by watching videos of the best players in the world. She would incorporate some of their moves into her sport and aspired to play at that level.
Her practice continued into college and she became a star player on Cornell’s polo team. In 2016 Harris was named the Polo Training Foundation’s 2016 national interscholastic player of the year. She credits much of her success to where it all started at Work to Ride. Through this amazing non-profit organization, Harris was able to travel to play in different cities in the country and out of the country to Nigeria and Argentina.
“I’m impressed by her guts and determination. She has the talent and the attitude to make it in any kind of polo, she got a great opportunity to jump on a top organization and she is grabbing this opportunity by the horns and guide it and enjoying it like no many players have done it before.” – Mariano Aguerre, Museum of Polo’s Hall of Fame inductee
Harris is ecstatic to play and she hasn’t yet grasped the fact that she is currently making history.
“All this came popping up, like ‘you’re the first African American female to do this,’ and I’m like, ’Oh. Well that’s great, too, but I just wanted to go out there and play. It’s kinda great that I’m making history as well.” – Shariah Harris
We’re rooting for you Ms.Harris! #BlackGirlMagic