By day, Zinta Braukis the fashion model wears high-end designer clothing for the camera. On her days off, the statuesque brunette from Los Angeles, Calif., sports breeches and boots at the barn.
Zinta not only shares her love for polo with her 70,000 social media followers, but also riding adventures from the desert to the beach, as well as equestrian style tips.
Zinta met her husband, Jeffrey Rewald, through polo; he’s a polo instructor and her frequent Instagram photographer. Together, the couple competes in tournaments in Southern California and Arizona with their string of personable ponies.
Growing Up a Horse Girl
When the horse bug first bit Zinta as a child, her parents and step parents encouraged her to pursue her passion.
The biggest challenge Zinta had to overcome as young horse lover growing up near Chicago was a lack of money for riding lessons. When she found a barn with a work-to-ride program, Zinta was in! For every 10 hours worked, the young equestrian would get to take a 30-minute lesson.
The only way she could get to the barn regularly was by taking the bus. Her mom accompanied her for the first couple of trips, but after that, 14-year-old Zinta traveled alone.
“In the beginning I was scared and didn’t want to do it, but it was the only way,” she says. Zinta would walk a few blocks to the bus stop, take one bus across town and then transfer to another bus. Her drop off point was a half-mile from her barn, and she would walk the remaining leg. The total journey was about an hour and a half one-way.
First Love, First Horse
In those days, the hunter/jumper trainer Zinta worked for got a bay off-track Thoroughbred named Macaroni (Mac) who captivated the teen.
“I was there during his retraining process, and we got along very well. After several months I wanted to buy him, and I convinced my dad and grandfather to pay for half, and my trainer let me make payments for the balance with money I earned.”
When Zinta later moved to Los Angeles to pursue modeling, she brought Mac with her. The pair competed in a few hunter/jumper shows, but due to cost, mostly explored the local trails.
Zinta’s Polo Ponies
In time, Zinta’s modeling career took off and she began to learn polo, which led to meeting her husband. At that point, the grownup horse-crazy girl transitioned from one horse to many.
At first, she felt guilty dividing her attention; however, she learned a polo string forms a herd where they socialize with each other and are quite happy. The horses are turned out together.
“On game days, the horses get trailered together and tacked and untacked at the same time,” says Zinta. “Often they get exercised together with one rider leading two to three horses on each side, which means five to seven horses all cantering at once.”
Jeffrey decided that Zinta’s first horse, Mac, should learn polo along with her, so he began to train the gelding for the new adventure. “He really likes the sport—and he still loves to run,” says Jeffrey. Even though Macaroni didn’t start playing until he was 14, he has become one of their best horses.
Pluto was Zinta’s first experienced polo pony—the one she learned to play the game on. In addition to polo, Pluto also models. “He knows how to pose for the camera and makes frequent appearances on my Instagram and in magazines, and has even been booked on his own jobs, one of which was with Nicole Richie.”
Another one of Zinta’s ponies, Ferrari, lives up to his name. “He’s always been the fastest in every game we’ve played him. He had previously been an expensive horse due to his bloodlines and athleticism, but the owners were trying to resell him because he had developed a reputation for being uncontrollable.”
Wally, a formerly abandoned horse, and Breezy, the most recent addition, make up the rest of the string.
Zinta is hooked on polo and would recommend it to any horse lover that has ever considered it. “The relationship with the horses is absolutely the best part. The feeling of galloping down the field and hitting the ball is exhilarating. That moment of impact is very satisfying and invigorating.”
Find Zinta on Instagram: @zintapolo.
Susan Friedland-Smith is a school teacher who blogs at Saddle Seeks Horse (www.saddleseekshorse.com) about the everyday equestrian lifestyle and her off-track Thoroughbred.
This article originally appeared in the July 2017 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!