Polo With a Purpose
Lawyer Pamela Flanagan plays the sport, rehabs horses, and a lot more
Lot No.743 was selling for just above the meat price of 50 cents a pound and wason her way to a grim future before being rescued by Lawyer Pamela Flanagan. “She was the horse version of my dog Bella and had the same markings,” Flanagan recalls of the auction in Louisiana in 2016. “I saw her, and she was the perfect height and build. She checked all the boxes, so I thought, ‘Why not?’” The rescue mare, Lot No.743, was named Stella and became a turning point in Flanagan’s life. Not only has Flanagan gone on to rescue 12 more horses from slaughter, she also has become an advocate for rehab and retraining rescue horses and turning them into top competitors. In fact, Flanagan played Stella in the 2019 U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship and won. Not bad for a horse out of the kill pen.
So just who is Pamela Flanagan? Hailing from Ocean Reef, Florida., the 30-year-old attorney is an international polo sensation, having represented the United States in tournaments in places as far-flung as India. She has also played in Argentina, China, Mexico, Guatemala and across the United States. When she’s not playing polo across the globe, Flanagan spends much of the season competing in Florida. She recently moved to Littleton, Colorado, where her boyfriend’s family also plays polo and runs a stable.
Flanagan’s father started a law firm in Chicago more than 50 years ago and has since expanded to all 50 states. While horses and polo may not be a Flanagan family affair, business certainly is, with all six children working for the firm in some capacity. Flanagan works in commercial property tax appeals, is licensed in Texas, and is working on earning reciprocity in Colorado. And while she comes from a large family (four older brothers and a younger sister), she is the only one with an interest in horses.
“I was 4 years old and begged my parents for pony rides. I went twice a week for an hour, and they were the best hours of my week,” she explains. “My poor dad always thought it was a phase, and I would grow out of it, but here we are!”
She attended Culver Academy, a boarding school in Indiana with a prestigious equestrian program. “I had the opportunity to sign up for every horse sport available. When I played polo, it just stuck. It was automatic. Polo combined the team sport element with the horses, and it was this perfect union for me.”
Today, Flanagan has eight horses—five polo ponies, one horse in training and two pleasure horses.
“Stella inspired me to go down this path of having a more purposeful path of polo. She is the reason for my continued efforts, Flanagan says. “These rescue horses are so special and can be such amazing athletes and companions. I’d like to see more of my rescues play at the top level of polo. Rehabbing and retraining them is the process I enjoy most.”
Flanagan plays both women’s and mixed (men and women on the same team) polo and sits on the board of the United States Polo Association.
“Women’s polo is an incredible community sport. You can go to the Denver Polo Club and take a lesson. It’s really accessible at the community level. Families can all play together: son, daughter, mom and dad,” she says. “It’s a really special community to be a part of where you all have the same values of horse, travel and adrenaline.”
And if being a full-time attorney, a jet-setting polo player and a committed advocate for equine rescue and rehabilitation wasn’t enough, Flanagan also is in the process of taking over as general manager for Hawaii Polo Life, a lifestyle fashion brand. She has been an ambassador and model for the company and polo team since 2017. HPL is owned by Chris Dawson, a well-respected polo player, a native Hawaiian, businessman and entrepreneur who has been a long-time supporter of Flanagan’s polo career. He’s also the founder and president of the Hawaii International Polo Association.
“Chris is a visionary; a polo lover who wants to spread ‘aloha’ to the world,” she says. “He really embodies that native Hawaii spirit and the sophisticated, nomadic lifestyle he’s been emerged in. My vision is to collaborate with artisans to produce one-of-a-kind, limited edition products that represent Hawaii and the spirit of polo.”
The fashion brand’s new offerings will be available this fall, another thing to look forward to from a talented and ambitious athlete.
Stephanie E. Richards has a master’s degree in journalism and has written and edited for various publications in Colorado. She’s also a nationally competitive equestrian who operates a private horse facility in Greenwood Village.