The professional polo player, model and entrepreneur talks about the sport she loves.
Professional polo player and model, Ashley Busch, who is married to NASCAR driver Kurt Busch, lives an adrenaline-filled life. From gearing up for her own matches, to watching her husband drive, to serving as the first official Brand Ambassador for the U.S. Polo Association, she takes life by the reins. She is always on the go, as the couple splits their time between their homes in Florida and North Carolina. Now, Ashley is adding the role of businesswoman to her plate with her new swimwear line. She gives us a glimpse into her action-packed life.
HOW DID YOU COME TO FALL IN LOVE WITH POLO?
I grew up in Middleburg, Virginia, which is a very small equestrian town, and I began riding when I was five. Down the street there was a polo school, and one day when I was 11, my best friend and I decided to go and give it a try. So we went to the polo school and I just started hitting the ball around and running up and down the field and having so much fun with my friends. I was like, forget horse shows, forget any other types of riding—I’m addicted to polo.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART ABOUT THE SPORT?
I am super passionate about horses and riding, and polo just happened to be so much more fun than being in the show ring. I love the camaraderie of it being a team sport, the speed, and everything involved with it.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO AT THIS YEAR’S SCOTTSDALE POLO PARTY?
Well, I’m super excited to be coming back again. Last year was amazing. This event is probably one of the biggest polo events that I play in throughout the year. I know they had about 13,000 people last year, and I think this year will be even bigger. So it’s just really cool for me to play a sport that I’m so passionate about, but in front of so many people and just teach people about the sport and show them that women play and just to get more and more viewership and more people involved in polo.
I love going out and playing for the crowds, and The Polo Party is a great venue. It draws in so many people from all over the world, and Scottsdale is such a great place.
Nacho Figueras will be participating in the Polo Party for the first time this year. He and I have been good friends for years, and frequently play in charity matches together or exhibition matches.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR SWIMWEAR LINE. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START THAT?
So, along with horses, another passion of mine has always been fashion. When I was younger, I used to collect swimwear. I have always gravitated towards warm weather and beaches and I’m spending half of the year in Florida, so I was always selecting swimwear. And that inspired me to want to create my own line.
A big part of my business is also the fact that ten-percent of all the proceeds will go towards Planet Water. It was really important to me not only create a beautiful line of swimwear that people haven’t seen before, but also that every piece would give back to a good cause.
CAN YOU GIVE US A PREVIEW OF THE FIRST COLLECTION?
The line is called Monarch Rain. I named it after the Monarch butterfly. I wanted a very strong and feminine name. You can expect a lot of embroidery and butterflies, and some very interesting fabrics for swimwear. Each piece will be exclusive and very unique—I’m very excited about it.
WILL YOU BE EXPANDING INTO OTHER CLOTHING COLLECTIONS?
I hope to really establish myself in the luxury swimwear market and then grow. I’m already developing dresses, cover-ups, and things like that. I’m working on maybe athleisure and other fun stuff, too. You never know.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
I like to spend time at home with Kurt and with my friends, and hang out by the pool. Maybe play tennis or work out. But I would have to say one of my favorite things because we’re on the road so much is just being at home, like cooking dinner with Kurt. Just relaxing.
WHO’S THE COOK, YOU OR KURT?
We both work together. It just depends. Sometimes he’ll grill outside and I’ll make the sides, or I have a few recipes that I just put in the oven and we kind of work together on those. We’re good in the kitchen together.
WHO ARE SOME ATHLETES THAT INSPIRE YOU?
Well, of course, my husband Kurt. He inspires me every day—just his drive and never giving up. Then I have to say I love Steph Curry; he has just changed basketball. And then Serena Williams just because she’s such a badass female athlete.
DO YOU GET NERVOUS WATCHING KURT RACE?
The first race that I really ever experienced at a large track was Daytona and it was before the 500 and one car would wipe out 20 cars and I thought to myself, “Oh my goodness, if every race is going to be like this, I don’t know how I’m going to handle it!”
I would say, after many years of watching Kurt and just trusting the safety, technology and everything that they have in their cars and seeing so many wrecks happen and people walk away, I feel like he could possibly be safer than me sometimes. But I will say I get more nervous on the side of him doing well and winning and finishing well more so than I do with him getting hurt.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO PLAY POLO WITH PRINCE HARRY?
Just being able to go to England and participate was such a huge experience. It was amazing. Just the fact that I could go over there and play with the teammates that I had, and also benefit such a great cause and help to support something he [Prince Harry] is so passionate about was definitely a lifetime experience I’ll never forget.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR BRAND AMBASSADORSHIP WITH THE U.S. POLO ASSOCIATION.
I was chosen last year and it was the first year that they decided to have brand ambassadors, so I was chosen as the first female brand ambassador along with a friend of mine Juan Bollini. So he and I are both the first ambassadors of the U.S. Polo Association. Again, it’s just being able to bring awareness; the USPA helps me showcase and also it combines fashion with my love of the sport, so I feel like it just allows me to be super authentic to myself and the sport and what I love to do. Being a face for them and bringing more awareness to the sport of polo and also teaching people that the USPA isn’t just another Ralph Lauren. It actually is the sport of polo itself.
HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR A RACE?
It’s just the mindset. There’s workouts where I run and train for hours because that’s very similar to what we do in the car. And then there’s video preparation, team communication, and making sure that everybody’s on the same page and working through each day toward the race. It’s important to stay focused.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART ABOUT RACE WEEKEND?
Friday morning’s practice. It’s so much fun to jump in the car, hit the track, and go 200 miles an hour at a place that I haven’t been to in a long while. We race a lot of tracks twice a year, but it could be March for one track and then August the next time I go back, so when we’re hitting the track on Friday for the first time, that’s the best feeling.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE TRACK?
Bristol Motor speedway. It’s a little short track in the Eastern Tennessee hills. It’s a cool place because of the atmosphere there with the stadium and the way it seats 150,000 fans around our small little track. It just brings out the adrenaline in everybody.
HOW DO YOU AND ASHLEY MAKE TIME TO SPEND TOGETHER BETWEEN SO MUCH TRAVEL?
It’s a tough schedule, it’s 40 weeks a year. I love Ashley, she’s wonderful and the way that she’s committed to my racing schedule. As soon as racing is done to be committed to her polo schedule down in Florida.
DO YOU GET NERVOUS WATCHING HER PLAY?
I’m way more nervous to watch Ashley play polo and jump into her game. I think polo is more dangerous than NASCAR. The way that they’re unprotected so to speak and you don’t know what the horse is going to do and the other players. The whole atmosphere itself is definitely a tough situation and I’m so proud of my wife. The way that she competes and goes out there with guys and goes for gold.
At the end of the day, the way that I see our two sports and the way that they parallel is that you have to be in focus and you have to go and know when game time is and focus on that time. Then there’s the preparation that goes into that beforehand leading up to it and the execution of game time.
WHAT IS ONE OF YOUR MOST MEMORABLE MOMENTS?
That whole experience in London and to go to England and watch Ashley play with royalty was a top five moment. The way that whole invite came together was very special. And to see Ashley announced just before Prince Harry and that whole lineup, it was fantastic.