Arguably, one of the biggest break-out moments of this year’s Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida, was on Saturday, March 11th when twenty-four-year-old Karen Polle and her star mount, With Wings, won the $380,000 Douglas Elliman CSI5* Grand Prix. This is after she won the $130,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup only two days before! Competing alongside McLain Ward, Eric Lamaze and Margie Engle to name a few, it was a week that certainly proved this pair is making great strides in the international arena.
Polle was born in Japan, and though she grew up in New York City, she holds dual citizenship in Japan and the United States. She purchased With Wings in her last junior year and in their seven years together they have progressed from the Low Juniors to jumping a ‘meter-sixty.’ She credits the horse for changing the course of her riding career. Polle was thrilled about their victory at WEF because she “always felt like he [was] a real winner.” Polle now rides for Japan and has set her sights on competing in the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
1. Polle uses Pure Barre and Vinyasa Yoga to help build better balance and a tighter position for when she rides.
2. She graduated from Yale University with a major in Economics. Originally interested in Chemistry, Polle realized that the four hour labs on Friday afternoons were too difficult to balance with her riding.
3. Polle and Wings each wear lucky ‘things’ – she has a ‘W’ ring, he has a bonnet with a flag of Japan.
4. While growing up she played soccer competitively and admits she was “pretty good.”
5. She loves her pet fish and has a fish tank built into a wall in her house. Her favorites are exotic types like angelfish, blowfish and lionfish.
6. Her other favorite pet is her rescue dog Minnie, an eleven year old Chihuahua-Jack Russell mix she has owned for about four years.
7. She describes going to Europe to train with Paul Schockemöhle last summer as an experience that totally changed her riding.
8. Polle speaks fluent Japanese.
9. Along with the Olympics, Polle has set her sights on competing at Aachen, With Wings, of course.
10. Polle loves how her Samshield helmet can change ‘looks’ – and changes it in subtle ways on different days. But on grand prix days she always wears her Miss Shield!
This article was originally published in our May/June 2017 issue. Read the full issue online here!