A conversation with the Argentine polo player and horse breeder.
Since stepping into the international spotlight more than a decade ago as a model for Ralph Lauren, Ignacio “Nacho” Figueras has proven that his talents are more than skin deep. The Argentine athlete, who turns 38 this month, is ranked as one of the top polo players on the planet, across which he travels to compete and share his love of the sport (see “Ponying Up”). When not traveling, Figueras retreats to his family farm, where he has amassed one of the world’s finest collections of polo ponies.
Tell us about your farm.
It’s out in the country, outside Buenos Aires, and we are building a big 44-stall modern barn at Figueras Polo Club, a property right next to my house that is about 60 to 70 percent finished. [Ludwig] Mies van der Rohe, Luis Barragán, and Tadao Ando are my three favorite architects, and I took ingredients from all three when I was designing the barn. [Mies] van der Rohe inspired the simplicity of the design, and the barn’s fountain was inspired by Barragán’s use of water in his designs. I’ve always said that if I were not a polo player, I would have been an architect, creating equestrian properties around the world. But let’s finish my barn first and make sure everything works.
Do you have influences from the art world?
I gravitate toward modern design, both in art and architecture. It has the most impact on me and inspires me. I like Jackson Pollock and Warhol; Warhol and Basquiat are my favorites. I have one Warhol (Tammy Grimes’s Feet), but no Basquiat and no Pollocks yet. I’m working on it!
Do you collect anything else?
When I was growing up out in the country I was very into sports, so I spent most of my time playing polo and tennis. But I would collect eggs with a friend of mine. We had more than 100 eggs, from hummingbirds to a rhea, which is almost as big as an ostrich. Now I collect horses. I have a very big breeding operation. I consider it a collection of different bloodlines from the best polo horses in the world. In building the new barn, I wanted to create a kind of museum where I could put all of these pieces of art—my horses—which I have been collecting for the past 10 or 12 years. I have about 500 now.
Out of all the hundreds of horses, is there a favorite?
A mare called Sue Ellen. She is a famous polo pony. She’s played in so many tournaments and won many accolades. She is a highly decorated horse, and in February she was inducted into the Hall of Fame, at the Museum of Polo in Florida.
Your birthday is approaching. What is the best gift you have ever received?
A silver heart necklace that my wife, Delfina, gave me on our wedding day. It has her name on it and our wedding date.
Do you play any other sports besides polo and tennis?
I go skiing at least once or twice a year with my family. But I push my luck every single day when I play polo, so I leave the life-threatening sports for someone else.
Where do you like to vacation?
My family loves José Ignacio in Uruguay. We go to Aspen to ski. We also hang out at our farm, and just spend time together. I travel so much year-round to play polo that our vacation is to stay home!