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A Polo Star Documents His Journey From Philly Kid to National Champion

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Photo by Tessa Marie Images

In 2011, Kareem Rosser captained the first all-Black team to win the National Interscholastic Polo championship. Now 28, he shares his path in a new memoir, Crossing the Line

In 2011, Kareem Rosser captained the first all-Black team to win the National Interscholastic Polo championship. Now 28, he documents his journey from inner-city Philadelphia kid to national champion in the new memoir Crossing the Line: A Fearless Team of Brothers and the Sport That Changed Their Lives Forever (St. Martin’s Press, 304 pages). Rosser has also ridden at Radnor Hunt, and he’s donating 50 percent of the book’s profits to the nonprofit Work to Ride program, where he learned about horses, polo and defying the odds.

MLT: When were you first introduced to horses?
ROSSER:
I’d get pony rides from the Black cowboys in my West Philly neighborhood. People aren’t aware that there’s a rich culture of Black cowboys inside the city. Some of my neighbors even had horses in their backyards.

MLT: How old were you when you learned to ride?
ROSSER: I was 8 when I started lessons with Work to Ride. My first pony was named Aja. I was a timid rider—I was terrified of falling off. I got my first polo lesson when I was 9 or 10. When I first hit the polo ball, I was hooked.

MLT: What was your biggest challenge as a beginner?
ROSSER: Most of the Work to Ride horses were aging out of polo or had issues. Some had trouble stopping or turning. The horse is 90 percent of the game, and it’s harder to compete with horses like that. Learning to work with those horses made us better athletes.

MLT: How did you progress as a polo player?
ROSSER: We spent a lot of years losing badly. There were games that we lost 30-0 or 25-5. We practiced, got older and stronger … and practiced. By sophomore year of high school, our team was so good that we competed against Cornell, Yale and UVA.

MLT: In 2019, you and your brother Daymar headlined a Ralph Lauren advertising campaign that included a billboard in Times Square. What was that like?
ROSSER: The reaction was incredible. The story was really about Work to Ride. Our goal is to further the organization’s mission.

MLT: It seems like part of your heart is still in Work to Ride’s barn in Fairmount Park.
ROSSER:
For sure. I’m on the executive committee of Work to Ride’s board of directors. There are a lot of kids who come from where we come from, and we want to give them hope. Maybe they play polo, maybe they just ride a horse. If we did it, so can they.

Visit worktoride.net.