17 Questions is a feature series where we introduce different women polo players around the world. In this feature, we talked to Larapinta Polo’s Kate Irvine, who’s been enjoying this wonderful sport since 2018. Apart from polo, the 23-year-old is also talented in other horse disciplines, such as showjumping, dressage, and eventing.
1. Since when are you interested in horses?
“Mom and Dad were kiwi’s, they grew up in Auckland both surrounded by horses. I don’t think I really had a chance; I’d say I would have been all of a few months old when I first was put on top of a horse. That’s when the passion started.”
2. How did you get into polo?
“Funny enough, my mom, Nicky Irvine, was actually the first to pick up polo when she saw a sign for arena polo over 25 years ago. Since then, my dad, Balf Irvine, found a love for the sport. He was playing polo before I was even walking. So 20 years later, when he decided to give the sport another go, he asked my siblings and I if we would play with him. I guess you could say the rest is history.”
3. Who is your first coach?
“My first riding coach was Olympian Rebel Morrow. She had the pleasure of wrangling a scruffy ‘ye-haw’ kid into the dressage ring. Since taking up polo, my first and only coach has been Nick Keyte. He has always looked out for me and my siblings on and off the field. He has been a great coach and friend to us Irvines.”
4. Who are your heroes on the field?
“Locally, I would have to say Indi Bennetto. She is a fierce rider who will have most sensible men shaking in their boots. She has been a great female influence in the sport of polo for me. It is always so much fun playing together.”
5. What’s the best training tip you’ve ever received?
“‘Strong legs, light hands’.This has applied to both my polo riding and my eventing.”
6. How do you bond with your horse?
“I think taking the time to groom before working is a great way to start off a session. If you ever have something else on your mind, it helps you to switch over and focus on the horse and become intune.”
7. Best horse care tip?
“Turmeric. I love it! I feed it to all our horses. It is great for their joints and any inflammation they might have going on (also works a treat for Queensland itchy horses).”
8. Who is your polo bestfriend?
“I’d have to say Indi Bennetto and Nick Keyte. We spend a lot of time together training, riding sets and playing. It is always heaps of fun with these two.”
9. Which position do you love playing the most in and why?
“I definitely like playing 1 or 2. However, I am always up for changing it around and trying something new.”
10. What is more important in a team: trust or communication? Why?
“This is actually a very hard question as I think both are so imperative for a team to successfully cooperate. However, if you start with good communication between your teammates (on and off the field), you’ll quickly gain each other’s trust very quickly.”
11. What’s your ultimate must-have when playing?
“Safety is so important in the sport we play. So if there is anything that we can do or wear to mitigate our risks on the field, it is absolutely a must. I wear my ONA gloves, Casablanca elbow pads, and my Oakley Jawbreaker glasses.”
12. Would you rather play mixed or women’s polo? Why?
“Unfortunately, in Queensland, Australia, we do not get many women’s polo tournaments. Having only played in a few, I really enjoyed the different dynamic. However, I think I’d rather play mixed. It’s always fun giving the boys a run for their money (Am I right?).”
13 For you, what makes polo the best sport?
“I think having that unique comradery between everyone in the polo community is something very special to the sport. Although we play hard and tough against one another on the field, as soon as that final buzzer goes, everyone is back to being friends again and are ready for a beer.”
14. What’s your best win throughout your career?
“I’d definitely have to say my second half of the 2021 season. Indi bennetto, Steve Urquhart, Lachie Gilmore, and myself managed to have an undefeated team for the whole of the 4-goal season. This included tournaments such as the Alsace Cup, Jim MacGinley Memorial Trophy, the QLD Gold Cup, and the 2021 Australian Open.”
15. What’s the worst polo misconception you’ve ever heard of?
“Probably that polo is ‘The sport of kings’. I’ve always found this very funny, especially because in Australia, polo was first introduced by our stock men. These farmers played horses that they used to muster cattle during the week.”
16. If you could live the life of one polo player for a day, who would it be and why?
“Probably Hazel Jackson. It would be amazing to be able to experience the sport in her eyes.”
17. Complete the sentence: “The magic of polo is _______.”
Photographs courtesy of Kate Irvine