Elise Robertson, Feline Specialist and an Endoscopist/Keyhole Surgeon for cats and dogs, circles her life around these animals. And recently, it also involved horses, too—after being introduced to the fun and majestic world of polo.
The veterinarian recalls how she’d always been curious about the sport of kings since she was in her 20s. However, the limited opportunities back then had hindered her from pursuing the sport. Luckily, years later, a friend of hers urged her to join him for a chukka—from there, it’s an easy way in.
“I’m very fortunate that I live in an area with more grassroots establishments who readily accept beginners with open arms without the unspoken awkwardness one can feel if you’re not considered ‘horsey’ enough,” she tells POLO LADY. “I was immediately hooked purely by the extremely friendly and inclusive sense of community. I love polo’s rather rustic yet noble international history, where both men and women participate in the sport.”
Even though she started late, the animal doctor takes her polo journey “slow and steady,” as she describes. Elise adds that it serves as a nice relief from her high-paced professional life. “Polo has brought me great joy. I’ve found a hobby where I can finally meet new friends from all walks of life. I love that it’s a team sport with you and the pony as well as being part of a much bigger team of three other pairs,” she reveals.
Her connection with horses can probably be credited to her being surrounded by furry friends with her line of work. The feline expert shares that she knew that she wanted to be a cat veterinarian as early as five years old. And with her extensive knowledge of these paw friends, she saw how similar they are to horses.
“Like horses, cats can be terribly misunderstood because they rely on very subtle communication cues. One needs to understand these cues to establish a trusting relationship,” Elise offers.
Her career is also similar to polo in a way that it lets her see the world. She has traveled to many places to attend to different medical cases for animals, including the UK, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, and Malaysia. Apart from offering treatments, Elise also teaches undergraduate and postgraduate classes in the USA, Europe, China, Thailand, and Australia.
But what further diversifies her work and makes it exciting for her is how she can work in very humble clinical environments to elite and royal households. “Animals really expose the human spirit, no matter what socioeconomic background one comes from. The common thread that’s exposed is the raw human emotion and bonds one has with their beloved pet—it’s the same sense of joy a pet brings to our lives and the same sense of deep sorrow when they leave us,” Elise comments.
With her mastery in the field, we asked her for the best practice on how one can improve their relationship with their four-legged friends—whether it’s a cat, a dog, or a horse. Her answer? “Listen to an animal with all your senses—animals communicate with so many different layers when expressing their needs,” the vet states. “We equally need to be mindful about not over-interpreting certain behaviors as this can perpetuate a stressful situation for the animal, or worse yet, establish normal coping behaviors which can be seen as ‘abnormal’ to us.”
Elise is not stopping from learning more about our favorite animal partners anytime soon. After all, she knows that the doctor is always in. “I’m keen to explore how my veterinary skills can integrate more into humanitarian, educational, and sustainability projects in emerging economies in our post-COVID world,” she explains when she opened up about taking on another degree in Global Health.
And, of course, she’s still eyeing more things when it comes to polo. “I really want to work more on my core balance as this will no doubt help my swing pace and ball contact with more consistency. Polo is making me practice the personal art of practice and patience, too,” Elise notes. “The struggle of being human is real!”
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Mariel Abanes is the Managing Editor of POLO LADY Magazine.