Catriona Rowntree: ‘How I became a horsy girl without quitting my globe-trotting day job’

‘Never fall for a girl who loves horses, ’cause she’ll always love the horse more than you.’ Utter that line to any horse-mad gal and you’re sure to get a giggle and a nod. Myself included, so I thought I’d hit the jackpot when I fell in love with a hot farmer, with lots of stables. But I was in for a rude shock.

My farmer saw me coming from a mile off, having grown up with a dad who’d always warned him about ‘horsie girls’, so when I asked sweetly ‘do you think we could get a pony?’ He replied ‘sure, when you stop travelling.’ ‘Um, but I’m a travel reporter?’ I replied, to which he said ‘yep and I’m not going to exercise your horse every day until you return.’ Darn it.

But don’t worry people, help was at hand in the form of polo. Who knew?

Catriona Rowntree on how she became a ‘horsy girl’ again, despite a career on the road (Nine/iStock)

I was asked to help raise money for charity at a polo event and my horsie addiction was quenched. I’d never considered actually playing polo before. Loved to watch, sure, but thought you had to either own 12 horses or be a royal to compete.

Nope, times have changed, now you can simply hire a horse, team up with a bunch of like-minded, horse-loving souls, play a chukka (a polo division) and have yourself a darn tootin’ good time.

Cable Beach Polo
Competitors at the Cable Beach Polo in Broome (Cable Beach Polo)

My life has totally opened up to the kindest group of people who’ve never once teased my lack of skill. Ok, I’ve heard commentators yell into the microphone during my games ‘Catriona’s manicuring the lawn!’ I am SO slow and I’ll accept I’m the comic element, but who cares when you’re having so much fun on this beautiful pony and you get to wear such fabulous boots. I’m in heaven.

My great grandfather actually helped to create a local polo club in his country town of Quirindi, so as a child my dad was always my biggest enabler. Whilst he didn’t agree to keep a pony at our local park on the North Shore, he did pack me off to pony camp on school holidays, take our family to polo matches (country-style, so much fun) and he loved that I’d found such a fun sport to play. My hubby still thinks I’m bonkers, but considering he’s obsessed with fly fishing we agree to disagree.

Cable Beach Polo
The Broome polo event also involves the wearing of exquisite Paspaley Pearls (Cable Beach Polo)

My love of horse riding is also something I’m able to regularly indulge via my job. Just recently I rode up into the Snowy Mountains on the back of a brumbie. Also, when I was writing my book The Best of World Cruising I ticked off my bucket-list item – a cruise through The Kimberley (amazing! Just go – all the deets in my now-published book) and noticed that there was a Broome Polo event happening this May that would not only be played on the sand, but may just involve the wearing of exquisite Paspaley Pearls! Yee-haa! You can count me in faster than you can say ‘horsie girls in their pearls.’

Needless to say, I’m so glad my dad encouraged my love of horses and thank heavens for my marriage that I’ve been able to find an outlet like polo to still enjoy them, albeit part time. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Giddy up!

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