Having fun with sport of kings

The New Zealand polo legacy left by Gisborne brothers David, Colin and the late John Kirkpatrick, continued at the weekend when Sam Kirkpatrick stepped in to take the reins in place of an injured rider.

Mr Kirkpatrick joined one of a dozen teams to contest the three grades of the Harvest Transport Poverty Bay Polo Open at Bushmere grounds over the two days.

“This is where I spent my Saturdays and Sundays for years,” said Mr Kirkpatrick.

“I’ve since had years overseas looking after polo fields and polo teams.”

Now based in the Waikato, and working for the National Fieldays Society, Mr Kirkpatrick’s steed was one of a few owned by the Te Awamutu Kay family, known in polo circles as horse breeders and polo players.

He was joined at the tournament by horse groomer Annie Hayes who escaped the British winter to work in New Zealand.

“I work for Ed Kay and look after the horses six days a week. I work in Spain in summer. In England and Spain, polo grounds are flashy,” said Miss Hayes.

“Polo isn’t a posh sport here. People do it for the love of it. In Europe you’d never see trucks parked in the shade on the sidelines.

“Here you get more opportunities to have fun. It’s a family thing and more inclusive.”

Polo in its modern form originated in India, and was developed by British military officers in the mid-19th century, but the best players in the world are now from Argentina, said Miss Hayes.

Mr Kirkpatrick will get a taste of how good the Argentinians are at International Polo Day in Kihikihi next month.

The tournament includes a test match between Piquet Hill New Zealand and Fullerton AG Argentina.

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