Story courtesy of CLICKPOLOUSA.
Kitana St-Cyr was born and raised in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where she grew up around horses and took riding lessons with her older brother. “I’ve always loved horses; my interest definitely came from inspirational stories I’d hear about my grandfather, Henri St-Cyr, who had been an Olympic rider. I was convinced from a very young age that it was in my blood to ride and take whatever I did on the field to a competitive level,” Kitana told CLICKPOLOUSA.
When an earthquake struck her hometown, Kitana’s mother made the decision to move 14-year-old Kitana and the family out of Haiti: “We had lost more than I can express in words and although we were fortunate enough to afford to move, it was still a big sacrifice for my mom to leave everything behind and start planning a better life for us elsewhere.”
Despite the inevitable difficulties of uprooting the family, Kitana found her escape in riding. “Riding saved me. I would always find somewhere to take lessons, no matter how far of a distance it would be. I remember my mom being so willing to drive me to the next city to meet with the best trainers. She understood that I not only had a goal, but I also expressed myself through my passion for riding.”
Having participated in Hunter/Jumpers her entire life, Kitana traveled around Florida during her last two years of high school with the help of a Brazilian Olympic trainer. “She saw something in me and gave me a shot. She will forever be a big part of how I ride,” she recalls.
Kitana then moved to Texas, where she went through a highly competitive collegiate riding program and showed representing her school as well as with horses she had leased until she graduated. “A friend from my riding program had invited me to check out polo and take a lesson. I was burnt out from jumping, and I wanted to try something new. Polo is not only different from jumping, but I find it to be much more fun to play and even more fun to watch,” Kitana said.
For Kitana, polo has been rewarding and it has provided her with numerous opportunities. “I feel invited, and welcomed, and it opened my heart to so much more than I thought was possible in a sport. My goal with polo right now is to simply get better, practice and play as much as I’m given the chance to and enjoy the journey wherever it takes me. Polo is not just a sport or a hobby for me at this point, I’m very passionate and competitive about it. I’ve fallen in love with meeting its people and I’ve dedicated so much towards it, and it’s becoming my whole life.” Not only has she discovered a new sport and way of life, but also lasting friendships. “I’ve gained one of the greatest friends I’ll ever have through polo and that’s the beauty of the life polo exposes horse people to. I’m thankful I found polo and even more thankful I’m able to play in times like today.”
More than a sport, polo is a family where Kitana has found inclusion and unity among the players. “As a young woman in polo, I see the doors this field can open for someone like myself. I think women in polo are empowering to one another. They’re strong, they take care of each other all while playing the game exactly as it was designed to be played by men.”
Commonly referred to as the Sport of Kings, Kitana hopes to change perceptions about the sport. “I think most people have the wrong idea about polo because of the way it’s been perceived for so long. Sure it is called the Sport of Kings and Queens, but what it is not, is the sport of only the rich, not the sport of only one specific race nor one specific social class of people.” As for the future of polo, Kitana wishes to inspire a new generation of young, black girls. “What I wish to inspire in the new generation of young black girls, is to become the kind of players that shifts their eyes over richness from within rather than possession, richness in your talent, rather than the level of competition you’re up against. Polo can be your passport to the world and there is enough room for all of us in this sport of Kings.”
Photos courtesy of ©CLICKPOLOUSA.