History is in the making as two of Ireland’s top lady polo players bid to take centre stage for the first time at the highest level polo competition in the world – and one of them is from Laois.
Abbeyleix native April Kent and her teammate Siobhan Herbst, of Wicklow, are aiming to become the first Irish people to compete at the World Cup of Ladies Polo later this year.
Polo is a game played on horseback between two teams of four players each who use mallets with long, flexible handles to drive a wooden ball down a grass field and between two goal posts.
The concept of the game and its variants date back from the 6th century BC to the 1st century AD. The first polo match in Europe was played here in Ireland, in Carlow, in 1872
The Ladies Argentine Open takes place in Buenos Aries December 2021 and to take part, you have to be at a certain standard.
As April and Siobhan are the only Irish girls to hold such a handicap, they are joining with two Scottish competitors to make a team of four.
April Kent grew up by a stud farm in Abbeyleix and cannot remember life before horses.
Hunting from 6 years of age, she competed in most equestrian disciplines including pony club, eventing and hunting trials.
April, also a natural at ball sports, captains her local hockey team in Abbeyleix, as well competing previously in tennis and even ladies football.
At 18, a friend asked her to help exercise their polo ponies and she hasn’t looked back since.
Following this perfect match of ball skills, horsemanship, and many years of hard toil, a top class polo player was born.
April said: “We want to set an example for the growing number of ladies and children participating in the sport, to show them that they too can become accomplished polo players on the world stage.
“Most professional Irish polo players are men who go on to play abroad where they can make a living from polo. We want to take the sport back and help grow it again in Ireland.
“Our life goal is to represent Ireland in the The Ladies Polo Open in Argentina. It is The World Cup of Ladies Polo and is the highest level you can get in this sport.
“Ireland produces some of the best thoroughbreds in the world, many being retrained from the track and going on to play polo at high levels.
“We have the horses, we have the horsemen and we have the ball skills – putting all this together we should be making more of a mark in the polo world.
“Horses are in Irish people’s blood. Both the people and the horses have a similar mentality and warmth.
“There is a kindness, helpfulness and a good-natured spirit that is pervasive here.”
She is a huge promoter of the Irish thoroughbred and both produces and plays all of her own polo ponies, all of which are Irish thoroughbred ex-racehorses.
Kent at this stage has played polo in most continents of the world, including destinations as far reached as Argentina, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand – describing the sport as her passport to the world.
April has focused most of her playing career across the European circuit in clubs spanning France, Spain, Ireland, UK, Holland, Italy and Germany.
It has been her life-long dream to represent Ireland in the highest female polo stage in the world, the Ladies Argentine Open, a dream she hopes to realise in December 2021.
In order to get to Argentina later this year, April and Siobhan have to fund the project entirely from sponsorship due to polo not being an Olympic sport.
Anyone wishing to contribute to the fundraiser can do so by clicking below: