It’s known as the sport of kings but now a young female rider from Kent is taking on the male-dominated world of polo – and winning.
Following a string of successes, Alice Walsh, 25, from Hever, made the reserve for the GB ladies team’s recent tour of South Africa.
And now she’s not only preparing her two ponies Mabel and Margery for the upcoming polo season, but she is working flat out to raise the money she needs to add to her stable.
One of the world’s oldest known team sports, the costs involved in polo – from owning, training and stabling at least four and up to 10 horses and travelling around the world – make it generally inaccessible to anyone other than the seriously rich.
But Alice, who lives with her mum in a rented flat, is determined not to let money – or the lack of it – hold her back.
She was able to buy Mabel and Margery cheaply as they were bred for racing but didn’t grow tall enough and has trained them for polo herself.
“I’m not your typical polo player by any stretch of the imagination,” she said, “as I simply don’t have the funds.
“But I know I’m at the top of my game – and so are Mabel and Margery – so I’m determined to give it my best shot.”
Alice’s love of horses started in childhood – and her skill at handling them took her to the New Forest Polo School.
A stint in Argentina – whose players are world famous within the sport – then followed and brought the opportunity to work with 10-goal player Sebastian Merlos.
In order to fund her progress through the sport Alice worked in London as an IT consultant after graduating from Warwick University and set up her own business, Lineup Polo, which supports players and clubs worldwide by streamlining tournament management and sharing data for spectators to follow the sport.
“I know how hard it has been – and still is -for me to keep going in this sport,” she said.
“And not only is the business an income stream but it also enables me to encourage other young players – men and women – to take up polo and progress within it.
“It’s my whole world and although it’ not easy, I’m proof that you don’t need to be rich or privileged to enjoy it and succeed.”