Polo, Roping, Mounted Shooting, Barrel Racing, PoloCrosse: Is there anything Kerstie Allen CAN’T do on a horse?
By Lauren R. Giannini
After growing up in Australia, Kerstie Allen took off to explore the world, literally and figuratively, on horseback. She has played high goal polo alongside royalty and some of the best professional players, competed in rodeo events, and, at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, played demonstration games as a member of the USA PoloCrosse World Cup Squad.
“We won the USA-versus-Australia test match in PoloCrosse in 2010, and I’ve won best (polo) player in the WCT (Women’s Championship Tournament), but my biggest achievement so far has been playing in the 26-goal tournament in Wellington, Florida,” Kerstie said.
Her first 26-goal experience took place in the semi-finals match of the Butler Handicap, the subsidiary of the U.S. Polo Association (USPA) Piaget Gold Cup on March 20. Crab Orchard team captain and sponsor George Rawlings had been dealing with a persistent bad knee so Kerstie stepped into the line-up and stayed in the team through the finals, playing alongside 10-goaler Facundo Pieres, Magoo Laprida (8) and Paco de Narvaez (8). Crab Orchard won the 2014 Butler Handicap Title.
“It was the greatest honor because I am a 0-goal player,” Kerstie said. “I’ve never even seen a 26-goal game and to play in one and win was just a dream come true. I was riding 12 horses I didn’t know at all against top players with really high handicaps. I played in every match of the Butler Handicap and we won every one.”
When it came to the next 26-goal tournament, Kerstie found herself watching the ultimate high goal polo tournament, the 110th Maserati US Open. Women have made a lot of progress in polo, but there’s still a bit of a man’s-world bias. Polo’s a tough sport with bumping, riding off and racing at speed, and accidents can happen to the biggest and the best players and horses.
Kerstie, with her long blonde hair, looks like a girly-girl, but don’t be fooled by the package, because she takes the concept of cross training to extremes and thinks way outside of the box. She enjoys rodeo events and also has a compulsion for the thrills of snowboarding and wakeboarding. Her grand passion, truth to tell, is playing polo.
“Polo is physical-mental – you’re in the middle of seven guys with mallets, moving at speed on horses, and you don’t get a second chance if you mess up,” Kerstie said. “Maybe I am 0-goal, but I hold my own as a player. They used me against the other 8- or 9-goal players in those matches and I held my own. I was hoping to go on to the Open with them, and I was there, just in case they needed me. I was cheering them on from the sidelines.”
In a soft Aussie accent, she talks about her dreams and ambitions. You can hear the strength of will behind her words, the steely-minded determination and the mind-set that transcends ordinary common sense about personal limitations. You know that Kerstie will figure out a way to get where she wants to go. In fact, she recently signed on to play beach polo for the first time at the Miami Beach Polo Tournament for team Fontainebleau Aviation. She’ll then travel to Via Reggio, Italy, to continue playing for Fontainebleau Aviation.
“I was on the way home after playing polo in England and I came to the USA to check out the polo scene,” she said. “I was also fascinated by rodeo and western riding, having heard about it all my life growing up in Australia. I was skiing in California and overnighted my horses to me and they wound up stabling at the Indio Polo Club and that was the start of my polo here in the States.”
Kerstie admitted to being obsessed with horses as long as she can remember. She didn’t get her own horse until she was in high school, and her family wasn’t at all horsey. She was born in Melbourne and stayed there until she graduated from college. When she had an opportunity to travel, she leaped at it and has never looked back.
“There’s no BS about me – we are what we are,” said Kerstie. “I do team roping and barrel racing professionally, and calf roping as an amateur. I also do cowboy mounted shooting. I’ve won a lot of buckles, probably hundreds, and saddles. I’ve never had a lesson. I taught myself to do everything. I’ve had to pursue my dreams pretty much on my own.”
In addition to being totally self-taught in all of her endeavors, on and off the horses, Kerstie is totally self-supporting. “I buy and sell horses for polo, roping, barrel racing, hunter/jumper – I find out what the horses’ talents are and what they enjoy doing best,” she said. “I sold my best roping horse, a heel horse, to Tuff Hedeman. He was a champion bull rider and best friends with Lane Frost, who died bull riding. They made a movie about it, 8 Seconds.”
Kerstie travels with her horses all over the USA, according to the season and the sport. Right now, she has 20 in her string, but she has had as many as 300 horses in one year. For polo, she has a mentor in Facundo Pieres.
“It was an honor to play on the same team with him this season in the 26-goal matches,” Kerstie said. “As a woman, it is rare to even have the opportunities I have had. I have to thank the Rawlings and the whole Crab Orchard team, including Paco, Magoo and Facundo. I just want to continue playing high goal internationally. I want to go as far as I can in polo.”
About the writer: Lauren R. Giannini is an award-winning journalist, specializing in stories about the equestrian world. Crazy about horses all her life, she craves more stable time, especially in the saddle. Right now, she rides her beloved MacBook, a genuine work-pony, and reads voraciously to escape the everyday world. Her plans for 2014: do more teaching and thereby share her love of books, reading, writing and telling stories. Big goal: to become a published author in the not-too-distant future.