Polo took off in Thailand in the late 1990s, when polo enthusiasts, led by Harald Link, President of the Thailand Equestrian Federation (TEF), set about revitalising the game by creating a world-class polo club in the beach resort city of Pattaya, less than 150 kilometres from Bangkok. The Thai Polo & Equestrian Club opened in 2003, an outstanding facility that has made Thailand an international centre for polo and equestrian in East Asia. The Thai Polo & Equestrian Club has fun activities for the whole family, yet is serious enough to be internationally recognised and registered with The Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI).
As the President of the Thailand Equestrian Federation, a supporter of the Thailand national team for Dressage, Jumping, Eventing, Endurance and other non- Olympic disciplines, Harald Link is dedicated to making Thailand’s equestrian arena – Thai Polo & Equestrian Club – available for use in both national and international competitions acknowledged by Federation Equestrian International (FEI). The club will be hosting the FEI Asian Championships Pattaya 2019 from 1-8 December 2019.
With wooded hills as a backdrop, the club’s beautifully landscaped setting, covering 800 acres, has evolved to include a full range of world-class equestrian sporting facilities, which in the past have been selected as the host for the 2007 SEA Games and 2013 & 2017 FEI Asia Eventing Championships. It includes three full-sized polo fields, two practice fields, an eventing cross-country course, an 80 kilometre endurance course, indoor and outdoor dressage and show jumping stabling for 250 ponies, numerous paddocks, a horse hospital and the renowned Rege Ludwig International Polo School.
Visitors can relax at the picturesque clubhouse, and gaze out across the cricket pitch. Or they can enjoy the salt-water swimming pool before moving on to the Chukka Bar, a recreation of the famous polo bar at the Langham Hotel in London, complete with original polo photographs, trophies and sporting memorabilia. Players from all over the world regularly visit the club to play in its prestigious tournaments, such as the Princess’s Cup Thai Polo Open every January and the Queen’s Cup Pink Polo for ladies in February. In addition to its monthly tournaments, the club is part of a unique polo league of Thai, Malaysian and Singaporean clubs, with each club taking turns to host a round-robin.
Thailand’s polo season runs from November to April and has enjoyed a notable resurgence in recent years because of excellent training facilities and outstanding tournaments at the club. However, these annual tournaments are not solely for the entertainment of the many international players who participate, they are also used to raise funds for deserving Thai charities.
The Club’s annual Thai Polo Open, Queen’s Cup Pink Polo and Princess Pa’s Cup Beach Polo tournaments have become important events. Not only for polo, but also for charity and Thai society, as they help to raise funds for foundations such as the HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn’s Chitrlada Vocational School project, The Queen Sirikit Centre for Breast Cancer, and the Nabha Foundation under HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha
Accommodation at the club is in wonderful Thai-style houses, surrounded by paddocks and horses. One lodge is an authentic, antique Thai house, which belonged to a member of the Thai royal family and was relocated. It overlooks the stick and ball field, with a lake and rolling farmland in the distance. Additional Thai houses are available, including one with views over the hills where you can enjoy a spectacular sunrise. Another has vistas of the pineapple fields and ocean sunsets.
A range of disciplines
The Thai Polo and Equestrian Club is the only place in Thailand that holds derby show jumping competitions. The jumps can be as high as 1.4 meters with a steep incline entering the jump and a steep decline exiting the jump. It is not easy to achieve and maintains FEI recognition Eventing traces its origins back to military sports. Competitors must have experience and a precise knowledge of the horse’s ability. Eventing is the most complete combined-competition discipline recognised by the FEI, and encompasses three tests: dressage, cross-country and jumping. The Club’s 4.5 kilometre course was designed by Wayne Copping for the South East Asian Games 2007 in Thailand. The fastest-growing equestrian discipline is Endurance. This is a horse marathon and both horses and riders must be very fit. Globally, there are 40, 80, 120, and 160 kilometre races, although in Thailand, there is only the 40 and 80 kilometre race. Anyone who can ride can join an endurance race because you can walk, trot or canter and follow the signs to the end. It is a competition against the clock but the trick is that you must have a rest before the finishing line. The emphasis is on finishing in good condition, not only on coming in first, so it is a delicate balance. Excessive fatigue, signs of lameness and other indications of problems are grounds for elimination by the event veterinarians.