POLO+10: At the Thai Polo Club a friendly atmosphere is very important to you – by what is this atmosphere characterized?
Harald Link: When we built Thai Polo we wanted it to be a happy place where polo players and riders could feel like being part of an expanded family enjoying Thai hospitality in a natural surrounding. We are very fortunate that we have both hills in the back and can see the sun reflecting in the Gulf of Thailand in the vicinity. In addition to polo the land is very suitable to engage in endurance and eventing whilst we can hold show jumping and dressage competitions on the polo fields and on our arena. So polo and other equestrian sports intermingle here.
In our main clubhouse and the historical chukka bar with 100 years old memorabilia riders and guests can enjoy regular meals or relax in the adjacent salt water 25 meter swimming pool. Some of them rent our traditional or modern Thai houses for a weekend or the season. After tournament games we serve snacks and cold drinks or players join for a festive dinner after sunset. That is how at Thai Polo Club polo players and other equestrian riders enjoy facilities of the highest standard in an atmosphere of family and friends.
We will continue to have fun tournaments in a friendly yet competitive spirit, many spectators with happy entertainment for them and great parties with good food and music. Most importantly we believe that the hospitable atmosphere and the friendly polo in a learning and beautiful environment on great fields will bring us more players. The cooperation among playing nations with the leagues, invitations and maybe Ambassador Cups will increase the friendship among the playing nationalities and the attractiveness of the sport.
POLO+10: From where do the players come to the Thai Polo Club in Pattaya?
Polo players come from many different countries and regions to Thai Polo. Those who keep horses with us come from Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau. The players will fly in over the weekend, as the airport is only a little over one hour away from the club and we take care of their horses. Friends and professionals come from all over Europe, Australia, South Africa, Arabian nations and the Americas.
POLO+10: How many horses and employees are being accommodated at the club?
Link: To look after all players we employ about 90 Thai and up to 10 foreign professionals. Visitors comment on the friendliness and warmth of our Thai and the good quality of our fields and horses as well as the expert care our horses receive through our equine hospital and physiotherapy services.
January is the time when we play the Thai Polo Open and over 100 polo ponies from Malaysia are with us. We concurrently conducted the Thai National Equestrian Games for Show Jumping and dressage with riders from 26 provinces participating. At that time we had nearly 400 horses at Thai Polo and all went smoothly.
POLO+10: You have continuously extended the club during the last years. Which measures were implemented exactly?
Link: We built our facilities over the last 8 years. All the designs in keeping with our Thai heritage have been designed by Nunthinee, who graduated in design from the US. The building and landscape design keep the feeling, home and familiarity, which make it conducive to feeling at ease and in a holiday spirit. We kept on adding new fields with club houses and practice fields, so currently we have 3 fields and 2 practice fields, one of each with full drainage. We built the Rege Ludwig International Polo School and are about to build an equestrian academy for the Thailand and South East Asia Equestrian Federation. We kept building additional permanent – at the moment 230- stables and about 100 paddocks, built a modern horse hospital equipped with digital X-ray and ultrasound machines and a physiotherapy clinic, expanded the eventing course from one star to two stars, build a show jumping and a derby arena and finally added international endurance trails.
The development of playing members has accelerated recently with 12 newcomers most of them from Bangkok and some from Pattaya and abroad playing beginners’ chukkas in February. Through televised programs of our competitions of the Pink Polo Queen’s Cup for HM’s Breast Cancer Institute, the Thai Polo Open Princess Cup for HRH Princess Sirindhorn’s vocational school and the Asian Beach Polo tournament for Princess Pa’s Inspire Foundation to help female inmates and the accompanying press releases and conferences in addition to the PR activities of the Thailand Equestrian Federation plus activities of other clubs, polo has become a well known sport in Thailand. Thus slowly Thai citizens have become interested in the sport with this trend likely to continue.
POLO+10: How has the International League developed? Does it have a positive influence on the sport of polo in South-East Asia?
Link: The International League, which this year was at a 15-17 goal level at Thai Polo and is played in Malaysia and Thailand with teams from Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand under the Royal Malaysian Polo Association. It is the brainchild of HRH, The Crown Prince of Pahang and President of the Association, himself an excellent polo player. The league has been successfully going on for 10 years and Thai Polo has joined from the beginning.
This year at the Thai Polo Open we once again had teams from China participating in addition to the traditional teams from the other nations. We also introduced a 6-8 goal league at Thai Polo in line with Malaysia. Next year we want to reduce the level of the International League to encourage patrons from the 6-8 goal league to participate in the higher rated one.
POLO+10: By now the Rege Ludwig’s “International Polo School” is renowned all over the world – Polo+10 has already reported several times – how does it develop and where do the players come from?
Link: The Rege Ludwig International Polo School and Rege’s Thai horse and Thai horse trainer plus player program supports this process a lot. Beginners, more advanced players and professionals feel confident that they can progress as quickly as possible through Rege’s renowned teaching methods. Furthermore he has trained our Thai professional to make green horses from Thailand and the US into polo horses as well as to play them in tournaments. In the future we can offer these horses for sale to our players which will make polo more affordable and thereby attractive for a new group of people. Whilst I concentrate on adult polo and its progress, Nunthinee has set up a program for youth and another for handicapped, both of which are thriving. The youth program will make it possible for us to have a really strong group of Thai players in the future.
POLO+10: You are playing High Goal in England for years, where do you feel the most comfortable and at home as a player?
Link: Thai Polo plays regularly in Thailand, Malaysia, Germany and England. Since 2013 also at Thai Polo, Pilar, Argentina, where Thai Polo has a field next to Loro Piana. At Loro Piana Juan Martin Nero, his brother Agustin and Lucas James are stabling their horses. In Germany I play the German High Goal Championship, which we have won twice in the past.
In England Thai Polo now plays the British Open for the Gold Cup plus the occasional other tournaments. We have been playing in England since about 10 years and Thai Polo horses are stabled at the chalk Pit Farm of Andrew Hine -the former captain and manager of the English team and two times winner of the German High Goal Championship- in Berkshire where he takes care of them as well as his own. Having many friends in England, Germany and Malaysia I feel very much at home there though my real home, of course, nowadays is definitely Thailand. With Thai Polo Pilar up and running I hope to soon feel at home there as well.