The Thailand Equestrian Federation Makes History As Host Of Asia’s First Equestrian Championship
The grand opening ceremony was conducted at the stunning iconic field 1 of the Thai Polo & Equestrian Club, Pattaya. “FEI has set the highest standard for equestrian competition and we are proud to be given this opportunity to host the first FEI-dedicated championships in Asia. It is a privilege to be asked to organise this joyous event on the same level as the Asian Games featuring all three Olympic disciplines of dressage, show jumping and eventing. This is an event we hope will be repeated on a regular basis to bring the equestrian communities of Asia closer together and provide opportunities for our riders to shine and excel,” said Dr Harald Link, president of the Thailand Equestrian Federation.
An accomplished polo player, Dr Link added, “FEI Championships Pattaya 2019 not only positions Thailand as a world-class equestrian destination and helps to elevate the standards of Thai equestrians to an international level, it also showcases our world-class event organisation and presents a great opportunity for riders to gain more experience, to prove themselves to the world and prepare for the 2020 Olympics.”
Teams from 13 nations in Asia competed in the tournament, which was held from December 1-8 at the Thai Polo & Equestrian Club in Pattaya, a world-class competition venue and equestrian centre which upgraded its five main riding arenas and facilities such as a fully-functioning horse hospital with attendant vets for the 9-day event.
In addition, sponsor BGrimm put up over US$1 million to fly in over 60 horses from Belgium especially for the event. To get the competitive juices flowing, drummers performed the traditional Thai drum battle at the opening ceremony. This was followed by a graceful national flag dance. The excitement continued as the athletes representing their nations rode in on dedicated BMW cars in a fantastic parade. The evening culminated with a gala dinner at which teams mingled and relaxed before the gruelling competition the following day.
HRH Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana Rajakanya lent her kind support by gracing the opening ceremony and leading the Thai team in the competition. The princess then competed in the dressage category and clinched the first gold medal in the competition, an auspicious moment for Thailand and the FEI Asian Championships. “More than anything, I’m honoured that I got to witness the graceful performance of HRH Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana Rajakanya in the dressage discipline. For any rider, participating in this championship is considered very prestigious,” said Ingmar De Vos, president of FEI.
The tournament’s finale was the jumping event on the afternoon of December 8 with Japanese Olympic show jumper Taizo Sugitani eventually winning the top prize. “I am very pleased to win at this historic tournament for us Asians,” he said. “The FEI Asian Championships is a good opportunity for the Asian athletes to develop and compete in the global arena. By participating in more events, riders get to hone the necessary skills that can propel them to win at major international events.”
“Now that the event has come to an end, I can heave a sigh of relief,” smiled Dr Link. He also took the opportunity to thank his long-time supporter and co-founder of the Thai Polo & Equestrian Club, Nunthinee Tanner, who is also vice president of Thailand Equestrian Federation. “I would like to thank Nunthinee for her support through the years. We started with a small piece of land and one polo field. Now we have made history together. Also a heartfelt thanks to all our sponsors, who helped us achieve this wonderful goal.”
See also: Cover Story: Riding High With HRH Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana Rajakanya