Bangkok is a crazy, eccentric, cultured city of contradictions. The Buddist culture preaches peace and harmony, yet it’s one of the noisiest busiest cities around. In amongst all this right in the heart of the city underneath the sky train, only ten minutes from one the worlds largest and most expensive, flamboyant shopping areas is the oasis of calm that is the home of Thailand’s cavalry. It is here on the exceptionally green grass and beautifully manicured lawns that you find one the most glamorous and extraordinary of equestrian shows.
This is a show where you can attend a thriving and busy flea market, selling anything from nightwear to antique upholstery, eat and drink food from literally any culture that has a cuisine, until all hours of the night, visit the barbers, get a Thai massage, or a attend a beauty salon. You may do all of this in a degree of relaxation having abandoned any children you had in tow in the Kids activity area where they will kept busy all day doing anything from origami to patting small ponies or learning to play polo on saddle horses. You could enter your dog in the dog show and should you happen to have brought your horse it can see the vet and or the Equine dentist whilst its here. There are also the more predictable tack and clothing stands. You might have actually come to watch some equestrian competition that does happen too. There are many children’s dressage and show jumping classes and they are packed. 1 day ran 12 hours solid of children’s dressage, despite it being a school day. The cavalry and military have classes in dressage and show jumping specifically for them, and various regiments are encouraged to enter teams in dressage and show jumping. At the top end you could find yourself watching a 6 bar, this year the fences reached 1m85, a highly competitive 1m40, a CDI*, or a CNC*. One thing for sure is you won’t be bored.
The Princess Cup was restarted in 2016 by Princess Sirivannavri Nariatanna, Colonel in Chief of the Royal Stable Unit. Her older sister first started the initial Princess Cup in 2001, but when she retired from riding due to her Royal commitments the initial competition was ceased. When her younger sister Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana developed a burgeoning interest in dressage it became apparent that there was a need for more national competitions in Thailand at all levels. She has now represented Thailand internationally in dressage, competing in the SEA Games in 2017. With the intention of developing equestrian sport and improving equestrianism and horsecare standards across the country the current Princess Cup was reborn. Princess Cup now takes place over 6 days, and in addition to a packed programme of ridden competition it significantly hosts competitions for Best Farrier and Best Groom, the latter of which yours truly was kindly invited to judge.
So what of the eventing? This year following a busy schedule that has incorporated a Bronze medal for Team Thailand in the Asian Games Eventing, Princess Cup hosted a Pre Novice and a CNC*.
The CNC* was won by senior cavalry officer and eventing team stalwart, long-standing supporter Supap Khaw-Ngam Riding Agh Sparky. Sparky is a ten year old Australian Thoroughbred bought on a down under shopping trip in September 2017, and now a member of a team of competition horses owned by Princess Sirivannavari as part of her Royal Stable Unit Team. Sparky has been a useful servant to Thai eventing since his arrival, having been so successfully partnered by upcoming star Thai rider Korntawat Samran (Nut) to the aforementioned team Bronze earlier this year. Supap has currently been riding Sparky for two months. Together they led from the front, producing the best dressage and following it with two foot perfect rounds of jumping. Sadly this year there were only three entries in the CNC*, with Korntawat Samran and Adrinatha Chavatanont (Mint) both experiencing difficulties on Robbie Maclean’s up to height and technically challenging cross country. Space for the cross country is limited and so the cross is short, twisty and technically demanding, this year after improved drainage works the going was superb; you could enjoyably walk the course barefoot. Mint did a good job to conjure a improving dressage test out of Loopan who has always found this phase quite challenging and after a good round show jumping, it was a frustrating moment when Loopan took a dislike to the challenging arrowhead in front of the cavalry entrance at fence 13. Nut’s Horse is young and inexperienced and this showed when he was taken by surprise with the large fence on the edge of the water at 6, having jumped in at the second attempt, he was surprised again when he had to re enter and jump straight in 1 loop later at fence 8. There will undoubtedly be some more water schooling before the forthcoming CCI*.
It was a good day for Supap who partnered Bernice Black Beauty a very attractive young NZ TB mare to third place in the Pre Novice after a two good rounds of jumping followed an ever improving dressage. He also won the military team dressage, and led his RSU teams to a win in both the military dressage and jumping competitions. The Pre Novice was won by the ever smiling and irrepressible Somjai Sanhom Riding RSU eventing stalwart Rattanchart (Ratta). Ratta is a long standing member of the RSU team, having given many young cavalry officers their first taste of show jumping and eventing, as well as being an established parade horse. Ratta was having an easier run before competing with Somjai in the forthcoming CCI*. Special comment must go to French event rider Justine Bonnet who was 6th on catch ride Nagoya-Tawan, and Italian Ludovica Manzoli who was 9th also on a borrowed mount. Both girls are currently based with Maxime Livio in France and on account of the RSU connection with Maxime were invited to compete here. It was thrilling to watch 17 entries in this Pre Novice class, at least 7 of which were cavalry soldiers and officers riding their usual mounts that in addition to competitive serve regularly on parade duties. For Asian Games team members Nut and Mint it was a day of impressively and calmly educating young event horses for the future. For both riders there was compensation for not being placed here when they were well placed in the dressage and jumping classes. Nut was second in the Six bar calmly clearing 1m80 on new ride Toll Annabel only to follow this up with a 1m30 win and a hotly contested second in the 1m40.
Thailand may only be a small equestrian nation but it has some very talented riders, and puts on an incredible show. Predictably the prize givings are a proper spectacle with loud music, and super trophies. They are then represented to the Winners by the Princess herself at the Gala dinner that concludes the show. Special credit must go to Sam Aniruth Deva long-standing CEO of the Thai equestrian Federation who has worked tirelessly to develop and promote Thai equestrianism, and carried on relentlessly organising Princess Cup despite badly breaking his leg at the Asian Games a couple of months ago.