Nunthinee Tanner is the first woman polo player in Thailand. But in reality, she is much more than that—she is also one of the first people to introduce the sport to the country. Thanks to her efforts, her hometown is recently put on the map as a premier equestrian destination.
She has worked with tireless dedication for nearly twenty years to promote polo in Thailand through various avenues—most notably, in charity. The Thai polo season begins in November and runs until April, and over the course of that six-month window, Nunthinee organizes three major charity events which have raised millions of baht for worthy causes.
The first annual charity tournament of the season is the Princess Cup in January. It takes place at Thai Polo and Equestrian Club and is an exciting opener for the polo season. The tournament seeks to raise money and awareness about education, with both polo fans and the general public swarming to the venue to witness this annual event.
Another major tournament, held every February, is the Queen’s Cup Pink Polo. Since its inception in 2009, it has been recognized as one of the premier events for women’s polo as it is established to raise breast cancer awareness funds. Over the years, she has raised millions of Thai baht in support of the Queen Sirikit Center for Breast Cancer Foundation.
Running this tournament, she says, is one of the highlights of her career. “I created and organized everything. It starts early in the morning with the organization—greeting guests, setting things up, and playing at two in the afternoon. It’s exhausting, but it was all worth it. We managed to raise over one million baht at that first event,” she recalls. Since then, Pink Polo returns annually, drawing even larger crowds. A world-class competition, the involvement of charity, and great end-of-match socials have made the event worth the trip to this Southeast Asian destination.
Probably one of the world’s most unique polo tournaments, Beach Polo for Princess Pa’s Nabha Foundation holds games at the beautiful, sprawling white sand beaches of Hua Hin—a definite must-see for any polo enthusiast. The tournament raises money for various programs that the foundation supports, such as education, job retraining, and employment opportunities for inmates returning to society.
Over the years, the one thing that has never changed for this power femme is her love for the sport and horses. She may have retired from playing professionally, but her world still revolves around this passion. Nunthinee spends her time working to showcase her country as a leading equestrian destination through the Thai Polo and Equestrian Club.
The Thai Polo and Equestrian Club is the only one in the world equipped to host an international polo event, in addition to all equestrian disciplines—dressage, jumping, endurance, eventing, barrel racing, and more. With such outstanding facilities, it was chosen to host the inaugural FEI Asian Championships, which is a qualifier for the Olympics, in 2019. An event of this level had never been hosted in Asia before.
The club had humble beginnings. Nunthinee co-founded the club with the Thailand Equestrian Federation President, Mr. Harald Link. The club started with only one field. “After getting involved in charity, the awareness and interest in the sport grew, so we added a second polo field. More and more people came to join so we added the third field, which allowed us to host big international tournaments,” she narrates.
Its growth didn’t stop there. “About ten years later, an equestrian group came and inquired about adding their disciplines. That’s when we decided to go into the equestrian side full force,” she explains. “The result of this partnership has truly made Thai Polo and Equestrian Club a unique venue.”
Nunthinee was responsible for designing all of the facilities at this renowned club. From the three full-sized polo fields to the equestrian arenas to the clubhouses (including a full transplant of all of the furnishings from the famed Chukka Bar at the Langdon Hotel in Central London), it progressed as a premier destination for equestrian sports. There are also nearly 200 horses stabled at the club, looked after by their 24-hour on-site veterinarians from their world-class horse hospital.
What has propelled Thai Polo to be so highly regarded? Nunthinee quickly answers, “It’s simple—we are fair and we are safe. Surprisingly, these are two values that very few clubs can commit to.” At the club, she levels the playing field by hiring international referees for the tournaments rather than using in-house staff. “The owners don’t always win. It’s a fair game every time, and that keeps the professionals wanting to come back,” the polo pro adds.
Nunthinee has grown from a passionate player to a passionate organizer. Her will never wanes as she sees so much potential for the future. The sportswoman eagerly encourages her fellow countrymen to discover polo. She says, “I want to build this club further for the next generation; to introduce this sport to more and more Thai people. I want to show people that everyone can join and play—not just the rich. I want to introduce riding to everybody. They can try and become the world’s next greatest polo player.”