“I love Indigo, but ultimately I also work with him”

“I love Indigo, but ultimately I also work with him”

New series: Animal style

01-04-2024 · Interview

Everything in Pun Pun Thongpradup’s life is connected to her animals. Thongpradup, student at University College Maastricht and a professional dressage rider, spends every free moment of her day with her horses at the stables. Her dog Bourbon goes with her, both to the stables and to the university.  

Thongpradup arrives a little late to the appointment. “My dog has short legs,” she explains. As well as a lot of hair, which is immediately clear when they enter. “Bourbon is very social,” says Thongpradup, while the dog greets people by jumping up and down, “when I am at UCM, he walks around looking to be petted.”

Thongpradup has always been surrounded by animals. In Thailand, where she grew up, she also had a dog, and from her thirteenth onwards she also had a horse. “I had done horse riding for a couple of years during the summer and I was fascinated by it.” She soon started dressage. Jumping wasn’t an option; her mother gave her the horse on the condition that it stayed on the ground.

This turned out to be a good choice. When Thongpradup was sixteen, she became the national champion in her age group and she received an invitation to compete internationally. Dressage is also the reason – in addition to the quality of education – why she moved to Maastricht. The level is higher in Europe, because the sport is not as popular in Thailand. She received Bourbon as a gift to keep her company while she was far from home. Her first horse was too old to move with her.

Study delay

Looking after all her animals is difficult to combine with her study at times. She is at the stables seven days a week. Then there is all the travelling around Europe for international competitions. It has saddled her with a study delay of a year.

Does she ever consider stopping? “Absolutely,” she answers without a doubt, “everyone has a bad day every now and again when they wonder why they are doing what they do. But I also have that with the university often enough.”

Connection

She is well used to the high pressures of top-class sport by now. “Of course it is still nerve-racking when you enter a full stadium, but in the end, I am the one who has the most criticism. With dressage, things can always be better, you can only be satisfied with perfection. That is why it is different from an exam. There it is a pass or not.”

What does a good dressage rider need to excel at? According to Thongpradup it is all about the connection between human and horse. For a good dressage the rider has to be in harmony with the horse, just like other top athletes in a team. You have to connect with each other and know what that person can do for you when things are tough. That works best with Indigo, one of her horses. “In that respect, I have a different relationship with my dog,” she says. “He is a real friend, we are always together. I love Indigo too, but ultimately, I work together with him.”

Future

Now the only question is what her future will hold. She doesn’t know whether she will spend her whole life doing dressage. At the moment, her family helps her, but ultimately she will have to find sponsors or find a job. The only thing she knows for sure is that she will always have animals. “That comes before everything else.”

And when she dreams? She prefers to take one step at a time. First, getting to the highest competition as quickly as possible. And after that? Maybe going to the Olympic Games in 2028 with Indigo. She is not placing any bets on it yet. “But if I go,” she ends, “Bourbon is going with me.”

Tim Kobussen

Author: Redactie

Photo: archive Pun Pun Thongpradup

Categories: news_top, People
Tags: animalstyle,pets,animals,students,horse,horse riding,dressage,UCM,instagram

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