By: Shamus Sillar
I’m a fan of things with the word “leisure” in the title, and Leisure Farm Resort didn’t disappoint. With 1,765 acres of rolling meadows, landscaped gardens and quiet waterways, it feels like a rural retreat. Not surprisingly, an increasing number of Singaporeans and expats are moving into the resort’s villas and townhouses, either to embrace a greener lifestyle or to get more bang for their buck (or ringgit) with property prices.
One of the focal points for Leisure Farm residents is the Bale Equestrian & Country Club. The first thing you’ll notice about this place is its roof – a succession of gigantic thatched cones that are among the biggest of their kind in the world. It also has a swimming pool, a mini gym, a large dining area and 50 acres of facilities for horses and their owners.
Over a teh tarik at the Club, I chatted with German expat Nadja Poignee about life at Leisure Farm and her love of horses.
When did you first come to Southeast Asia?
My parents moved to Singapore in 1982 when I was three. I grew up there, went to the German school and did my A-Levels there. Then I went back to Germany, studied biology and worked.
What brought you back?
My parents moved to Leisure Farm nine years ago because my dad has his own manufacturing company and Malaysia was cheaper than Singapore. Then he asked my husband to join him in the company. We had always wanted to be back in Asia, so we said yes. We’ve been here for four-and-a-half years.
And your parents are still here?
Yes. There wasn’t much here when they came – plenty of empty lots. Today there’s so much more activity and people moving here. The Club was here from the start and the stables were up and running, but it was more focused on polo – now the concentration is on horse riding.
Have you been riding since you were young?
I started when I was nine and took lessons at the Singapore Polo Club. I rode for ten years until I graduated. Back in Germany I had a share in a horse.
And now you have a horse at Leisure Farm?
Yes, Tola, who actually belongs to my mum. I take her out everyday, give riding lessons to friends on her, and take my two small children for rides. They’re three-and-a-half and 19 months. Tola wears a girth that they can hold on to – they just sit there with their little helmets on and enjoy the ride. We now have a second horse, Shaz, who we got from one of the polo players in Singapore and share with another horse-crazy family living nearby.
Tell us a bit about the Club.
Quite a few Singapore-based people have privately owned horses here. They like the open stables – horses can look out both sides so they’re not bored; they have sand paddocks, too. You don’t usually get those features in Singapore because of space limitations.
Also, in Singapore, a horse often has a better chance of getting in a stable if it is a good polo horse or competes at a certain level in dressage or jumping. Here, anyone can keep a horse for leisure riding. There’s a little trail that starts behind the stables; it’s about a 30-minute ride. I also discovered a new trail with Tola, and Leisure Farm is planning on adding more in the future.
The other important factor is price – it’s so much cheaper to keep a horse here.
Apart from buying German delicacies, do you go into Singapore much?
My son is at the German School, so I go three mornings a week, while my husband and my mother-in-law go once each. We leave the house at 6.45am and we’re usually there by 7.30 or 7.45. The checkpoint is generally fine, except on public holidays like Chinese New Year. But there’s an iPhone app so you can see how busy it is before you leave home.
Jean will be starting Marlborough College soon; it’s opening in August. We are all very excited to have such an excellent school nearby and we won’t have to commute to Singapore every day.
What are your plans for the future?
Next year, I’m hoping to do my British Horse Society exams – it’s a stable management exam and a riding exam. When the kids are older, I’d like to give more lessons. Hopefully more people will stable their horses here, the facilities will develop, and we will have more competitions and gymkhanas and so on.
|•||The Bale Equestrian and Country Club offers a variety of private lessons, group lessons, trail rides, lead rides and pony rides.|
|•||Daily riding hours are 7am to 11am, and 2pm to 7pm.|
|•||If you have a horse and would like to keep it at the Club, the livery stabling fee is around S$790 a month. Nadja adds: “Stable hands will do whatever you ask, including riding the horse or lungeing (walking the horse in a large circle at the end of a rope). Ask them to draw up a programme. I often get them to take Tola for a run and a shower afterwards. Horses have the same basic needs as humans, but there if there is anything extra, just let the stable hands know.”|
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