(Detail of Kaempfer's sketch - Sl 3060, fol. 428r)
During the Ayutthaya era, horses were used for processions and war. The City of Ayutthaya had quite a few horse stables spread over the city, but
most of them were in the vicinity of the three main palaces. There were also stables within the palaces, but the description of these can be found on
the webpage of the respective palaces.

The king’s horse stables were located at the
Grand Palace, but the horse stables for the civil service were situated outside the palace walls.

The horses mostly arrived as a present to the king and came from Persia, Java, or Sri Lanka. The Dutch supplied horses, often as a tribute to the
king, which came from a stud-farm of Persian horses near Jaffna in Sri Lanka. [1]

Nicolas Gervaise as well as Simon de La Loubère mentioned that Persian envoys presented the king of Siam, with a dozen good Persian horses in
1635 and in the 1680s. White horses were the most esteemed. [2-3]

But the kings of Siam sent also regular missions to buy horses on Java in Indonesia. De La Loubère relates during his travel to Siam to have met two
Siamese in Batavia who came to buy two hundred horses for the king of Siam. Also, King Petracha sent his courtiers to the Sultanate of Mataram for
the same purpose.

Gervaise wrote that:
"Journeys overland are made on horseback or on elephants. But as the horses of the country eat nothing but grass, they
lack stamina and cannot make long journeys; Their harness is much the same as that used in France, apart from the stirrups, which are
much shorter, because the Siamese like to sit in the saddle as if in a chair. They are not very good horsemen and mandarins never even
mount a horse without having their slaves beside them, which according to some people is not so much in order to surround themselves
with magnificence as to hold them up and prevent them from falling."

De La Loubère wrote that either Siam was not proper for the breeding of horses or that the Siamese simply had not the knowledge to breed them.
The horses were seemingly rather sluggish and there was no reason to cut them to render them more tractable. He believed, as Nicolas Gervaise did,
that the poor endurance of the horses was due to the swampy and coarse pastures whereupon the horses were held. The horses were not shod.
Commonly stirrups of rope were used with a very paltry snaffle bit and saddle, adding
'the Art of Tanning and preparing Skins, being absolutely
unknown at Siam'
. The king’s personal Persian horses though were caparisoned with golden saddles and bridles, while diamonds and other precious
stones without number adorned the harness of his horses. De La Loubère mentioned also that the King of Siam only kept about two thousand Horses.

The Siamese army had a cavalry armed with old muskets and leather shields, consisting mainly, as Van Vliet writes, of ‘ponies’ but without special
horsemen. [4] The basic army stock consisted of small and tough Mongolian and Tibetan ponies, breeds that measure less than fourteen and a half
hands (147 cm) at the shoulders. [5]

In the old document ‘The Description of Ayutthaya’ we can find the location of the horse stables in the 18th Century. [6]

The stables for the royal horses were situated along the road outside the wall of the parade ground in front of the Jakkrawat Phichaiyon audience hall.
The road along these stables was called the Rong Ma Road (Horse Stable Road). The Jakkrawat Phichaiyon was a three-porticoed structure
constructed in the reign of King Prasat Thong in 1632, astride the palace’s east wall at the edge of the parade ground, from which the king reviewed
processions and military exercises. Both stable areas had a mounting platform. The size of each stable must have been about 80 – 100 metres on 4 -5
metres if we count 16 Sqm per horse. Engelbert Kaempfer (1651-1716) indicated on a sketch of Ayutthaya that he drafted in 1690, the stables for
the royal horses.
The stables for the royal horses of the right, with twenty stalls each housing one horse, were situated on the right-hand side from the head of the Jao
Phrom Market Road all along behind the
Phra Banchon Sing. The latter, of which is not known to be a shrine or a royal pavilion, must have been
situated between the Grand Palace and
Wat Maha That in the north-western corner of the present Bueng Phra Ram Park.

The stables for the royal horses of the left, with twenty stalls each housing one horse, were situated on the left-hand side from the head of
Jao Phrom
Market Road
along behind the Suphachai Phaeng Kasem Court, a court under one of the two judicial divisions.

The stables for horses trained for processions continue beyond in five rows of thirty stalls, each for a single horse, up to the wall of
Wat Phra Ram.

Three stables for thirty inner procession horses with one horse per stall continue beyond up to the wall of
Wat Thammikarat.

The stables for outer procession horses were situated along the sides of
Four Ways Road, one to the right and one to the left, from the head of
Green Cloth Quarter Road behind the jail up to Banana Leaf Quarter. On both right and left there are thirty stalls, each housing a single horse.

The stables for fifty post-horses, also one per stall, were situated from the corner of Wat Thammikarat up close to the
Jakra Mahima Gate, the
most northern gate on the palace’s east wall (which means that the stables were situated on the present parking grounds of Wat Thammikarat).

The horses needed to be taken care of and there was a specific area on the bank of the old
Lopburi River used to bathe the horse. On the
northwestern corner of the grand palace, a ferry location was called the
Horse Bathing Landing, situated near the mouth of Khlong Pak Tho and
Wat Choeng Tha. It is of course a bit strange that most of the stables were on the east side of the palace, while the bathing place was at the
northwestern side, which necessitate walking the horses down along the northern palace wall. More logical is the location of the warehouse for storing
the gear for horses, which was somewhere besides the wall of Wat Thammikarat.

Horses in Siam were subordinate to elephants, for both war and prestige. Sometimes horses and elephants were played out against each other in an
elephant-horse chase. An example of this game is mentioned in the Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya. In 1663, there was a rivalry between the royal
page Chai Khan and Phra Phetracha. Chai Khan boosted against King Narai (r. 1656-1688) that he was superior in a certain game, hinting
especially at Phra Phetracha. King Narai aware of the rivalry, designated a day for a contest in the elephant-horse chase. The game started near
Trae and the run went parallel along the Makham Riang Canal until Wat Nang. The first round was won by Phra Phetracha on horseback. Chai
Khan, realizing he was losing face, skipped the second round and went home. [7]

The next morning His Majesty held court and all of the marshals attended together. Master Chai Khan, a royal page and the son of a holy
nurse, prostrated himself and said to His Holy Grace, “In the display of chase elephant and bait horse, outside the sole exception of the
Supreme Holy Lord Omnipotent, there is no-one I am afraid of.” The Supreme Holy Lord Omnipotent was aware that Master Chai Khan
was intentionally and maliciously comparing himself to Phra Phet Racha and that Phra Phet Racha was equally knowledgeable, and so He
answered Master Chai Khan by saying, “You would each take a turn riding the chase elephant and the bait horse, wouldn’t you?” Master
Chai Khan said, “I’ll ride the chase elephant first.” Phra Phet Racha was agreeable. When the designated day arrived, Master Chai Khan
rode the premier elephant Phaya Sower of the Three Realms, standing six sòk and six niu high, and Phra Phet Racha rode the horse
Mountain of Time, standing three sòk and two niu high. The arena was laid out in the vicinity in front of the Monastery of the Trumpets
with the horse and elephant one sen apart. Phra Phet Racha reined his horse into a baiting display. Master Chai Khan drove his elephant
and chased him on up close to the Bridge of Bricks at the Monastery of the Hides, and the elephant reached for him. Phra Phet Racha,
seeing it almost upon his person, drove his horse into Little Spire Alley and the elephant was left behind. When it was the turn of Phra Phet
Racha to ride the elephant, Master Chai Khan fled off to his home. Phra Phet Racha came in for an audience, prostrated himself, spoke to
the Holy Lord Omnipotent and related the substance of that entire matter so the King would be informed of all the details. The Supreme
Holy Lord Omnipotent said, “Weren’t you aware that that little Chai Khan is a soldier [only] in talk?

There are to my knowledge two temples within the city of Ayutthaya with a name that could have been related to horses. The first one is Wat Rong
Ma also called Wat Khok Ma, which could indicate the location where the horses of the Front Palace were kept. The second one is Wat Tha Ma
also called Wat Tha Lak along Khlong Makham Riang, which could have been the location of a landing where horses were prepared to be shipped in
or out. This is of course only an assumption.


[1] Remco Raben and Dhiravat Na Pombejra (1997) - In the King's Trail - page 38.
[2] Gervaise, Nicolas (Paris - 1688) - The Natural and Political History of the Kingdom of Siam - Translated and edited by John Villiers (1998) -
White Lotus Press, Bangkok.
[3] De La Loubère (1691) - Description du Royaume de Siam (2 Tomes) – Amsterdam.
[4] Chris Baker, Dhiravat Na Pombejra, Alfons Van Der Kraan & David K. Wyatt. (2005) - Van Vliet's Siam - Silkworm Books – page 123.
[5] Keat Gin Ooi (2004) - Southeast Asia: a historical encyclopedia, from Angkor Wat to East Timor, Volume 2 - ABC-CLIO, 2004 - Page 609.
[6] Baker, Chris (2013) - The Grand Palace In The Description of Ayutthaya - Journal of the Siam Society No 101.
[7] The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya - Richard D. Cushman (2006) - page 168-9 /Source: Phra Cakkraphatdiphong - Rivalry of Phra Phet Racha
and Chai Khan.
(Text and picture by Tricky Vandenberg - June 2020)