Wednesday, July 28, 2010

China: Playing horse whisperer - Full Article

China Daily, July 22, 2010

Equestrian endurance racing is a sport that tests the mental and physical limits of both rider and horse. Alexis Hooi gets a taste of this deep in the heart of Xinjiang.

Packs of horses break through the morning mist on the horizon, as local grooms nearby slap on saddles and tighten bridles on their prized geldings and mares. The rising sun lights up the deep-blue sky above and slowly dissipates the dew on the surrounding yurts, decorated with ethnic Mongolian tapestry. I am in Bayanbulak, one of the country's largest and most beautiful grasslands in the Beyinguoleng Mongolian autonomous prefecture of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. But my heart pounds louder than the horses running about me and enjoying the breathtaking scenery is the last thing on my mind.

Instead, I am focused on making it through the 2nd Bayanbulak Swan Lake Equestrian Endurance Race being held in Xinjiang's Hejing county.

When the local authorities organized the area's first equestrian endurance race last year, at least six horses out of the more than 100 that took part dropped dead from exhaustion.

Riders had to cover more than 150 km in less than a day on local Mongolian horses famous for their strength and stamina.

But this year, competition organizers promise a different approach: The race goes global and has to adhere to international competition standards as set out by the International Federation for Equestrian Sports or FEI, the worldwide governing body for the sport.

This means the welfare of the horses in the race will be given top priority...

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