China making good progress jumping over hurdles in equestrian industry

The nation's equestrian industry is mainly based in the north, and Shanghai is still in the early stages of the sport's development and related industry. But it's going strong.
Dong Jun / SHINE

It was the fifth year for Shanghai to host the Global Champions Tour.

The Global Champions Tour closed its curtains on the Shanghai leg of the series last weekend, which was blessed with fine weather and a good crowd.

It’s the fifth year that Shanghai has successfully hosted the five-star show-jumping event and its influence on China’s equestrian industry must not be underestimated.

“I’m glad to see that the primary purposes of us hosting the event have been served,” says Yang Yibin, general manager of local organizer Juss Event. “Our next goal is that the annual event can serve as a bridge to enhance the communication between the sport’s two different management systems in China and Europe.”

Yang says the annual high-end event, which was held at a makeshift venue in front of the symbolic China Art Museum in the Pudong New Area, helped spread Shanghai’s image as an international metropolis to the world.

“Many riders were holding a wait-and-see attitude when deciding whether to take part in the Shanghai event back in its inaugural year. But now, they are no longer hesitant in making the trip to China,” he says.

Yang says he has received pleasant feedback from local equestrian clubs, which have obviously benefited from the annual event.

“More children and parents are showing interest in the sport over the past few years. Some club owners have told me that their clubs have to operate at full load on weekends to provide courses,” he says. “Also, our event provides four wild-card entries for Chinese riders every year, which is a rare opportunity for them to compete against their high-level foreign counterparts.”

Dong Jun / SHINE

In smart attire, spectators dress to impress at this year's event.

Dong Jun / SHINE
Dong Jun / SHINE

Wang Yunjing, Yuan Maodong, Zhang Xingjia and Raena Leung from Hong Kong represented China in this year’s event.

“It’s a great learning experience for me,” says Zhang, a native of Zhejiang Province, who partnered his 10-year-old For Passion in the 1.5-meter class. He managed to complete the competition despite a few faults.

“I had a close look at the top riders. What impressed me most was their capabilities to relax during the competition and made their horses relaxed as well,” says Zhang. “The riders can calculate and adjust the horses’ steps quickly between obstacles. They communicate with their companions and pass on the order by pulling gently on the reins.”

“The biggest contribution of the Shanghai event is that it broke the barriers for the inspection and quarantine issues between China and Europe,” says Yang.

Chinese mainland is not a member of the International Equestrian Federation, which posed a problem to whether Shanghai could host the event. However, an exception was made: The city reached an agreement with the European Union’s agriculture committee, which declared a certain area in Pudong a temporary non-epidemic area during the competition period every year so that the event could go ahead.

Shanghai Customs set a fast-track channel for the horses this year. The horses were transported straight to the venue after arriving at the Pudong International Airport from Belgium. The declaration procedures for the animals and fodder were then taken by customs staff at the venue to cut the time needed at the airport. Therefore, the animals would not be irritated and get a better rest before the competition.

Dong Jun / SHINE

Shanghai Customs staff check the horses upon their arrival at the Pudong International Airport.

Dong Jun / SHINE

“The exception made for the Shanghai event is a successful experiment,” says Yang. “We hope the two sides can communicate more and reach bigger and better agreement in the future, like enlarging the non-epidemic area or even making it permanent.”

Due to limited social resources and comparatively high costs, only a minority of Chinese people takes part in equestrianism. The country’s equestrian industry is mainly based in the north, and Shanghai is still in the early stages of the sport’s development and related industry.

“The challenges we face in the development of the sport are quite obvious,” says Cheng Keqiang, director of Shanghai Equestrian Management Center. “Our riders’ competitiveness is low. What we lack of includes a systematic management, policy support, market and culture recognition.”

According to China’s former Olympic rider Huang Zuping, China should seek its own development path. Huang competed at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. It was the first time China sent athlete in this discipline to the Olympics.

“Before 2008, there was no formal guidelines equestrian,” says Huang. “But I think China should explore its own development path instead of following European countries.

“There is an extreme lack of talent in our equestrian industry, including those who are able to understand the sport and make related rules and regulations. With participation of more people from various fields, we can slowly grow our own market,” Huang concludes.

Ti Gong

The London Knights duo of Emily Moffitt (right) and Ben Maher stormed to a Global Champions League Shanghai win.

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