Growing demand spurs greater horseplay
Updated: 2011-12-13 08:05
By Shi Jing and He Na (China Daily)
Female rangers train regularly at a horse club in Dongguan, Guangdong province. They have been responsible for patrolling the city's high-tech zone since it was established in February. [Chen Fan / for China Daily]
Equestrian sector riding wave of popularity but hurdles remain, Shi Jing reports in Shenzhen and He Na in Beijing.
Ahandstand on horseback, with one hand grasping the saddle, is always well received by the audience at Splendid China, a theme park in South China's Guangdong province.
The park aims to display folk culture in an entertaining way, and the horseshow has been running in Shenzhen for 12 years. The performers, with their breathtaking moves, and their mounts are part of the attraction. Park visitors also have a chance to saddle up and experience the pleasure of horse riding.
Horses - for sport, pleasure or business - are becoming increasingly popular and people are willing to spend both time and money to be with them.
There's much talk of a burgeoning "horse industry", but that might be an overstatement. True industry status would mean an identifiable group of profit-making enterprises, some coordination among its various segments and concrete information on growth and development.
Some envision a solid horse industry developing in China but the route to that destination is far from clear.
Few statistics are available, but a handful of numbers indicate the status of what Yue Gaofeng, deputy secretary-general of the China Horse Industry Association, calls a "sunrise industry . . . with tremendous market potential".
The association counts 280 registered horse clubs nationwide, more than double the number three years ago. And it estimates that horse racing, equestrian competition and horse-related leisure activities are worth at least 10 billion yuan ($1.58 billion) each year. It did not have data to support that estimate.
The 2011 China Horse Fair in Shanghai in October attracted 82 exhibitors from 18 countries and regions worldwide. The exhibitors, double the number in 2010, showed off horses and equine goods, and a forum on the world horse industry was part of the program.
"China has more than 6 million horses, but unfortunately we do not have a single well-known world brand" in breeding or training, said Yao Xinkui, a professor at Xinjiang Agricultural University who has studied horses for more than 30 years.
"In recent years," Yue said, "China began to import more and more purebred foreign horses to join the international events, which is a good attempt for China's horse industry." Data from the Horse Fair committee show that China brought in 4,000 horses this year, a tenfold increase from 2006.