“Dramatic horsemanship and high speed made Tang Dynasty prosperity. Horsemanship has been inherited to become a fashion sport.”
That’s a line used on a brochure by Qingdao Deray Horsemanship Club, a flashy new club in in Jimo City, an industrial hinterland of the prosperous seaside city six hours by train southeast of Beijing. The club, which looks unremarkably different from all the other boxy industrial units surrounding it at East 57 at Culture Road , was set up in December, 2006 and claims to the biggest in surrounding Shandong province.
The property is 30,000 metres squared in total with 2,000 metres of that in an indoors arena. A comfortable reception and tea house overlooking the main arena is hung with photos of Wang Yang, the portly, smiling tycoon who built Deray with RMB20 million of a fortune made off his Qingdao Deray Construction and Decoration Co. Ltd.
Non-members have to pay RMB320 for an hour on a foreign horse. I got to ride the best horse in the house, I was assured by the uber-friendly staff. That’s perhaps because the club was empty aside from a lone teenage member stabling her horse after an hour-long session.
Deray is the only club in Shandong province with an international standard arena. The 40 horses are imported from Germany and New Zealand (some of the latter via agents selling on worn out Hong Kong racers). “Health”, “fashion” and “relaxation” appear to be company credo, as promised on various banners hung around the stables and arena. “Deray is the right place for holiday,” proclaims one.
The club aims to make Qingdao a centre for horsemanship – and an international base for horse competition. Making the city a horsemanship center and international match base is their goal.
“As a club member, you will feel nobly and valued as well as wealthy,” reads the brochure prepared for prospective members. Ten lessons on a student card costs RMB2,400 (50 lessons cost RMB9,500 and RMB16,000 for 100 one-hour sessions with horse and trainer). The card is transferrable and guarantees you the right to take part in competitions and parties and a 10% discount for hotels, restaurant, entertainment and horse tools.
Horse owners can stable their steeds for RMB30000 for one year, including feeding fee RMB24,000 and training fee of RMB6000. VIP cards at RMB48,000 and platinum cards for RMB68,000give you “no limit of time for horsing through the whole year” as well as discounts on rooms and meals at an on-site hotel planned for the club. Platinum card members also get first refusals to buy club horses. A “horse leading” course costs RMB200 per hour – you learn how to walk with your horse, says the club receptionist.