Dalian’s Russian Trotters

I’m amazed at how many clubs there are in China now. A man with a club of his own, Fenglei Lin has opened the Fondlay Riding Club on the western outskirts of this northern coastal city, with 35 mostly local horses. What’s interesting about his stable is the Russian Trotter, a breed brought into the region when it was part of the Russian empire and today the hardy staple of Lin’s stable.

There’s unfortunately less of the horses around, says Fenglei: breeding know how died out and the horses used as simple beasts of burden. The race was diluted into a mish mash of local breeds but the steed I was given to ride, a real perky mover called Hunter Puma, is described by as directly decended from the first two purebreds given Mao in the 1950s.

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Growing the market in Dalian is his top priority though: there’s not a lot of activity in the club outside the summer months. A customs officer by day Fenglei is full of equestrian ideas: he’s thinking about a polo club and he’s considering a line of ornamental carriages for export. As director of the China Horse Industry Association the young looking 40 year old traces his interest in horses to the tales of his father, a general and horseman in Mao’s Red Army, who saddled up for the Long March. Continuing the military theme: the Fenglei was opened on a hilltop facility once occupied by the Japanese military, which occupied Dalian up to the end of the Second World War.

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