Riding in Burma

There’s an equestrian club in Burma. Yes, 15-20 kilometres from downtown Yangon (previously Rangoon), the Yangon Country Club keeps 20 horses behind a rather lavish clubhouse. It’s imposing but underused, like many of the white elephant projects which have become synonymous with the military junta that runs the country (similarly, Yangon’s new interntional airport terminal is way too big for the traffic coming through).

Anyway, once togged out in the massive but largely empty and underfurnished clubhouse I got a 45 minute session in an indoor arena. Fee: US$12.50, or 13,000 kyats. The horse, I was assured, was local, a 7 year old gelding. All the horses in the stables appear to be locally bred – they’re light, nearly pony-sized and mostly chestnut and bay in colour. There’s a largely stables off a large meadow behind the indoor arena but the stables adjoining the clubhouse are unremarkable, simple bamboo poles fencing the horses in. Some of the cash spent on the clubhouse should surely have gone on stabling and an outdoor arena. My coach spoke limited English but was attentive and careful about the horses: this is the only club where I’ve been given a treat to give the horses: a little plastic sachet of what seemed like sugar cane cubes. I’m curious to know more about the Burmese breed, for the occasion when I may come back to visit the country’s other club, in the historic city of Bagon.

It was certainly hard to find: at the junction of Pyidaung Su and Pin Lon road, the club was opened in 2003 by Chairman of Myanmar National Olympic Council and government minister, General Khin Nyunt, along with sports minister Brig-Gen Thura Aye Myint. The President of Yangon Equestrian and Country Club is also a brigadier general, of police: Tin Win. More interesting is the Korean involvement: a brass nameplate in the clubhouse hallways credits COA International Co Ltd of Korea for co-building the club.

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