I was very disappointed in Shanghai recently to visit a well-advertised equestrian centre, the Hui Hang Horse club.
It’s certainly large, with a golf cart to ferry drop-in clients between stables and a sprawling restaurant complex.
But the majority of the 70 or so (mostly local breed) horses I saw have no bed to lie on. Yes, concrete floors only. I found the manager upstairs in a spacious office hung with portraits of Mao and other nationalist icons. Clearly a military buff, and dressed as a colonel of sorts, the boss was full of welcome but then had to take an urgent phone call when I told him that there’s plenty of saw mills in the Shanghai/Yangtze Delta region which would give him a good few bags of saw dust for the same price the Hui Hang charges for a lesson – an average RMB300 for a 45 minute ride.
The effects of lying on bare, cold concrete already appeared obvious in the limbs of some of the Hui Hang horses I saw.
A live-in, week long, course for teenagers at the Hui Hang promises to turn them into ‘knights’ with elegant, noble bearing and upright posture.
Local media in China’s cities tend to glamourise this approach equestrianism: I wish they’d write more about the horses’ living conditions.