China's equestrian sports industry are undergoing a renaissance, said Emmett F. Ryan, managing director of Sai Ma Sports, in an interview yesterday during the 2012 China Equestrian Festival.
"China has a long history of equestrian sports that dates back thousands of years," Ryan said. "Although over the past decades modern equestrian didn't develop well in China, we are excited to see what’s happening now."
As early as the Han Dynasty (202 BC - 220 AD) and Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 AD), equestrian sports were once very popular and fully developed. Royal families, senior officials and commoners all loved the sport, including equestrian archery and polo, as part of their lives and daily entertainment.
However, as China entered the modern age, the sport became a "minority sport," although equestrian sports were included as early as in the first National Games of China in 1959.
"I was surprised to see the China Equestrian Festival here," Emmett F. Ryan said, "The opening was brilliant, and the competitions wonderful. There are also so many enthusiastic people out here. This will help athletes reach their potentials."
Ryan didn't see this as the "rebirth" of Chinese equestrian, but instead as a "renaissance". "China was a big equestrian nation a long time ago, and I believe it will reclaim this title."
Ryan's Sai Ma Sports, LLC, is focused on linking Western equine expertise with leaders in China who are building the foundations to revitalize the national equine industry. China is placing great emphasis on the development of equestrian sports and is closely studying the global horse breeding and racing industry.
China's first equestrian race course was built 19 years ago in Chengdu, where the China Equestrian Festival is now permanently located. Chengdu is sparing no effort to build up the equestrian brand in China.
Zhang Dongsheng, the chairman of the Chengdu Equestrian Association, also shares his vision. He said the prospects of the China Equestrian Festival becoming the fourth biggest equestrian festival in the world are high, and will compete with the existing three major international equestrian festivals in Germany's Aachen, America's Kentucky and Australia’s Melbourne.
But Zhang admitted there is still much to do. He said the Chengdu Equestrian Association will help construct and upgrade infrastructure, venues and equipment, and train riders and judges while organizing and importing domestic, international and club competitions.
Zhang added they will also promote equestrian culture and help people learn more about horses, and change society’s long held conventional view that views horses as an animal, not as a friend. Once they have done these things, a following of stable and mature equestrian enthusiasts will be cultivated, providing a solid base for the sustainable development of China's equestrian sports.