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Inner Mongolia puts faith back in equestrian roots

(China Daily)    09:18, September 25, 2017

Horses have played an inseparable role in the history of Mongolians and their culture, from Genghis Khan to today’s thriving equestrian sports scene. And the autonomous region is determined to ensure horses continue to play a big part in the regional economy and culture.

In recent weeks, Inner Mongolia has started to offer horse riding lessons to students, as part of efforts to offer a diverse curriculum for all-round development.

(A girl rides a horse during an equestrian lesson at Genghis Khan Street Elementary School in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia autonomous region on Sept 19, 2017. Photo by Yuan Hui/China Daily)

As the new semester began, Inner Mongolia Equestrian Association provided a series of horse riding lessons for local teenagers aged between 11 and 17.

The program involves more than 2,000 students from 41 classes at regional elementary and high schools and runs from Sept 11 until the end of October. The lessons will then restart in March to avoid the cold winter temperatures.

The association has highlighted the lengths it is going to in order to provide the lessons, including employing qualified jockeys, constructing equestrian camps, and caring for the horses.

It aims to improve the physical fitness of the participants and keep alive aspects of traditional Mongolian culture.

The region has excelled in equestrian sports over the past few years, including horse racing, polo, show jumping, and dressage. Jockeys from Inner Mongolia have won 298 medals and titles in over 200 competitions at home and abroad, including 62 gold medals in the past five years.

There has been a renewed interest in equestrianism, with horse clubs springing up in the autonomous region. The region’s clubs have entered 135 competitions, winning 197 medals and titles over the past five years.

Yet the region’s traditions are not enough. Equestrian sports in Inner Mongolia face new challenges from other areas of China and abroad.

Over a hundred professional horse competitions are organized in Inner Mongolia each year, with thousands of jockeys and racehorses taking part.

Around 40 percent of Chinese jockeys in national equestrian competitions are from Inner Mongolia. While this is clearly an indication of the region’s equestrian strengths, the slow exodus of equestrian talent is having an impact on equestrianism within its traditional heartland.

Yet, with appropriate funding and policy support, the autonomous region hopes to turn this situation around.

The sports industry is vital to the region’s economy, and it’s estimated that it will account for 1 percent of the region’s GDP by 2020. Equestrian sports will likely contribute around 15 percent to this, with an output value of 8 billion yuan ($121.4 million).

The bright future prospects of the equestrian industry will create real economic benefits, with 3,000 new positions expected to be created in the sectors of equestrian training and equipment manufacturing. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Shan Xin, Bianji)

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