Organisers adopt educational style
'After I ride, I feel really happy and all my troubles seem to melt away.' So blared the loud speakers at Sha Tin yesterday as the Equestrian Company began to educate the public about the history of the horse and the joys of the sport of equestrianism. During a break in the action we were reminded that Pegasus was once a neddy who could fly and that Black Beauty was the star of the children's book of the same name. Heady stuff indeed and if a quick poll of those braving the weather was anything to go by, for the most part it was a case of preaching to the already converted.
Christine To Ka-lai joined Jenny Wong Dip-chu in the stands, but neither had needed convincing that the day out would be worth the trouble.
Both have been learning to ride at the Tuen Mun Public Riding School for the past few months and leapt at the chance to see some of the world's leading riders in action close up. 'If you ride, the rain doesn't bother you,' To said. 'But I don't think many people here don't ride.'
Katie Lowe and Anne Pappin are also riders - after growing up in Hong Kong, Lowe is now an instructor at a riding club outside Sheffield, England, while Pappin rides at Lo Wu.
'The rain's not brilliant, obviously,' Lowe said. 'But you have to salute the organisers for providing raincoats. We've had a look around and seen a lot of familiar faces - it seems most of the crowd are from riding clubs.'
Skipping through the puddles was Timothy Court, the Australian architect hired by the Jockey Club to bring Hong Kong's Olympic equestrian facilities together. Court admitted yesterday was a bit like watching your baby take its first steps.
'It's a bit nerve-racking, yes,' he said. 'The big worry last night was that we'd have to pull all the tents down because of the typhoon. But everything seems to be working out well.'
But the spectator who perhaps stands to gain the most from yesterday is Australia's 2005 World Cup eventing champion Clayton Fredericks.
Fredericks, who is not riding this weekend, has his sights firmly set on his return next year.
'Normally not a lot of riding goes on over here at this time of the year, so I wanted to see how the horses handled the heat,' he said. 'Instead we have rain, but I'm getting a good idea of the conditions and will get more during the cross country.'