Hong Kong’s Equestrians raise the bar to International Standards
Like horse racing, equestrian sports have a long history and heritage in Hong Kong. Drawing on its experience of running world-class racing, The Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) has been a steadfast supporter of the city’s equestrian development, and its public riding schools now attract some 60,000 visits a year from local residents keen to learn riding skills and horse care. Many of the horses used are retired racehorses, retrained to enjoy second careers as riding school horses. The Club also lends its professional support to international equestrian events such as the five-star LONGINES Hong Kong Masters, of which it is a Founding Partner.
Since 2008, the Club has additionally funded the HKJC Equestrian Team and Junior Equestrian Training Squad (JETS) to give talented riders the chance to receive professional training locally or overseas. This has helped Hong Kong riders frequently pull above their weight in international competitions. At the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, for example, the Hong Kong riders won a bronze medal in the discipline of team jumping, beating the sport’s Asian powerhouses, Japan and South Korea.
This is an exceptional achievement considering that in contrast to their counterparts in other countries, aspiring equestrians in Hong Kong do not normally have as favourable conditions for learning the sport, such as staying close to horses in a barn at a young age and winning the trust of these intelligent animals.
Many of the HKJC Equestrian Team members have first felt the mane and touch the coat of a horse at the Club’s facilities. An example is Jacqueline Lai, who was among the bronze medal-winning team at the Asian Games.
She had her first canter at a Club riding school as a young girl and was later invited to join the HKJC Equestrian Team, giving her the chance to receive high-level training in Europe and participate in prestigious international competitions. Yet it has not always been an easy ride for the young equestrian. A life-threatening accident during a training session once put her riding future in serious doubt.
“The accident happened at my training base in Denmark in 2011,” she says, recalling the fall that fractured her pelvis into five pieces. “To make it back on my two legs, and back to the sport, I received a lot of support from my family and friends, as well as The Hong Kong Jockey Club.”
It took several painful months for Lai to recover from the injury. She has since achieved her best-ever results in equestrian competitions, winning the silver medal in the individual jumping event at the 2013 National Games in Shenyang.
Lai believes the Club’s support and sponsorship for local riders is helping them become more competitive in the international arena, commenting that “we’re very lucky to have that support and sponsorship [from the Club], achieving results that we’ve never had before.” She is delighted that the efforts of her teammates, many of whom are also sponsored by the Club, have contributed to creating public interest in the sport.
It seems clear that Hong Kong’s efforts in the equestrian arena will continue to gain in strength, numbers and reputation, thanks in large part to the support from The Hong Kong Jockey Club.
Getting into equestrian riding in Hong Kong
Riding is a sport that involves a lot of mutual understanding and respect between rider and horse. Each horse has its own personality and ideas. Time spent in a saddle adds to the confidence and skills of the rider so that he or she can be flexible with a wide range of horses.
In Hong Kong, the Club assumes the responsibility of providing a range of equestrian facilities to the public. In order to allow the sport of horse riding to reach the wider community, the Club maintains three public riding schools around the city. They represent some of the best opportunities for members of the public to participate.
In addition, there is the famed Beas River Equestrian Centre, offering members of the Club the most extensive range of equestrian facilities in Hong Kong with excellent instruction in all disciplines including dressage, show jumping, and cross country (or eventing). Beas River also organises various levels of competition so that Hong Kong riders can compete against each other, garnering invaluable experience.