Equine link jumps ahead
A POPULAR NEW hobby among China’s newly affluent is to head out to a horse-riding club and saddle up, either in the grasslands of Inner Mongolia, or even just the suburbs of Beijing or Shanghai.
Riding facilities are springing up all over China and there is a huge demand for trainers to feed a growing demand among young wealthy urbanites. With this in mind, Ireland’s equestrian industry was well represented at last week’s Shanghai Horfa 2012 equine exhibition, including representation from Horse Sport Ireland.
“Horse Sport Ireland is here primarily to promote the Irish- bred horse and build contacts within China. We are also increasing awareness of our coaching programme and structures,” said Heather Coyle, high-performance co-ordinator of Horse Sport Ireland and tutor for the coaching programme.
“There is a very strong awareness here of Ireland’s recent equestrian successes at the Olympics and Paralympics and at underage level. This has definitely increased interest in how the sector is structured in Ireland,” she said.
In five to 10 years China is expected to become the world’s largest importer of horses. At the moment there are less than 800,000 professional and amateur riders.
Also attending the event was Prof Ann Cullinane of the Irish Equine Centre, the laboratory responsible for the diagnosis and control of equine disease in Ireland.
Cullinane has been designated expert in the field of equine influenza, one of only four in the world, by the World Organisation For Animal Health (OIE), which is the veterinary equivalent of the WHO. Her lab has been twinned by the OIE with the National Veterinary Institute of China in Harbin. “The aim of the OIE-funded twinning is to transfer sufficient expertise from the Irish Equine Centre to Harbin Veterinary Institute to enable the Chinese laboratory to become the first OIE reference laboratory for equine influenza in Asia,” she said.
The Irish Equine Centre will use the twinning as a platform to provide further training services to the equine industry in China and other countries in the region, and the Shanghai Fair provided a networking opportunity for this purpose, she said.
So much attention on Ireland’s efforts to sell our unique skills with horses to China has focused on the racing industry, and the possibilities there if the ban on gambling is ever lifted.
This would be huge but establishing a presence in the thoroughbred business has proven challenging.
One example was Coolmore’s apparent difficulties with sending horses to Tianjin shows, and furthermore, there are no signs of the gambling ban being lifted anytime soon.
But equestrianism is thriving, and there is keen demand for trainers. “If China is keen to develop the horse sports industry, the fastest way is to hire talent from overseas to help better manage the business,” Jiang Wenjun, general manager of Bangcheng Equestrian Club in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, one of China’s largest clubs, told the China Daily.