Across China: A horse groomer's dream to create star racehorses
LANZHOU, March 20 (Xinhua) -- Gently petting a horse named Dandan, Yuan Hao, a 27-year-old horse groomer, started to bathe, brush and feed the horse before going for a ride in the grasslands.
This is Yuan's way of communicating with Dandan, a horse bred and raised at Shandan Horse Breeding Farm in northwest China's Gansu Province.
Lying at the foothill of the Qilian Mountains, the farm has a history of over 2,000 years and now serves as a major horse breeding facility in China.
This year is Yuan's fourth year training Dandan after he joined the farm, where his family worked and he grew up.
Dandan is a Shandan horse, a species exclusively bred by the farm. Used as army horses for a long time, the breed boasts physical fitness and good endurance.
For Yuan, it is a long-cherished dream to train Shandan horses like Dandan as racehorses and bring them to the equestrian competitions.
"Currently horses participating in equestrian competitions are mainly imported breeds. I want to see Shandan horses compete with other breeds in equestrian sports one day," said Yuan.
Before working at the farm, Yuan was a coach at an equestrian club in east China's Jiangsu Province, where he found that encouragement is more useful than whipping when it comes to teaching horses different skills.
"The key to horsemanship is to cultivate the tacit understanding between the rider and horse," Yuan said.
It took about half a year to get familiar with Dandan, Yuan recalled, adding that he discovered a lot of potential in Shandan horses as he spent more time with it. "Shandan horses are suitable for dressage and show-jumping."
Spanning an area of about 2,195 square km, Shandan farm is at an altitude between 2,420 meters and 4,933 meters, which limits training activities due to low temperature.
With no indoor horse arena at the farm, Yuan has to make training obstacles by himself using simple materials like haystacks and PVC poles.
Training with Dandan is not easy work. Yuan once fell from Dandan five times during obstacle jump training, and the horse was scared to jump.
Yuan had to lead the horse and circle around the obstacle to soothe its mood. "A horse is like a child. It will be afraid and feels like making a mistake after it throws you off, so we should not lose our temper and be patient."
Currently, Dandan's combined training hours have exceeded six months, and it is getting more stable and better at following instructions.
Yuan is also closely following competition notices released by the Chinese Equestrian Association and preparing Dandan for the coming training as it gets warmer.
I feel I'm one step closer to my dream, Yuan said looking at Dandan.