The hardest part about living here is probably the fact that I had to leave my horse behind in the States. However, he is fortunately well-cared for where he is living like a king and staying in great shape.
While I miss my horse a lot, I fortunately don’t have to miss horseback riding as I get to go riding here in Beijing.
Did you know that Beijing has riding barns? Horseback riding is an up and coming sport here. It’s certainly only for about 1% of the population who has the money to afford it. I find that the lessons are comparable to what I would pay in the States for a quality lesson (think Northern Virginia prices). However, I believe owning a horse here is quite a bit more as there are membership fees on top of normal fees.
Membership fees are a part of the Chinese culture it seems. If you want to do something, then you have to join and get a membership card. For where I ride, you pay 3500 kuai for a 10 lesson membership card. On top of that you pay 200 kuai for your coaching fee each lesson. Essentially, that is 550 kuai per lesson.
You can buy larger lesson packages, but I like to pay in cash when in China, so I’m not about to get out as much cash is needed for that. 😉 Plus, I calculated it out and it wouldn’t really save me any money (sometimes the more you pay, the bigger your discount is…not in this case).
Anyways, if you know Chinese (or if you don’t mind having a whole lesson where you can’t really understand what needs to be done), the coaching fee is just 200 kuai. I find it’s better for me to pay the extra $7 for an English speaking coach.
My coach certainly knows what he’s talking about and he certainly loves horses. He can get so excited to talk about different horses (like the smaller horse who is now retired but was once a very successful show jumper or the younger horse who he can make do some fancy dressage moves). He also gets very excited when he is rider (and likes to show me how easy it is to do something that was challenging for me ;)).
I’ve learned a TON of exercises that I’m excited to take back and use during my rides with Beau. I’ve also learned how I have been missing out by not having an instructor for quite some time (but this is an expensive sport, so sometimes there is only so much you can do!).
If you ride, you know that some lessons are better than others. That’s certainly the case here. Sometimes the horse and I click so well. Other times, we’re just struggling. Sometimes the coach and I click better than other times. I love the times when I get a really good exercise to practice (and he always does a nice job explaining what the point of the exercise is).
If you’re looking to ride in Beijing, it’s definitely possible. There are two huge barns in Shunyi (30 minutes or so (depending on traffic) outside of downtown). One barn holds fancy events and is super expensive. I tried there but it didn’t seem to be worth the price tag to me (lovely facility and horses but I couldn’t justify the cost). I ride in a barn that is a little smaller than that one but I do get some good instruction. There are also plenty of other barns out in the area but you have to have the language skills. With riding, I want to learn and understand more, so I need to understand what someone is trying to communicate to me.
Before, the U.S. and China didn’t allow shipping horses, but that has now changed. I know someone who bought a horse from the Netherlands and shipped him to China. Now, she’ll be able to ship him back to the U.S. due to this change!
Speaking of shipping a horse to China, that is quite interesting. Your horse goes into quarantine and apparently some of the places are nicer than others. Some are closer than others. It just depends on your luck I suppose!
TOTE: If you’re lucky, you can keep doing what interests you even in a foreign place.