Home / Life

'Captivated by beauty of the moving horse'

By Zhang Xi | China Daily | Updated: 2011-07-27 08:16


Huang Zuping competed in show jumping at the 2008 Olympics. Provided to China Daily

The slow-motion image of a horse lunging forward, its legs kicking up dust, every sinew straining to give it power, at the start of a race, so thrilled Huang Zuping, then 35, that he decided to make horse riding a life-long pursuit.

"I was totally captivated by the beauty of the moving horse," Huang, now 47, says with a sparkle in his eye as if seeing the clip for the first time.

"In 2001, when Beijing won the bid to hold the 2008 Olympic Games, the idea of participating in the Olympics suddenly hit me," he says.

And that is exactly what he did, although he had only six years of non-professional riding under his belt.

The 2008 Games marked the first time that Chinese athletes had participated in the horse riding competition and Huang had the highest score in his team.

For the first 30 years of his life, Huang had little to do with the world of horseback riding. After graduating from Beijing University of Chemical Technology, the Beijing native became a government official, dealing with national economic planning.

In 1995, he left for an executive-level position in a State-owned company. It was only then that he first saddled up at a horse club in Beijing. The adventure seeker took to the sport instantly.

"I have tried some extreme sports, like car racing, but none matched the excitement of horseback riding," Huang says. He began to devote more time to learning about the sport and training with well-known riders.

After deciding to try out for the 2008 Olympics team, Huang chose Germany as his training base as it is the world's center for equestrian sports.

According to the German Equestrian Association, there are 300,000 full-time professionals working in this industry in Germany, whose value is put at about 5 billion euro ($7.26 billion).

With the support of his wife and son, the determined Huang embarked on his journey to Germany on his own money in 2002.

His first stop was the largest stallion-raising facility in Germany, Stall Ramsbrock in Menslage. He did not think his skills would improve so quickly but soon needed to find a more advanced instructor. He was then introduced to four-time Olympic gold medalist Ludger Beerbaum, who owns a stable in Riesenbeck.

The world's top show jumper decided to take on Huang, who was the same age as him, as his student, after watching him perform and seeing his determination to qualify for the 2008 Olympics.

Huang's hard work and willpower won him the support of the German, who lent him his own horses to train on. After putting in 10 hours of training every day, Huang's skills improved dramatically and he qualified for a place on the team for the Olympics.

"I have always believed in the motto of the founder of Lenovo: 'When there is a 5 percent hope, there is a 100 percent reality'," Huang says. He and three other Chinese nationals competed in the Beijing Olympics, but none won any medals. The Germans took home four golds from the six competitions.

"Compared to my German counterparts who often start their training at a very young age, I started very late. Besides, the equestrian industry in China is far behind international standards, although China has a long history and tradition of horse breeding and riding."

To ignite interest in the sport, Huang started a horseback riding company in 2010 on the outskirts of Beijing. "I have a professional team of eight people and 12 German horses, all of which qualified for the National Games in China. It is very hard to find qualified horses and riders to participate in the National Games, not to mention the Olympics," he says.

For Huang, horse riding is more than just a recreational activity. "It is a way of life. If you want to ride a horse, you do not need to train as a sportsman. As long as you feel happy about the experience, you gain a lot," he says.

For him, horses are more than just tools used in the sport; they are the riders' companions.

"Your horse can read your mind. You must love this creature from your heart. When you are strong-minded, they will work with you. But even when you are hesitant, they can help you to reach the goal."

Women, he says, are often better riders than men because of their sixth sense.

"Female riders can be extremely wonderful because they can feel very small differences in the movements of the horse," he says.

Huang says the nation needs more time to develop an equestrian culture. "Only after reform and opening-up did China start to consider horseback riding a leisure activity," he adds. "Until recently, the government of a metropolitan city like Beijing would not grant any specific land to build horseback-riding facilities for residents."

By comparison, the town of Greven, Germany, with a population of 36,000, has 29 indoor training facilities, the largest of which is about 2,000 square meters.

Huang has been playing a key role in promoting horse riding in Beijing and was the mastermind behind the 2011 Beijing International Equestrian Grand Prix. The three-day event in May was held in the National Stadium and attracted 5,000-6,000 people.

It showcased 41 riders from home and abroad, including 10 of the world's best, led by his former teacher Beerbaum.

Even though the sport is gaining in popularity, Huang knows it will be a long time before it becomes mainstream. "China still needs 10 to 20 years to develop its equestrian industry. My job is to introduce international resources, including horses and coaches, to China, to promote the culture.

"I want to tell our people that equestrianism is not only for the affluent, it can be for everyone."

China Daily

(China Daily 07/27/2011 page18)

Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349