|A rider clears a hurdle during showjumping practice at the Equuleus International Riding Club on October 27. Photo: Li Hao/GT|
Each Sunday, Zou Tao puts on his polished riding boots, black helmet and dark green equestrian coat before heading to the Equuleus International Riding Club beyond the Fifth Ring Road in Chaoyang district. After completing his stretches, he climbs onto the saddle on his horse Cornet Solo, a mixed-blood German Holstein.
"It's a thrill jumping over hurdles on my horse. It feels great when we cooperate well with each other. The horse is sensitive to every signal sent through my hands, legs and torso. It's like having a relationship with a person," said Zou.
As an investment banker, 30-year-old Zou knows the importance of building confidence with clients. At the indoor equestrian park, he insist that a similar form of "trust and tacit understanding" is essential between horse and rider.
Despite his busy job and concerns from his family over his safety, Zou has enjoyed the sport for the past three years.
"The busier my work is, the more reason I have to do equestrian. It's a good way to escape the pressures of work and release myself," said Zou, who visits the club on average four days per week.
Chen Che, competition and promotion director for the Beijing Turf and Equestrian Association, said that equestrian in China has grown rapidly since the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Over the past five years, Beijing has stayed in the global equestrian spotlight by hosting a series of high-level competitions, including the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) World Cup Jumping China League, Longines Equestrian Beijing Masters and China Equestrian Tour.
Beijing is China's "equestrian capital," being home to more than 100 equestrian clubs and 80 percent of the country's top 50 horsemen and women, Chen said.
More than 100,000 people, including club members, horse riding enthusiasts and those who help care for and train around 5,000 horses, are involved in the equestrian scene in Beijing, Chen said.
Although it's often better to take up the sport at an earlier age, older riders can thrive at equestrian within a few years with disciplined training.
"You can start this sport at any age. Many riders who have represented China's national equestrian team, such as Huang Zuping and Li Zhenqiang, learned to ride as adults. Now, they are the top horsemen in China," Chen said.