Adventures in CHINA

Horsing Around in China

Here's Candy, Kitty, and Cookie (Camille) heading through the Forest Park to ride those bad ponies!

There aren't any horses in Tianjin, but we were lucky to find a place to ride outside of town. The Forest Park was a 45-minute taxi ride from the Hyatt. In order to get there, we would need an interpreter. We contacted a young Chinese woman whom we heard had taken a riding lesson in Beijing. We asked Kitty if she would act as our interpreter and negotiate an hourly fee for horseback riding at the Forest Park in return for riding lessons. Kitty agreed and we began a wonderful friendship and made some fine memories. She negotiated a fee of 60 yuan (or $7.25) each per hour. This was an improvement over the 100 yuan ($12) she had paid in Beijing and also cut the taxi travel time and cost by 38 %. Kitty only fell off once and that was due to a faulty girth.

The Chinese horses are Mongolian ponies crossed with imported stock. They are small and quick and not especially good-tempered. Both Bob and I got ourselves kicked while mounting so we learned to watch their teeth and hooves. We didn't blame them for their attitude as most of them had saddle sores and spent their day racing around a dirt track with unschooled riders bouncing around on their backs.

The going rate for horseback riding is 8 yuan, or less than a dollar, for one trip around the track. We rented horses in Qufu, hometown of Confucius, and found it more like bungee jumping than horseback riding. Two handlers steadied the horse while we mounted. They instructed us to take tight hold on the reins and grab a metal handle, which was built into the pommel of the saddle. When they felt we were sufficiently briefed and holding on tight, they let go and sent us off at a gallop. I pulled my horse up and made some circles at the far end of the track while I waited for Bob and this upset the handlers. They felt we were cheating them out of both time and distance.

Camille, in control and looking good, as usual.

The Forest Park was the closest thing we had to the wilds we had left behind. Horseback riding wasn't the only attraction, however. On our way to the stables, vendors tried to sell us fun activities such as archery (with live chickens as targets), go-carts, and target shooting. We heard there were camel rides but never came across any.

This is a VERY bad pony, he almost unseated Bob in the woods. Note the handful of reins Bob has got on him.

After our first ride in the Forest Park, we joined the Hyatt staff for their annual barbeque. Many of us rented go-carts after lunch and drove around the trees-lined course. One young man drove the nose of his cart into a tree with a loud yelp and stepped from the cart shaken and dazed. Few Chinese citizens carry driver's licenses. Bob and I tried out the go-carts and a bicycle built for two. We passed on the archery and target shooting.

Our trips to the Forest Park kept our horsemanship skills alive and helped ease the claustrophobia of city living.

Our friend Kitty Cai, with her puppy friend.


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