Vietnam’s first Equestrian Grand Prix..

It’s 2014, The Year of the Horse, and things at the normally laid-back Bach Ma Equestrian Farm are stirring up. Equestrian coaches, horse riders, event organizers, designers, builders, doctors and veterinary specialists, the Vietnamese press, and even an overseas Fédération Équestre Internationale (FEI) judge have visited the farm in the past few months. All this is in preparation for the first Equestrian Grand Prix in Vietnam on March 8 & 9, 2014. The private event is by invite- only and will feature 30 competing riders.

“Equestrian events are very specific,” says Cliff, an organizer of the Equestrian Grand Prix. “In Vietnam, we do not have as many horses available as we do in other countries. Unfortunately it’s very difficult and expensive to import good horses for riding. Riding in general is expensive. We also lack experienced vets to care for sick horses, and skilled farriers to care for their hooves and shoes. There is so much that needs to be done for the competition to happen. We have to take care of not only our guests, but also the horses that will be arriving with the guests.”

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Adding: “Our own horses have to be trained and prepared as well. We need a doctor and a medical van 24/7 for the entirety of the event. We have to work with local vets and prepare them as much as we can. We need to have a proper FEI judge flown in to keep ourselves up to international standard. We need so many things that simply aren’t available in Vietnam. There’s so much to do and only two more weeks to go. But we will do it and we will do it properly.”

“Yes, there are horse races in Vietnam, but not a proper equestrian competition, one that celebrates the skill and art of horse riding, show jumping, vaulting, dressage, all the disciplines of horse riding and training, as well as the relationship between riders and their horses,” says Kim, one of the 30 competing riders. Kim is a successful Vietnamese businesswoman who’s both excited and anxious for the upcoming competition that will, hopefully, be the first of many in Vietnam. “And there’s absolutely nothing like it in Vietnam. Even the notion of equestrianism, true equestrianism, the art, the skill, the dedication, the patience implied and required, just does not exist in Vietnam. We will change that.”

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“Our only hope is that this event will serve to promote horse riding in Vietnam and draw together a community of people who love horses and the art of horse riding,” says Cliff.

Marshmallow and Romeo
“I want to be the representative for Vietnam in the SEA Games,” Kim professes. “It’s really ambitious I know when I’ve only ridden for, at most, a little more than a year. But I set goals in order to know where I’m going. If you don’t know where you’re going, you go nowhere. I compete now not actually to win but to inspire, to motivate, and to better my riding.”

Eleven-year-old Angela is one of Kim’s competitors, and despite her young age, Angela has had more than half a decade of riding experience under her belt and numerous riding titles and trophies in her cabinet back home. “I started riding at five. I actually wanted to start at four but my parents didn’t allow me to because I was too young.”

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Angela has ridden in four different countries: Singapore, Jakarta, Thailand, and most recently, Vietnam. To her, each riding experience and each horse is unique. “In Jakarta, there was a horse named Marshmallow, which I was riding on. Here there’s a horse named Bella. She can sometimes get really excited and can go really fast, so I always have to keep my strength up, just like I did with Marshmallow. There’s also another horse here named Romeo. I may get the chance to ride him in the competition. I’m really excited because Romeo is a palomino. I’ve never ridden on a palomino before and I really, really want to ride one! But Romeo… he’s a bit different from the other horses. Sometimes he doesn’t respond well if I nudge him with my foot. Sometimes I have to call or shout to get to him.”

For Angela, it takes years to foster a relationship with each individual horse – to get to know them, train them and work with them – which is even more of a challenge for her, since her family moves every couple of years. She is not in the least bit disheartened, however. “Here it’s a different place. I have to learn how the horses are trained here and work with them.”

And the reason why she’s competing?

“I just want the little boys and girls my age out there to know that there is a place like this here, and maybe come and join us,” she replies.

For more info, visit www.bachma- equestrian.com.vn.

Images by Adam Robert Young