Sunday, 19 April 2009

Zou Ba! We are Off!

After a few hiccups, we are on our way. The first setback was that on Friday we discovered there had been a misunderstanding - I was under the impression that I was only paying expenses for Peng, whereas he thought he was also on a salary! This did not help with the stress of last minute preparations for the big day, but with the help of David and Harry we managed to renegotiate a mutually agreeable deal the next morning. Li May changed her mind and has decided to stay.

We moved the horses to the Yihe stud at Kangzhuang on Friday, and I was able to reclaim and sort out all my horsey kit and fit the horses. We decided to leave the wild black horse behind as we had not even managed to get a saddle on him in time, and early on Saturday morning we set off to the Guangting reservoir endurance ride venue with the three remaining horses. I was riding Zorbee, as I have now named the little bay gelding to go with his busy bee personality. The big steady gelding I have now renamed Bajiu (Bajio) - 89 in Mandarin, as that is what he has branded on his bottom!

The official opening ceremony of the ride went off with aplomb. The respective national anthems were played, speeches made (thankfully not too long) and us three riders were presented with Olympic flags by the President of the Chinese Equestrian Association and a representative of the Chinese Olympic committee. We then paraded around waving our flags to the strains of some suitably stirring music over the loudspeaker, followed by a cohort consisting of members of the CEA. The media were out in force and everyone signed the trailer which was on display again. After the endurance riders had gone we followed sedately, partly as Li Jing could not find his bridle as I had packed it away thinking it was an old one of mine, and partly as our girths were much too loose as I had not had time to buy new ones the day before. Happily Harry Tse came to the rescue with a hole puncher. We had a beautiful ride, initially through the grey countryside past ploughing donkeys and great windmills looming up out of the haze, then along the Guangting reservoir, the late afternoon sun glinting on the small grey waves as we plodded through the sand and picked our way around rocky headlands.

Stayed in a friendly little hotel just past the dam - only £2 a night each, though the washing facilities consisted of a sink in the restaurant.

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