VietNamNet Bridge – On May 29, in the blazing sun of the mountainous region, 24 racehorses from Bac Ha, Si Ma Cai and Muong Khuong in Lao Cai province entered the finale to seek the winner of a VND20 million ($1000) bonus.
On May 28, the organizing board held the elimination round for 48 horses from Bac Ha, Si Ma Cai and Muong Khuong in Lao Cai province, and Xin Man district in Ha Giangprovince; then choose 24 horses for the finals, including 21 from Bac Ha district, 2 from Si Ma Cai district and 1 from Muong Khuong district.
In the past, horse-racing happened on impulse after a hard day’s work of gathering corn, rice and cassava. The men would get together to see who had the fastest horse, along with showing off their own physical prowess. Over the years, for reasons unknown, the frequency of the sport slowly diminished and now happens only once a year, since 2007.
To prepare for the festival, it is very important for horsemen to select, take care of and train horses just for the festival. The best horses are chosen locally, then throughout the communes then the district. A good horse will be strong and upright, have good teeth and a thick, smooth mane.
Attending the horse-race, festival-goers have a chance to mingle in the exciting and animated atmosphere surrounding the race-course. When the festival starts the competitors, wearing plastic hats, march toward the race-course. They compete in the traditional way, without a saddle.
The horseback is covered with a rectangle flax cloth and a woven robe with two crampons attached to the bridle near the horse’s mouth. The skilled horsemen control their horses with their hands instead of using a whip. This traditional form of riding performed by the locals makes the race more interesting with spectacular performances.
Horse-racing is an activity to preserve and promote the traditional culture of ethnic groups in the northern mountainous provinces and increase the understanding, exchange and solidarity among ethnic people.
It is one of the activities in the tourism program on “Reversion to the Original Point” of three provinces, including Lao Cai, Yen Bai and Phu Tho. The race attracted thousands of domestic and foreign visitors.
John Hemming, a British tourist, said: “I’ve watched many horse races in Hong Kong, Macau and China, but this race is very special. Jockeys don’t use saddles, horses are very small but they run very fast and whinny. It is very interesting and strange!”
Yes, it is interesting and strange because jockeys are farmers from mountainous villages of Lao Cai and Ha Giang provinces and racehorses are pack-horses. Just several days before the race, these horses were allowed to rest to prepare for the race.
Some horses that were not familiar to crowds and cheering did not obey their jockeys’ commands.
After three rounds, jockey No. 29, Vang Van Huynh, a Tay ethnic from Bac Ha district, was the winner. He took the first prize of VND20 million.
The organizers also presented two second prizes worth VND10 million each ($500), and two third prizes of VND7 million to other jockeys.
Below are some pictures of the race:
The event was held in Bac Ha Town.
A family went to the racecourse very early to cheer their husband and father.
A white horse.
A piebald horse.
The champion of the race in 2007 and jockey Than Van Dung also participated in this race.
Before the race.
A parade before the race.
The first round.
At the start line.
Running along the PIT line is a tactic that jockeys were trained.
However, some horses did not run along the PIT.
A jockey felt from the horse back.
Close to the finish.
Hitting the finish.
The first-prize winner, Vang Van Huynh.
Huynh was interviewed by reporters.
The three top winners.
Van Tuan-Quoc Huy