Equestrian clubs are booming in China to meet the need to pursue aristocratic sports of the country’s upper class.
Horse leather boots lined up on the carpet, pictures of hungry hunting dogs hanging on the wall, fountains emanating from the mouth of the rock horses.
This setting is not in the upper part of the UK, but in fact on the outskirts of Shanghai, in County Down Club, the first exclusive membership club in China for horse riding and fox hunting.
The club, named after a county in Northern Ireland, was founded three years ago. Owner Steven Sun says the equestrian sport has grown rapidly in China over the past 5 to 10 years.
“I think it’s a change in perception”, the 32-year-old said. Sun started to enjoy horse riding while studying in England.
According to AFP, the number of Chinese participating in sports such as horseback riding is increasing as the development of the world’s second largest economy gives people the disposable income available to pursue recreational activities.
County Down has dozens of horses and Sun wants the club to be at the forefront of promoting equestrian sports in China. The club has an indoor pool, gym and piano not only for entertainment but also for socializing and making friends.
County Down has about 80 members with an annual membership fee of 58,000 yuan (US $ 8,400). However, in the future, those who want to join may not just need a very thick wallet.
“We expect our members to have good qualities and manners or to have elites with high levels of education”, Sun said.
“That will ensure the exchange between members of equal rank. One of the benefits of the club is that the members can leverage to promote each other.
Sun said he also facilitated members to interact outside of China. He once took members to hunt foxes with European nobility. He also has four race horses in France.