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Horse race unique part of life on Bac Ha plateau

Update: June, 22/2013 - 00:00

Every year, people in the mountains of Lao Cai Province come together to race horses.

It is something the people who live there have been doing for many, many years.

Long ago, people would watch it at the king's palace.

Today, they watch the races in a stadium.

Cracking pace: Farmers from ethnic groups on Bac Ha plateau in the northern mountainous province of Lao Cai compete in the annual horse race.
Cracking pace: Farmers from ethnic groups on Bac Ha plateau in the northern mountainous province of Lao Cai compete in the annual horse race. - Ảnh: VNA/VNS Photo Luc Van Toan

 

LAO CAI (VNS)— Farmers from different ethnic groups on Bac Ha plateau in the northern mountainous province of Lao Cai gathered at the weekend to compete in the annual horse race.

Reigning champion Vang Van Huynh prevailed again, beating 74 other riders from 10 communes.

"Only when sitting on horses can my fellow riders and I show off the courage handed down from our ancestors," said Huynh, while wiping sweat from his face after finishing the race.

The riders competed in groups of five, with the fastest going into the final round.

The horses are packhorses which normally carry maize, rice, and stone in the hamlets.

Bac Ha People's Committee deputy chairman Thao Seo Cau, who is head of the festival organising committee, said the race distance was shortened this year to reduce the strain on the horses.

"This year, they raced 1,900m in the qualifiers and 1,500m in the final. In previous competitions, they had to race 2,000m."

The local public enjoy the races, and so do the tourists whose numbers have doubled since 2009 to nearly 30,000 a year.

The Bac Ha Stadium has a capacity of 7,000 people.

Many cultural activities are also held, involving music and dance, food, farm produce and eco-tourism.

The festival promotes the culture of ethnic groups and increases understanding, exchange and solidarity.

Vang Van Hoang, a local resident, said the horse race was based on stories handed down over centuries, when immense forests were adorned with white plum and apricot flowers and local people flocked to the edifice of the King of local Mong ethnic group, who was known as Hoang A Tuong, to see the horse race.

During the competition, which used to take place at the foot of Ba Me Con Mount, the horsemen in well-fitting dress were ready to gallop when a shot signalled the start.

Approaching the finish line, they jumped from their horses, fired five shots in succession, took a red ball, remounted and carried on.

The winner was the man with the fastest horse and the most points.

However, during the war against the French and American invaders, the race was suspended for several years as the horsemen were conscripted to protect national independence.

In 1975, Bac Ha inhabitants celebrated victory in the anti-American War with a big parade of more than 200 horses.

In the spring of 1980, the horse race was once again launched by the Bac Ha Military Command, attracting more than 50 jockeys from across the district.

But it wasn't until 27 years later, in 2007, that the horse race was officially restored as part of cultural activities, and then only as part of the annual tourism development co-operation programme among eight northwestern provinces.

GLOSSARY

Farmers from different ethnic groups on Bac Ha plateau in the northern mountainous province of Lao Cai gathered at the weekend to compete in the annual horse race.

Ethnic groups are groups of people who are like one another because they are of the same race, speak the same language and usually follow much the same customs.

A plateau is flat countryside at a high attitude.

To compete means to try to do better than others.

Something that is annual happens every year.

Reigning champion Vang Van Huynh prevailed again, beating 74 other riders from 10 communes.

The reigning champion is the person who won the most recent competition.

To prevail means to be the most powerful.

"Only when sitting on horses can my fellow riders and I show off the courage handed down from our ancestors," said Huynh, while wiping sweat from his face after finishing the race.

Courage means being able to do things that are scary.

Your ancestors are your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great grandparents and so on.

The riders competed in groups of five, with the fastest going into the final round.

The final round of a competition is the last race. Depending on the rules, the winner of this race may be the overall winner of the competition.

The horses are packhorses which normally carry maize, rice, and stone in the hamlets.

Hamlets are little villages in farming areas.

Bac Ha People's Committee deputy chairman Thao Seo Cau, who is head of the festival organising committee, said the race distance was shortened this year to reduce the strain on the horses.

A committee is a group of people who organise certain things and have the power to do so.

Strain means damage that is caused by trying too hard at something.

"This year, they raced 1,900m in the qualifiers and 1,500m in the final.

People who qualify at a horse race would have proved that they are good enough to be allowed to enter the next round.

In previous competitions, they had to race 2,000m.

Previous competitions are those that were held in the past.

The local public enjoy the races, and so do the tourists whose numbers have doubled since 2009 to nearly 30,000 a year.

Something that has doubled has increased by two.

The Bac Ha Stadium has a capacity of 7,000 people.

A stadium's capacity is the most people it can have inside.

Many cultural activities are also held, involving music and dance, food, farm produce and eco-tourism.

Things that are cultural are to do with people's feelings of belonging to where they come from.

Eco-tourism is tourism that is to do with the environment and helping the environment stay healthy.

The festival promotes the culture of ethnic groups and increases understanding, exchange and solidarity.

When different people exchange things, they give things to one another. In this case, they may teach one another each other's traditional songs and dances.

When people have solidarity, they feel as if they are one.

Vang Van Hoang, a local resident, said the horse race was based on stories handed down over centuries, when immense forests were adorned with white plum and apricot flowers and local people flocked to the edifice of the King of local Mong ethnic group, who was known as Hoang A Tuong, to see the horse race.

When one talks about a certain area, local residents are people who live there.

A century is a hundred years.

Something that is immense is very big.

To adorn something means to make it look pretty.

An edifice is a large, smart building.

During the competition, which used to take place at the foot of Ba Me Con Mount, the horsemen in well-fitting dress were ready to gallop when a shot signalled the start.

When a horse gallops, it runs very fast.

Approaching the finish line, they jumped from their horses, fired five shots in succession, took a red ball, remounted and carried on.

"In succession" means "one after another".

To mount a horse means to get on to it. To remount a horse means to get on it once again.

However, during the war against the French and American invaders, the race was suspended for several years as the horsemen were conscripted to protect national independence.

Invaders are people whose armies come into another country to try to take it over.

If something is suspended it is stopped, for a while.

People are conscripted when their governments call them up for special duties, such as army training.

The national independence of a country is its being able to rule itself, rather than have another country's government in charge.

In 1975, Bac Ha inhabitants celebrated victory in the anti-American War with a big parade of more than 200 horses.

Inhabitants of a city are people who live there.

In the spring of 1980, the horse race was once again launched by the Bac Ha Military Command, attracting more than 50 jockeys from across the district.

Jockeys are horse riders at horseraces.

But it wasn't until 27 years later, in 2007, that the horse race was officially restored as part of cultural activities, and then only as part of the annual tourism development co-operation programme among eight northwestern provinces.

By being officially restored, the horse race is now once again happening and takes place in an organised way with support from many people and organisations.

Find the meanings of the following words in the Word Search:

1.      Fruit trees whose flowers once made forests beautiful.

2.      The people at whose king's palace horse races were once held.

3.      Bac Ha is a ………

4.      A country that once invaded Viet Nam.

5.      A type of food that the horses often carry between hamlets.

6.      The type of landscape around Bac Ha.

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This page has been developed in cooperation with Duncan Guy, founder and editor of Learn the News.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 1. Apricot; 2. Mong; 3. Stadium; 4. France; 5. Plateau.











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