China - Myth and Reality
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The Long Riders' Guild was formed to promote Equestrian Exploration and Long Distance Travel. Therefore we make every effort to encourage people of all nations to take to the saddle and journey across all portions of the globe on horseback!
However, we are often contacted by would-be equestrian travellers who plan on attempting an extended equestrian journey through a country, or a region, which is largely unsuitable. Often times the person speaking to us is very enthusiastic, but has never made a horse trip before. Plus, many times the country through which they propose to ride is clothed in the romantic clouds of equestrian myth. Images of a fence-free American West, or in this case, a horse-friendly China, are good examples of today's ugly political reality grafted onto yesterday's alluring equestrian legend.
Though China does still have remote regions, large areas have become industrial nightmares. According to recent reports, the country now has nearly 14 million vehicles, including 4 million passenger cars. Readers Digest has named Chinese drivers as the worst in Asia, citing last year's 94,000 traffic deaths as evidence.
A driving school teacher told one student, "I always drive when I get drunk. Just be careful of cops."
Such reckless driving affects equestrian travellers too. Chinese drivers in the hinterlands ignore traffic signs and regularly play chicken with on-coming vehicles. Buses hurtle down narrow mountains passes, swerving around pedestrians and farm animals.
If you are hit while travelling on your horse, don't expect any official comfort from the authorities. The city of Shenyang has declared that drivers who hit jaywalking pedestrians will not be held responsible.
"Only blood will wake up these people," a traffic cop said, regarding the loss of life on China's crowded roads.
In conclusion, The Long Riders' Guild stands ready and willing to help you swing into the saddle. However the fundamental decision about where you are going to ride should be based on careful research, and a hard look at the countryside you propose to ride through !
If at all possible, don't attempt an equestrian journey through a country which has no historical equestrian precedent! Research your route before you go! Read every book, study every map, and speak to anyone who can give you valid travel information. Finally, leave the myths at home! Don't set off thinking you are going to re-discover the Old West, the Old East, or any other 19th century legends.
Equestrian travel is exciting and rewarding, if you do it right. It can also be dangerous. Don't add to your discomfort by starting in the wrong country.
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