Riding wild Mongolian horses was something I never imagined myself doing when I lived in China. While I absolutely adore horses, I had never gone horseback riding before. In the spirit of being a true adventuress and trying out new things, I decided to give horseback riding, with wild Mongolian horses no less, a go.
Suzhou, which is a water town located about 1 hour outside Shanghai, offers plenty of outdoorsy opportunities, including horseback riding. When I arrived with my group to the equestrian center, we were geared up. Since this was my first time horseback riding, I took all the gear I could get and I ended up looking like a SWAT member on riot patrol.
We were also given a brief demonstration of the basics of horseback riding by the Mongolian horse trainers and were introduced to our horses. My horse was apparently the most wild and difficult to control (why they assigned him to a newbie like me, I’ll never know), and one of the Mongolian trainers was assigned to stay by my side.
When we set off it was a little scary at first. My horse would constantly start to drift to the side and try to eat grass. My Mongolian handler would put the horse in its place by yelling and physically hitting the horse, which as an animal lover I really hated to see. The Mongolian trainers were interesting characters themselves. My Mongolian handler, who rode beside me the whole time, actually had his wife meet him with cigarettes and a bottle of alcohol which she passed up to him as we started our ride. So my Mongolian handler smoked and swigged alcohol out of a bottle the whole time we were horseback riding.
One of the scariest parts of the whole experience was crossing a highway to get to the scenic area we would be horseback riding in. It was a busy highway and it was especially scary for newbies like me who didn’t feel totally in control of their horse. Crossing the highway was stressful even for some of the more experienced riders in our group, but we all managed to cross, attracting stares from drivers along the way.
Once we arrived at the scenic area, it was much more enjoyable. It was a beautiful area with forest and even a desert looking area. We even passed a military barracks area, where we could hear the soldiers training. The whole experience felt a bit surreal.
When we returned to the equestrian center, we got to reward our horses with carrots. Overall, the experience was one of the highlights of my time in China and one I will never forget.