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Bac Ha Horse Racing Festival

posted Nov 27, 2014, 9:58 PM by Michael Nguyen   [ updated May 3, 2018, 8:34 PM by Mai Hoa NGUYEN ]
Famous not only for its beautiful landscapes with immense forests adorned with white plum and bauhinia flowers in blossom, the colorful markets of ethnic minorities, Bac Ha district is also famous for its Horse-race Festival, which represents a unique feature in the cultural and spiritual life of the local people.

In the past, the horse race is held more frequently. It 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 power. Over the years, the frequency of the sport slowly diminished and now happens only once a year.

In the race, the 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. Covered the horseback is a rectangle flax cloth and a woven robe with two crampons attached to the bridle near the horse’s mouth. Instead of using, the skilled horsemen control their horses by their hand. This traditional form of riding performed by the locals makes the race more interesting with spectacular performances.

One very interesting and strange thing in the horse race festival in Bac Ha is that unlike other horse-races all over the world, the jockeys are farmers from mountainous villages of Lao Cai and Ha Giang provinces and the racehorses are pack-horses. The race is very special because the jockeys don’t use saddles, the horses are very small but they run very fast and whinny.

Horse-racing is an activity to preserve and promote the traditional culture of ethnic groups in the northern mountainous region and increase