Efforts made to preserve Bac Ha horse racing festival

A horse racing festival in Bac Ha district in the northern mountainous province of Lao Cai was recognised as a national intangible heritage on May 31.

Located in the northeast reaches of the northern mountainous Lao Cai province, Bac Ha district is endowed with beautiful landscapes and is rich in the cultural identity of ethnic minority groups. A typical cultural feature of the district is the horse racing festival held in early June every year.

The Bac Ha racetrack is packed with spectators during the festival. The blazing summer sun failed to discourage the jockeys and their mounts. According to local people, a good horse for racing must be male with a tall, long body, straight hooves, smooth hair, sharp eyes, broad chest, slim belly, and long and steady stride.

After qualifying, the jockeys and horses enter the final round. The atmosphere at the racetrack explodes with the impressive performance of local ethnic minority jockeys.

Neither a commercial nor professional race, the festival at Bac Ha features farmers and pack horses. Riders have no saddle or stirrups, just a horse belt, with two iron hooks tied to ropes on either side of the horse’s mouth for control.

The people of Bac Ha first organised the horse racing festival in ancient times. After disappearing for a long period of time, since 2007 it has been held annually, meeting the needs of people’s cultural and spiritual lives and contributing to the preservation and promotion of the cultural and sporting traditions of ethnic minority groups in Bac Ha./.