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A good horse can help its rider gallop with confidence. Jojo Wong Yin-ting, a graduate of the BBA in Marketing programme, has been doing horse-related work continuously. From teaching horse-riding and participating in equestrian therapy originally, to focusing on building an equine business in recent years, she has been making her way gallantly in the industry.

Jojo had known about horses before spreading her wings. She first came into contact with horses when she was two years old, and received formal equestrian training at the age of 12. Later, she went to secondary school in Australia, where she by chance worked as a working pupil at a horse farm, taught children horse-riding part-time, and began her coaching career. ‘I love horse-riding and have enjoyed these jobs very much. Horses are like family members and I will continue to stay in this industry for the rest of my life,’ she said. Jojo smilingly admitted that her career had been inseparable from horses. Although she did not set out to plan it, there have been opportunities for her every step of the way.

Equestrian therapy for the disabled

Jojo started teaching at a riding school after returning to Hong Kong in 2008, focusing on classical dressage and steeplechase. Later, she joined the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) of Hong Kong as a therapeutic coach cum operations supervisor, where she mainly provided training for elite teams. This was later extended to therapeutic riding courses to help people with intellectual and physical disabilities improve their mobility, taking advantage of the subtle therapeutic effect of human-horse interaction. ‘For example, patients with cerebral palsy are unable to use their muscles normally, resulting in tension and atrophy. If they exercise with equipment, it will cause a lot of pain. Horse-riding allows patients to move in a natural posture and feel the horse’s body temperature, so that they can relax their muscles with less pain. Moreover, the horse’s pacing can stimulate the rider’s brain activity and trigger the nervous system to re-direct muscle activity, greatly improving walking ability,’ she explained.

As a Level 2 National Coach in Olympic Disciplines of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI), Jojo is one of the only two persons holding this qualification in Greater China. All three Hong Kong team members of the Tokyo Paralympic Games last year were her students. Among them, Natasha Tse suffered from cerebral palsy and could hardly move when she joined the squad. Since receiving equestrian therapy, she has been able to move dexterously and proceed forward in her glorious journey. ‘Watching her start from zero to joining a formal competition, then went on to take part in Asian and international tournaments, and entered the London and Rio Olympics step by step despite numerous challenges, it really amazed me,’ Jojo spoke vividly. ‘Last year, several members formed a group to participate in the Tokyo Paralympic Team Games for the first time, setting a new milestone.’

Leaping into the mainland equine industry circle

Having worked as a coach for years, Jojo expanded her career and went to Beijing to take up a post of the managing director of an equestrian development company in 2016. It turned out that her promotion of equestrian therapy for the RDA in videos broadcast – in mainland China and Hong Kong – from time to time had caught the attention of the company, which invited her to join earnestly. She pondered the issue over and over again, and accepted the job offer after two years of deliberation. The new position involved horse trading and other duties, which she had already touched upon when she was younger. The practical experience acquired in the equestrian field also came in handy: ‘Without a common language, it’s really difficult to manage subordinates with solid skills.’ Jojo said that as there was a big gap in the understanding of the equestrian profession between mainland and Hong Kong people of the industry, a lot of communication was required to iron out the differences. But compared with expatriates who were not familiar with the actual situation in the mainland, she could adapt better to the working environment there. She elucidated, ‘Expatriates often found it difficult to accommodate themselves to the new circumstances due to cultural difference. They seemed to have their heads in the clouds when they drew up plans to be implemented. Fortunately I’m not too far from mainlanders in terms of culture, and I can communicate in the same language.’

While there are many challenges working in the mainland, valuable experience can be gained at the same time. ‘With rich funding and a vast territory, many projects that are unimaginable in Hong Kong can be implemented there. The equine industry is an emerging industry in the mainland. New ideas and highly efficient systems can be introduced when building a horse farm. This is really eye-opening.’ As young people on the mainland have geographical advantages and foreign language skills, and among them many are returnees from overseas, Jojo believes the prospects for Hongkongers there are not as rosy as before. ‘But Hong Kong people still have an edge, as it’s easier for us to get the latest information from all over the world. We are also biliterate and trilingual, and more meticulous in doing things.’

Seizing every opportunity

During her four-year stint working in Beijing, Jojo completed the BBA in Marketing programme at the then OUHK, which was not an easy journey for her. ‘Back then, I had many business trips and took more than 50 flights each year! Instead of finding an excuse to give up, I could only soldier on.’ Not only had the programme helped with her management work, it had also brought friendship. ‘When I was still in Hong Kong during the first semester, I formed a study group with a few classmates. We’ve been supporting each other on the study path since then. Those days were really joyful. We’re still in touch from time to time.’

Two years ago, Jojo returned to Hong Kong to set up a consulting company, providing a business-to-business trading platform for the equestrian and equine industry in the mainland. Despite the ongoing pandemic, it has brought the company some business opportunities. She expatiated, ‘People from overseas can’t go to China to do business due to quarantine measures. In order to maintain contact with the mainland, they’ve commissioned my company to do promotion and marketing there. Many business associations have approached me.’ From serving as a coach, to working in the mainland and having her own company now, Jojo has grabbed every opportunity that came along her way. ‘Opportunity waits for no one. Once you’ve decided to do something, you should try your best to get it done. As long as you work hard, people will be impressed,’ she stressed. A good horse needs its benefactor to discover its potential. Yet it cannot reach a thousand-mile destination without taking the first step.