Horse fighting is a traditional festival in Ha Giang. The restoration of the horse fighting festival in Ha Giang has contributed to preserve the tradition of Tay ethnic people and create a unique festival attracting tourists to Ha Giang Plateau.
As a Southern district of Ha Giang province, lying along National Highway No.2 and 60km away from Ha Giang city, Bac Quang district covers a total area of 109,873.69 ha, and consists of 23 communes. Bac Quang is home to 19 ethnic groups, in which Tay ethnic people make up 50% of the district’s population; Kinh people 25%; and ither ethnic groups like Nung, Dao, Cao Lan, San Chi, Thai and Muong, the remaining 25%. Each ethnic group has distinctive customs, practices and cultural peculiarities, which makes Bac Quang district in particular and Ha Giang province in general stand out.
Apart from unique festivals, such as the festival to pray for good crops, the celebration of the new rice, the rite of maturity of Dao and Nung ethnic people, and traditional “then” singing of Tay ethnic people, Bac Quang is famous for the unique horse fighting festival of Tay ethnic people in Banh Hanh commune. The border province of Ha Giang, especially its mountainous districts, has many difficulties in traffic. Thus, the house has long been employed to serve life of people in Ha Giang.
In unfavorable transport conditions, the horse is the most popular means of transport. Girls and guys travel to the market by horses. Horses help the locals carry goods, maize and rice home. As for people in mountainous areas, the horse is the most familiar animal. As thought by Vietnamese people, the horse is a very strong, highly durable animal that can run very fast. Thus, there are many horse races across the country such as the horse race in Bac Ha, Lao Cai, and the Thi Thung mound horse race in Phu Yen. But the first horse fighting festival was held in Bang Hanh commune, Bac Quang district, on August 17 – 18, 2013.
The festival, the first of its kind, was warmly welcomed and supported by the local authorities and local people. From early morning, people in Bang Hanh commune and from neighboring areas flock to Thuy Lam Vien ecotourism site to attend the first unique horse fighting festival. 30 horses competing at this year’s festival are divided into 15 pairs. Owners of the horses come from communes in Trong Con zone and other districts in the province, as well as the neighboring districts of Lam Binh, Na Hang and Ham Yen of Tuyen Quang, Bac Ha district of Lao Cai and Luc Yen district of Yen Bai. These carefully selected horses are very strong and have good tricks.
Earlier horse fighting was part of folk festivals of Tay ethnic people in Bang Hanh. It fell into oblivion. Organizing this year’s festival is a good way to preserve and promote striking features of the local ethnic culture, enrich the locals’ cultural and spiritual life, and especially preserve and develop precious genes of domestic animals in Bac Quang. This is also a good way to encourage the locals to develop husbandry.
Pairs of horses fight against each other. The wining horses are selected for the final round. Two horses bite, kick and bump into each other until one of them gets out of the fixed circle. Before the matches start, the horses are numbered and cared. The female horse makes matches more thrilling. It becomes the reason for the fight. The two male horses try hard to show off their power and conquer the female one. This is a good way to provoke the fighting horses.
On normal days these horses are good friends of farmers. In the fighting site, they are brave competitors that pose stunning tricks to capture attention and arouse eagerness among viewers. It can be said that this unique event of Bang Hanh commune can be found nowhere else. A section of forests resound with the applause and cheers of the crowd when fighting horses start a match. This makes the match more thrilling. On normal days, they are good-natured pack horses. But in matches, they give double kicks and bite their rivals to defeat them. After 4 rounds within 2 days, the organizing board selects the best two horses for the final match.
In the end, the first prize goes to the horse No. 2 owned by Vu Van Phu from Ham Yen district, Tuyen Quang. The horse fighting festival in Bang Hanh commune is organized to promote Ha Giang tourism. More importantly, it is aimed at preserving the local ethnic culture, and developing the local herd of horses for economic purpose. This is also a striking cultural feature that should be preserved and promoted.
After the festival closes, the horses come back to daily life, helping their owners in production. It can be said that the horse has become an indispensable part in the people’s life in the mountainous areas. That explains why horses are always cared and loved by everyone. With the aim of promoting fine features of the annual horse fighting festival in Bang Hanh commune, following the success of the first festival, people care for the horses in a special way, with greater attention to their food, practices and bath.
After the success of the first horse fighting festival in Bang Hanh commune, the horse seems to play a more important role in local life. It is hoped that the next horse fighting festivals organized on the 15th day of the 1st and 7th lunar months every year, will bring wonderful moments to the locals and tourists, making a contribution to preserving and promoting unique features of Vietnamese folk festivals.