Lake Macquarie horse riding coach Margrete Erling has returned from a 12-day tour of China unsure about the local translators, but nevertheless keen to return.
Ms Erling, who runs Yara Balba Stables, at Mandalong, recently accompanied six young pony club riders from across Australia on the teaching tour.
It was part of the now-regular Pony Club Australia tours to China, where the fledgling China Pony Club is keen to learn the Australian ways.
"Being part of the visit was a great privilege and I was both humbled and inspired by the experience," Ms Erling said.
The tour included lots of workshops, instruction, and some competition.
Everywhere they went, the Australians had translators.
"It's all about communication," Ms Erling said of training horses and riders.
There were times, though, when the length of a phrase given by the Australians, in English, didn't match up with the length of the translation given in Mandarin.
"You were never quite sure what was being said, but we learned to work with the circumstances we had."
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Humour, too, took a while to cross the language barrier.
At one function, the Chinese hosts were keen to hear some Australian colloquialisms. Terms such as 'She'll be right, mate' were offered up and explained by the Australian children.
When it was Ms Erling's turn, she presented the room of suited Chinese businessmen with the Aussie favourite: 'It was a dog's breakfast'.
The translator repeated the phrase in Mandarin but the men sat silently with quizzical expressions.
When asked what the phrase meant, Ms Erling shrugged and said: "It means something was a mess".
When the translator relayed that definition, there was a very different reaction.
"The room just exploded into laughter," Ms Erling said.
Pony club in China looks very different to the Australian version, she said.
Sometimes, the Chinese pony clubs are located on the rooftops of suburban shopping centres.
"The rooftop pony club on the fifth floor of the Wayue shopping complex has stables, an air-conditioned indoor arena and swish pony club rooms," Mr Erling said.
"Although the concept may seem strange to Aussies, for a nation of riders who don't own their own horses, it all makes sense."
Ms Erling said the Chinese were generous and gracious hosts, and the food was remarkable.
"Wherever we went, we found that China Pony Club sure knew how to throw a good party."
Ms Erling will this week return to China for a month, to assist with rider assessments and coach training.
She's encouraging young riders aged 12 to 15 from Lake Macquarie to get involved in a Pony Club Australia visit to China.
Applicants don't have to be exceptional riders, but they do need to be good ambassadors for Pony Club Australia, and keen to embrace the social and cultural elements of the tour, she said.
Riders of smaller stature are especially encouraged to get involved, as the Chinese horses are smaller than the breeds typically ridden in Australia.
- Visit ponyclubaustralia.com.au.