2019 FEI Asian Championship Team Jumping Gold Medal (Pattaya, Thailand)
2019 FEI Asian Championship Individual Jumping Silver Medal (Pattaya, Thailand)
2018 Longines FEI World Cup China League – 3rd Leg Overall Champion (Beijing, China)
2017 Longines FEI World Cup China League – 2nd Leg Overall Champion (Beijing, China)
2010 Asian Games – Team Jumping Bronze Medal (Guangzhou, China)
2009 National Games – Team Jumping Bronze Medal (Guangzhou, China)
"I’m trying to give my riders in China a taste of the European training methods I was exposed to" Kenneth Cheng, HKJC Equestrian Team Rider
Kenneth Cheng is proof that when you combine hard work with talent, anything is possible. The son of equestrians, the love of horses was instilled into him from the very start. Even in his early days, when riding was just a hobby, Kenneth always put his horses first, often rising at the crack of dawn beat the heat, to ensure that his horses were ridden and looked after. “I remember hot summer days when we had to get up quite early to stay out of the heat to ride the horses,” he says. “We had a lot of shows at the weekend so growing up, it was pretty much all about horses.”
As a high school student, he spent many summer and winter holidays training in Europe. This early education put him in the perfect position to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where he represented Hong Kong on home turf. At just 18 years old, he took on many seasoned professional riders in the pinnacle of international showjumping competition – something that many riders only achieve much later in their careers. The expectations of a home crowd would be enough to unnerve any rider, but Kenneth kept his cool and used it as a learning experience. “I’m usually quite a cool, relaxed rider,” he says, “but for sure my first Olympics in Hong Kong, with a home crowd, it was all a lot to take in. Because I was so young, I just tried to take it as an experience rather than to achieve something.”
Since, Kenneth has been a mainstay on the Hong Kong team. He was part of the 2006 Asian Games team that finished 12th, the bronze medal winning Asian Games team in 2010, and had a sixth place finish with the team at the 2014 Asian Games. As an individual, he’s had plenty of success at the Grand Prix level and in World Cup classes in China and in Europe. He splits his time between the two regions to live the best of both worlds. He’s got a strong string of up-and-coming horses, including Chaccopia, a talented 10-year-old mare that won the World Cup class in Beijing in 2017, Bon Ami, a 10-year-old gelding, and Enjoy, a 12-year-old mare.
Kenneth’s talent is reflected by his results in competition, but he says behind every championship and every good result, there’s years of hard work. While he may have an innate talent, Kenneth has worked hard to develop his skill in all areas of showjumping – from riding to horse care. “Talent might come naturally,” he says, “but you still have to work on the basics. It may come a little bit easier if you’re talented – you might pick things up quicker – but ultimately, when you want to succeed or do well in the sport, you have to ride consistently. You need show experience, but not just in the ring – you need to know about equine management too.”
He’s been lucky to count some top riders among his mentors. Henk Nooren, Ludger Beerbaum, and Jos Lansink have all played a hand in instilling the skills required to be successful at the top levels. From each of these great riders, he learned different aspects of horsemanship: from training young horses, to running a successful business. Now as a rider based part-time in China, he mentors the next generation of aspiring Grand Prix show jumpers, passing on his wisdom.
As a rider with so much international experience, Kenneth is grateful to have the opportunity to pass on his knowledge to up-and-coming riders in China. He takes a different approach to training than many other Chinese trainers, focusing on the basics: flatwork and the rider’s position. “I’m trying to give my riders in China a taste of the European training methods I was exposed to,” he explains. “With my students, I am very strong on the basics of riding. The position of the rider is very important to me. It’s not something that many other trainers focus on because they don’t want to change a rider too much, but the way I see it is that I help my riders gain a strong foundation so they will go far in the sport.”
His most fulfilling moment as a coach is seeing his rider succeed at competitions. “It’s very rewarding to have talented students training with me,” he says. “It’s definitely motivation for me to do well myself!”
His next goals are the China National Games in 2017, the Asian Games in 2018, the World Equestrian Games in 2018 – and of course, he has an eye on qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. This time around he’d be older and more developed in his career as a rider, so the Olympics would be all about trying to succeed and achieve a top placing.
The opportunity to compete at international championships isn’t something Kenneth takes for granted. He’s thankful for the Hong Kong Jockey Club and their support in not only giving him the opportunity to go to the Olympics in Beijing but enabling him to develop as a rider through training with the best riders in the world and competing at the best shows. “Without them,” he says, “I don’t think I’d be where I am today.”