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August 13, 2009

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One-armed cowboy: 'I never consider myself disabled'

WANG Jialiang is an avid horseman, a dog trainer and a highly successful businessman, and he does it all with just one arm, Zhao Dan reports.

Wang Jialiang still thinks of himself as a cowboy, a one-armed cowboy. "When I was a kid it was my dream to be a cowboy, to go hunting on horseback with a shotgun and a dog," says Wang, now 60.

Though he didn't have a horse in his youth, he did have a gun. His love of guns cost him an arm in 1976 in a hunting accident when his gun misfired. He was 27 at the time.

When he was 52 he learned to ride a horse, and he was even in qualification trials for the 2008 Paralympic Games.

Today he runs a full kennel in Pudong, breeding, boarding, training (from doggy manners to drug-sniffing and attack) and selling dogs. Some are sold for police and security work overseas.

His trained dogs also appear in movies and TV series in China.

His Jialiang K-9 Kennel Shanghai Inc also sells dog food, pet supplies, grooming services and provides help for people importing or exporting their pets.

He also offers horseback riding lessons.

He started his company in 1980 with a couple of thousand yuan borrowed from his parents and took advantage of China's reform and opening-up policy. He believes it was China's first private kennel and now it's one of China's top kennels.

"I have never considered myself disabled," Wang says in an e-mail interview with Shanghai Daily. "One of my biggest regrets about losing my arm is not being able to play guitar anymore."

Wang says he has turned down tax benefits for entrepreneurs with disabilities - he says he doesn't need or want special breaks.

He has won medals in international equestrian competitions for riders with disabilities.

"It's true we don't compete with 'ordinary' people because some movements require extremely high skill, but other than that I don't think there is anything different between me and other people," Wang says.

Symbol of power

Wang was chosen to take part in the qualification event for the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province. He won a silver medal in the trials with his horse Doraemon, but didn't manage to make the three-rider national team - it came in fourth in the Paralympics.

"I was lucky to be invited," says Wang who only trained for two days and still got an impressive score of 58, just two notches below qualifying level. Everyone was surprised.

"It exceeded my expectations," Wang says. "I'm happy to see Chinese athletes did well and I want to contribute to the development of the sport for disabled people, by providing horses and fields for training.

"I hope Chinese disabled people can win gold medals in the Paralympics in the near future."

Wang says horseback riding maintains health and builds confidence. Horses are not only symbols of power but they also are gentle and have feelings, he says.

His favorite steed is white Prince, imported from the United States.

"He understands what you mean," says Wang. Once he was riding Prince and a dog was trotting alongside. A member of the riding party asked if dogs bite horses and Wang answered that a horse will kick back. Both horse and dog seemed to understand and just then the dog gave a gentle nip and the horse gave a gentle kick, as if they had been listening in and were putting on a show.

"He knows your feelings," Wang says of Prince.

Yu Jin, Wang's wife, is a veterinarian.

"We talk about horses and riding and this strengthens the love between us," says Wang.

Wang is teaching their three-year-old daughter to ride, placing her in front of him on Prince.

"Our kids learned to ride a horse when they were only three years old," he says, noting his 11-year-old son is already a good horseman.

Riding is part of family education. "It helps their balance, coordination and reflexes," says Wang, "and builds confidence and courage."


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