CAVALRY’S LAST STAND
Bring in the cavalry: Inner Mongolia's last military horsebreeding farm is still in operation. There, the snows provide ethereal sights that draw photographers from all over the nation to capure the harsh beauty of a land of frigid temperatures and rolling plains.
The Hongshan Army Horse Ranch in Chifeng, Inner Mongolia, is the only army horsebreeding farm in the nation that’s still in active service. A nine-hour drive north of Beijing, it has supplied the army with tens of thousands stout Mongolian breeds for over five decades. Forged by a frigid environment that can reach 40 degrees below zero, these horses are known for their endurance and stamina, once making up the core of the PLA. The 1985 military reform rendered the cavalry obsolete with only two battalions left in Inner Mongolia and few companies in Xinjiang and Gansu, mainly mobilized for disaster relief.
Horses roam the frigid plains of Inner Mongolia
Located on the Ulan Butong Grassland in Heshigten Global Geopark, the Hongshan Ranch is open to tourists. The grassland was once an imperial hunting ground for Manchu rulers; today it attracts tourists and photographers from across the country with its natural beauty and diverse terrain. On the steppes, the snowy season typically lasts from late November to February. The freezing white winter discourages most tourists, but for photographers, it’s just what they ordered: a silver world of wonder.
In the nearby village, daily activities used to be limited to herding horses and other livestock, but the village has become a haven for photographers too.
They return each night to country homestays after a long day of shooting, only to get up before dawn to catch the first light of daybreak on the snowcovered steppe.
They wait on high ground, setting up tripods in the chill and watching for the glow on the horizon. The dark sky soon changes to a palette of purple, blue, red, and yellow, until the sun finally hoves into view. On their way back to the village for a hearty breakfast, the herdsmen begin to drive out their horses and sheep. With silvery birch trees, frozen lakes, and an endless blue sky, there is always more to be captured in this wintry land.
A SHEPHERD DRIVES HIS FLOCK ACROSS THE PLAINS, SEARCHING FOR SPACES WITH SHALLOW SNOW AND DRY GRASS
THE MORNING SUN SHINES THROUGH THE BARE BRANCHES ON THE PLAINS
HORSES GALLOP UNDER THE WHIP OF THE HERDSMAN
VAPOR RISES FROM A FROZEN WETLAND AT NOON
MONGOLIAN HORSES ARE NOT KNOWN FOR THEIR SIZE, BUT THEIR STRONG BUILD AND ENDURANCE MAKE THEM PERFECT FOR THE MILITARY THE SNOW- COVERED SLOPES OF THE ULAN BUTONG GRASSLAND REFLECT THE SUNLIGHT
NIGHT FALLS ON A PEACEFUL VILLAGE AS SMOKE RISES FROM CHIMNEYS
ON THE LONELY GRASSLAND, TWO PHOTOGRAPHERS WAIT PATIENTLY FOR THE PERFECT MIX OF COLOR FOR THEIR SHOT