Mongolia without horses? Unimaginable!

Ellen, from the Equitours office was lucky enough to visit Mongolia this year (2005). This remote country still has a heavy reliance on the horse, making the partnership between rider and horse a unique experience. Here is Ellen’s account of this amazing relationship.

The one means of transportation in Mongolia that makes any sense at all is the horse. Around the world various cultures claim an equestrian tradition – but none can compare to the Mongolians. For these people of the vast interior grasslands of Asia known as the steppe, riding is as elemental as breathing; it is inconceivable that life can exist without horses. The horsemen who led my group on the Spirit of the Reindeer Herders Trek rode like they were part of their horse, an act as effortless as walking or smiling. With a horse, and their robe-like dell, they were a self-contained, self-sufficient unit.

Mongolian horses are short, not more than 14hh, with rather large, unrefined heads. They have not been sought for breeding, and through the centuries have remained pretty much undisturbed on the steppe, as the secret weapon of the Mongolians. These unassuming little horses are tough as wire, surefooted, have incredible stamina and are superbly adapted to the harsh Mongolian winters. They may never see the inside of a fenced enclosure, and will spend their lives unshod. Mounted on these remarkable horses, Ghengis Khan and his army of skilled archers — the Golden Hordes — were able to conquer much of Asia and eastern Europe, establishing the largest empire the world has ever seen. I was lucky to be in Mongolia this summer (2006) when the country was celebrating its 800th anniversary. One of the special events was a reenactment of Ghengis Khan’s cavalry demonstrating battle strategies: 500 mounted warriors thundering over the rise, dressed in leather armor and shouting the call to war. It is a heart-stopping sight. ”

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