Horse Racing in Mongolia is one the three manly sports of Naadam Holidays. No doubt, horse race goes way beyond Genghis Khan but the earliest record is in Secret History of the Mongols. Mongolians say of themselves as nomads born in a saddle.
Also, we say that horse is the man’s best friend and Mongolians learn to ride as early as three years old, or it is said that before they even began walking. Mongolian horses are known by their small size, sturdiness and strength. They live in herds led by a stallion which leads and protects them from wolves. They are well adapted to the harsh weather conditions of Mongolia.
The horse trainers in Mongolian called “uyaach”. They start training their horses for the Naadam or Tsagaan Sar (Lunar New Year) couple of months before the race but they literally train them throughout the year.
These are not ordinary day-to-day labor horses, they are of special racing breed and are very expensive too. Training is a science and few do make mistakes that in rare occasions cause horses to die during the races.
Mongolian horse race tracks are wide open steppes and
hills, and range between 15 to 30 kilometers equivalent to 9,4 to 19
miles. Mongolian race horses are divided according to the horse age: one
(daaga), two (shudlen), three (khyazaalan), four (soyoolon) and over
five years (ikh nas), and stallions.
Guess the age of the jockeys? They are between 5 to 12 years old, both boys and girls. They are not merely riders but are strategic warriors because the success of the race is equally dependent upon horses and their little riders. They know when to hold the horse back and when to speed up and to my surprise most of them ride on bare backs. Ouch.
Horse racing in Mongolia awards only first five horses in
each age category. The ultimate winner is entitled as Tumnii Ekh which
means mother of ten thousand. The winners enter the stadium to receive
their awards and praise songs which talks about the owner, rider and
horse. Similar song of encouragement sang to the loosing two year old
horse as bayan khodood means full stomach – too much food does not help
Horse racing in Mongolia is a prestigious sport that carries along much fame but not much money. They do not make fortunes like wrestlers but are highly respected and honored, in life, they are ordinary nomads.