Kyrgyzstan: Horse games

From the ancient time horses played a big role for people in Kyrgyzstan. In 3rd century people were even buried with their horses. Children were given the name of horses, because it was believed that evil spirits were afraid of horses. Horses were real friends for nomads. It's not a secret that horses are very clever and in past time, if a person lost his way he could let horse go and the horse would find the right way home.Even today horses take an important part in different Kyrgyz rituals and festivals. There are many horse games in Kyrgyzstan. The most widespread games are: 
One of the most famous games is Ulak Tartish. The origin of this game developed in antiquity when herds of cattle grazed in the steppes and mountains all year round, exposed to possible attacks by wolves or other big-sized predators.

Nomads did not have firearms and that is why shepherds could not deal with wolves. In this way they were beating a wolf with sticks until somebody managed to catch it and to through up. The wolf would break his bones and would not be able to move anymore.

People wanted to be ready for such cases and they began to have wrestling on horseback for a goat's carcass. The weigh of a goat on an average is 30 - 40 kilograms. The game is played on a field that is 300 meters long and 150 meters wide. The goal of the game is to seize the goat's carcass and deliver it into the gates of the contesting team.

Another game is Long-Distant Race - Aht Chabysh. Usually this game took place in connection with some holiday or festival. The distance was 100 kilometres. Very often the riders were young boys of 10-13 years age, sometimes riding without a saddle. 

Oodarysh - Wrestling on Horseback. Wrestling on horseback is also a popular activity. There are two riders who try to pull each other off their horses. It is allowed to throw the rival together with his horse to the ground.

Chase the bride  -  Kyz -Kumai. In older times, this game was a part of the wedding. The bride had the best horse and she had to ride away from her groom. The husband-to-be had to chase her and prove his love by giving all in order to catch her. The game stopped when he caught and kissed her. As mentioned above, the groom got the worse horse, why he would sometimes fail to catch his fiancée. In this case, he would ride away and his fiancée would follow him to beat with her Kamchi (or horse-whip). But the wedding would be held anyway.

Besides the above-mentioned, there are also games where a rider shows his skills by picking up a coin from the ground or shooting at a target while galloping, as well as many others interesting tasks.


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