Why you should do horse trek in Mongolia?
When people hear Mongolia, probably the first thing that comes to their mind is Chinggis (Yes, it’s spelled like that, and if you can Tchaikovsky you can say this one too) Khaan and some nomadic people riding their horses along a meadow. Even though Mongolia, especially their capital city has developed a lot that it looks a lot like most of the developed or developing country’s cities, we do have carried our nomadic culture till this day. You can literally grab a burger from your favorite fast food chain on your way to the hundreds of kilometers of unoccupied land. And don’t even get the idea of being bored creep into your mind, there are plenty of ways to spend your time in that vast land- one of the most common, yet not a bit less unchallenging and entertaining than any other extreme sports- horseback riding.
Mongolia is famous for their horses. Even though our horses are biologically smaller than their other breeds- reaching about 120 to 140cm in height, it’s one of the strongest ones in their species. Mongolian horses have almost not changed genetically from the era of Chinggis khan, and live in a wild animal manner. Since they spend all of their life in the harsh weather of Mongolia, dealing with 300 in the summer and up to -40 in the winter, they have grown to have great stamina and strength. Even though they are left to their own most of the time, all of them are trained from really young age. So, if you decide to try horseback riding, make sure to ask for a gentle one and tell the owner that you have little experience in this sport. Horseback riding in Mongolia is really different from hippodrome.
One of the reasons you should try horseback riding in Mongolia is the instructors. Even though it’s doubtful that you would ever find one academically approved horseback riding trainer during your visit in Mongolia’s countryside, it won’t be wrong to say that any common man, even a child as young as 10 would have enough experience to guide your riding experience. Most of the Mongolians in the countryside start their horseback riding experience from the age of 3 or 4, riding along with their parents, and by the age of 6 most of them could ride a horse alone. Also, since there used to be little chance to go to the vet and specialized groomer in the ancient eras, people have learnt to take care of their horses and play any role they need in order to keep their horse on the best shape. So even if you have no or little experience on this area, just ask a random man on your way- there would be no one that is not willing to help you out of any situation you’re on.
Personally, one of the biggest reasons why Mongolia would be the perfect destination for horseback riding is the price. As I’ve mentioned before, the lifestyle of Mongolian horses is just one step away from being wild. They find their own food by grazing on the greens, breed by themselves and since they get used to the land from a really young age, there’s no need for heelpieces. They would be left on their own until the family needs one, and then would be found and caught. This lifestyle has spared Mongolians from huge amount of money needed to take care of the horses like in some Western areas. Horses for Mongolians are life necessity, not a luxury. This lifestyle and perception of horse allows the cost of the experience to be as low as possible.
So, since you get the chance to feel like ancient Mongol warrior in the back of the horse which literally hasn’t changed since the 1200’s, there is no doubt that you might refuse it. However, there are few things that you need to be aware of before the experience. Here are some tips that would help your experience to be the best you can have.
- Remember to tell the horse owner about your horseback riding experience. Since most of the people who are willing to let the tourists ride their horse are not legitimate companies with legal permission, it’s doubtful if you would receive any money if you ever get hurt during the ride. So, if you tell them that you have no experience, they would make sure to find the calmest and best trained horse. On the other side, most of the Mongolians already assume that tourists have no experience at all, so if you have any knowledge about horse treks, tell the owner about it and ask for bit more of a challenge to avoid boring and short ride. Mongolians love their horses, and gets excited when they see a foreigner who can ride a horse that the ride you receive would be much more eventful and fun. However, always keep in mind that riding a barely tamed horse in the vast steppe is totally different from riding a trained one in the turnabout.
- While your ride, you have to remember that horse is a beloved animal of the Mongolians. Out of all kinds of livestock they herd, horse is placed in the first place with no doubt. This respect and love have come down from ancient times when Mongolians used to ride horses in the war. There are thousands of stories how the loyal horse has saved its owner’s life. We have a saying that a loyal horse is better than a fake friend. In short, horse holds special place in Mongolians’ heart and is so much more than just a transport resource. So be sure to respect the tradition and Mongolian culture by respecting the horse, not hitting or treating it like something mundane.
- The last, more practical tip is that the February or March is not a good time for horse trekking experience. As I’ve mentioned before, horses are usually left to find their own food, so most of them lose almost 30 percent of their body fat during the winter and become too weak to ride. They gain their weight and strength back as soon as the spring comes and the greens start to grow back- so the best time to go horse trekking is during the summer.
With these tips and image of yourself in a cool, ancient Mongolian warrior in mind- I hope your horse trekking experience would be one of the unforgettable times of your life!
Written by Sainbilig