Monday, 11 October 2010

riding out across the Steppe

This weekend was all about horses in Mongolia. Together with a group of friends we drove into the mountains an hour south of Ulaanbaatar. Approaching a huddled camp of gers sheltering beneath the snow line our Land Rover's just about made it. We were met by a family of Mongolian nomads that have been working with horses for generations. Keen as we were to get going we were ushered into the family ger and given local tea to warm us up as we sat by the fire. I could quite happily have curled up and read a book but we had more physically challenging endeavours ahead.
Normally when I go riding I ask for a horse that is as close to a sofa as possible: large, comfortable and unlikely to move at any real speed. This time I felt braver and let the fates hand me dealer's choice. What a lovely livewire I received. Boy did he test my galloping skills.
Horses don't have names in Mongolia. There are too many of them (27 per capita) and also they think it's a bit silly. I guess one might be less inclines to eat something one had named and cared for. Talking of which I heard a great piece of Chinggis gossip. To sustain themselves while they crossed Asia into Europe the Mongol warriors survived on the blood of their horses. They would make a nick in the horses neck and suck vitality from it. I love Mongols even more now that they are also vampires...
Heading across the mountains at some 2,500 metres above sea level it really felt as though we were on the roof of the world. The mountains swept down away from us to the Steppe. The Steppe is some 60 miles wide to the mountains that rise into distant clouds. Mongolian horses are uncannily sure-footed. They are also not going to be told what to do by any mere mortal. Fortunately what the horses do want to do is usually in tandem with our wishes, hence Chinggis so easily conquered the known world. They are far shorter though infinitely more handsome and harder than their European cousins.
After two hours we were all a little frozen, it was -7C. We headed back to the gers where our hostess had prepared a lovely broth of mutton and noodles. A grand day out...
Mongolian of the day:- horse :: aduu