Horses in Kyrgyzstan
Horses are essential for the nomadic lifestyle, life in the mountains and steppes would be impossible without these animals. Horses were used for everything from transportation to war, payment to the company. Mare’s milk is part of Kyrgyz cuisine, and meat and leather are also important products for Kyrgyz. Tourists can easily find souvenirs related to horses at bazaars, such as whips or ancient saddles.
Kyrgyz horses tend to be small and sturdy in order to cope well in difficult terrain and withstand extreme weather conditions. Central Asia has been known for its horses throughout its history, often traders came from Russia and China specifically to buy horses. The Prjevalski horse, one of the last wild horses in the world, has been reintroduced in Mongolia and western China, although this horse is not at all domestic.
Horses have always been vital to war, and they are even credited as the main reason why Genghis Khan won his battles. Some warriors were buried with their horses because separation even in the next life was unthinkable. Horses played a major role also during wedding ceremonies where horses were part of the price of the bride. Horse riding was also valued at Kyrgyz.
Children sometimes learned to ride before they could even walk, and a lot of time was spent training the horse and rider. There are even Kyrgyz proverbs on the horse, like “a horse is the wing of a man” and “take good care of your horse if not become a pedestrian”. Travelers may be surprised to see sometimes violent equestrian games or to learn that Kyrgyz people eat horse meat. Although the attitude may seem contradictory towards these animals, it is important to know that horses are deeply respected in Kyrgyzstan, and taking care of them is very important for the Kyrgyz people.