The Mongolian horse is small, but should never be called a ‘pony’ or you risk insulting the local people. They are incredibly tough and full of character, and need little care. Shoeing is rare, and grooming is limited to a quick once-over with a ‘sweat scraper’ after a hard ride. In the countryside they are used on a daily basis to herd livestock, and for traveling. Mares are milked to provide airag, a favourite drink for Mongolian’s, but definitely an acquired taste.
|The Mongolian horse under saddle.|
Horses graze freely in herds all year, only being brought in and tethered when they are required for riding. Herds belonging to different families will mix out on the steppe, but everyone knows their own horses when it comes to separating them. During winter the horses are able to dig through snow, allowing them to survive even as the temperature falls to -40C. Wolves have a particular liking for horses, making them a danger to young foals. Natural selection in this harsh environment ensures the breed remains strong and perfectly adapted to life on the steppe.
|Living on the Steppe in temperatures as low as -40 degree centigrate, the hardiness of the Mongolian is unquestionable.|
Mongolians love horse racing and the greatest races are held during the annual Naadam festival. Winning horses and their owners are highly honoured. The horses are ridden over an exhausting course by children as young as five. When riding in the countryside it is not unusual to find yourself in an impromptu race with a young Mongolian wishing to show off the speed of his horse. After a few days riding Mongolian horses most people have learnt to admire their strength and character. It often seems that given their head, they would gallop across the steppe forever. A great way to experience Mongolia!