the Kyrgyz, a horse is a prized possession, and horsemanship a
much-prized skill. Perhaps, therefore, it is not surprising that among
the most popular national pastimes, or sports are contests on
horseback. Kyrgyz horses possess such qualities as lightness and good
co-ordination (essential in the mountains). They are exceptionally
hearty, will eat almost anything, and are not susceptible to sudden
changes of weather. They can endure long-distance marches with a rider.
For these reasons Kyrgyz ponies were prized possessions even further
afield in Russia and Europe in the past.
Races "Aht Chabysh"
Long-distance races are an
ancient and widespread sport. Fast and hearty horses capable of
enduring long-distance are chosen forthe race. Experienced trainers
prepare yearlings for a race called tai chabysh and one-and-a-half year
old foals run in the kunan chabysh race. When the animals are three
years old they are entered into the competitions proper.
Previously Aht-chabysh races
were held on different occasions, usually in connection with some
holiday or commemorative festival. The winner (or its owner) was given
some jewelry and cattle as a reward. Horses of various breeds and ages
took part in the races. Each trainer had his own methods of preparing
the racer for the competition. The distance raced was 53 versts, later
on 100 km. Moreover the riders were quite often boys of ten to thirteen
years of age, sometimes riding without a saddle. According to current
rules, however, only horses three years old and older of any breed are
admitted to the races. And no-one under thirteen is allowed to
particpate. The distance raced ranges from four to fifty kilometers.
These races are run over
shorter distances where speed and not stamina is the crucial element.
Experts consider dzorgo to be a great merit of a horse. These horses
demonstrate not only speed but also gracefulness. The Kyrgyz people
have many proverbs and sayings related to the pacer, such as: "Don't
let your horse run beside a pacer."
tartysh" or "Kok-bory"
Wrestling on horseback for a
goat's carcass, 'ulak tartysh' or'kok-bory' means 'grey wolf.
Apparently, the game
originally developed in antiquity when herds of cattle grazed in the
steppes and mountains all year round, exposed to possible attacks by
Later on when the people led a
more settled life kok-bory was replaced by an organized sport
There are two teams,
consisting of an equal number of riders (in formal competitions it is
four). The playing ground is 300m by 150m. The opposite sides of this
area, marked with flags, present symbolically the 'gates' or 'goals'.
In the center of the playing ground a carcass of a goat, weighing on an
average of 30-40 kilograms, is placed. Typically, a game lasts fifteen
minutes although competition games are divided into three parts of
twenty minutes each . The objective of the game is to seize the goat's
carcass and deliver it into the gates of the contesting team.
The players are allowed to
pick up the carcass from any place within the limits of the field, take
it from their rivals, pass or fling it over to their partners, carry it
pressed to the horse's side or suspended between the horse's legs.
During the course of the game
some unlikely, unforeseen and ad hoc alliances may be formed among the
participants. These alliances are usually short-lived, dissolving in
the rapid fluidity of the competition as quickly as they are
established. So brothers may be seen vying for the honor of becoming
the new champion, whilst old rivals may join forces and help each
other. All this fosters fast-thinking teamwork that is absolutely vital
under actual combat conditions, (which the game very realistically
The rules forbid rearing the
horse, making your horse collide with a rival's at a high speed,
seizing the rivals horse by the bridle, taking the reins off it,
including blows with a whip, or shouting or entering into conversation
with one's opponent.
on Horseback "Oodarysh"
Wrestling on horseback is also
a popular sport. Two riders each try to pull their opponent off his
horse. They are allowed to throw the rival, together with his horse, to
After the Bride "Kyz -Kuumai"
In the old days this game was
a part of the wedding ritual. According to the rules the bride was
given the best racer and she was entitled to a head start on her horse
that began the race. The bridegroom set out in pursuit to catch up with
her, in this way proving his love and right to marry her. Being at a
disadvantage with the slower horse the bridegroom sometimes failed to
catch up with his fiancee. Yet, although she might beat him with her
kamchi (or horsewhip) she did not reject him and the wedding
would be held all the same.
At present this traditional
folk game is usually held during holidays for example in the green
meadows of high mountain pastures, (jailoo)oron racecourses.
and young women's races "Kyz dzharysh"
A Kyrgyz woman learns to ride
a horse in her childhood in the highlands, where there are severe
winters and deep snows, where flocks of sheep are driven up and down
steep slopes of mountains or across turbulent foaming rivers, and where
one cannot do without a horse.
It is possible to make out the
difference between the girl and women riders by their headdresses.
Girls put on hats with a wide marten trimming while young women wear
at the target while galloping "JumbyAtmai"
Jumby in Kyrgyz means an ingot
of silver or other jewelry on a thread tied to an inclined pole. The
contestant has to break the thread with a shot and bring the jumby
down. Originally the contestant used a bow and arrow that was replaced
by firearms overthe course of time. Besides these games there are
several others, such as picking up coins from the ground while
galloping (tyin enmei), falconry on horseback (with falcons or eagles)
for foxes, wolves and pheasants, and wrestling.
A gathering of farmers and
herdsmen for games.The location and timing tends to vary from year to
year depending upon harvest and other work requirements.
Sometimes called a "Kyrgyz