Sunday, September 23, 2012

Horseback Riding in Mongolia

The best part of the whole trip to Mongolia was definately the horses. They are slightly smaller than the breeds I am familiar with in the U.S. but also have a wild edge to them. Dundok's horses were very well cared for and you could tell there was a very special relationship between him and the horses. They responded to his commands instantly but they always wanted to run and if given the opportunity, they will open up and really stretch their legs.

There was a group of people that rented horses for a few hours at the Steppe Camp. Over lunch they told me of their adventure and one lady warned, "Don't take your jacket off while on the horse. They scare easily." She learned that the hard way. She had no more than unzipped her jacket and the horse spooked and started to take off on her. It was quite a ways before she reined the horse in but I remembered that warning when I got on Dundok's horse.

There is so much wide open space in the steppes that its more natural to want to run the horse. No fears of twists and turns, just vast prairie like areas in-between huge hills. I had spent a full day with Dundok on his horse so he knew I was comfortable with riding at any pace by the end of the first day. He didn't feel the need to check up me (before that it was quite common to hear, "you okay, Shannon?" Anything more than "okay" he didn't really understand so it was good that it really was okay. Towards dusk we headed out to visit the shepard's ger and on the way back home, Dundok wanted to race. He came up behind my horse and swatted it on the butt and yelled "Choo!!!" which the horse knows is "GO!!" And my horse went from a jog to a full out run. And it was exhilerating! Dundok and I were neck and neck as we were racing back towards his ger and both of us were urging our horses on faster and faster. At the top of the hill next to his ger, his wife Iona stood waving her hands in the air yelling "Naadam, Naadam!" which is the Mongolian festival where you can see horse races as well as wrestling and archery. Well, I really wanted to win the race and I could tell Dundok was a having a ball and wanted to win too. There was a slight incline right at the end and I hesitated just a bit not knowing if I should go full out up hill. Dundok had no fears and shot ahead and past his wife. I jumped off my horse as Iona came to grab the reins and rushed up to Dundok and gave him a huge hug. We both babbled at each other in own language (me telling him how absolutely wonderful the whole experience was and what a fantastic rider he is and congratulations.....etc., etc.) and smiled at each crazily. By the time I had calmed down it was dark and time to eat supper and have some tea.

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