UNDERSTANDING HORSES AND MAKE ONE WITH THEM IN YOUR PERSONAL JOURNEY
UNTAMED HORSE RIDING EXPERIENCE
FOREWORD BY OUR FOUNDER, MR.BOYA:
Just like many western Mongolian boys, I was raised on horseback and started to ride by myself from the age of 5. Since I was 8, my uncle brought me for days on journeys to find our family horses in this vast and beautiful land around the Tarvagatai mountain range. The word Tarvagatai means the marmot country.
On those days, I became a confident rider, finding strength and braveness on my own, and soon after I was trusted and left alone to go gather the horses myself. Nomadism means only one option is given to us: to be a nomad is to easily adapt and learn to live among the mountains and nature without any fear. Also, it gives us an amazing opportunity to feel and be at home everywhere we are in this beautiful country. So, I loved to ride my horses at any time of the day. I used to ride up the mountains to a high vantage point to spot the surroundings, and while in search of my horses, to explore and learn about other animals, landscapes, etc... I often saw packs of wolves, deers, other families of horses, and thousands of marmots with giant birds flying around you, and accompany your whole trip. When I went out, my sister always gave me a leather bag containing some dried aaruul (curd), and pieces of boortsog (deep-fried bakeries), in case the horses were to be far away, and that it would take days to come back. My family never worried about what could happen to me, because they believed in their land. And for nomads, the love of the mountains and their spirits will keep you safe on your way and bless you with incredible and rich possibilities.
There is not a concept of survival in the nomadic life, but instead a life in harmony with the land. My uncle was diligently trying to pass on me the nomadic unwritten knowledge and traditions, which we as nomads were supposed to follow. This would keep us close to the environment and stay respectful to our homeland. On a typical example of oral teachings, he always told me to never stop abruptly our horses after a fast ride: this would make your horse suffer, hurting its wild spirit and bring issues to the natural blood-flow of the animal. Traditionally, Mongols never urinated or washed themselves in the rivers or lakes. The same applied to the animals to keep the land as clean and pure as possible for a long time. The nomads always pushed their animals to avoid polluting the running water, pushing them to walk up to safer land. Also, we never put any blood, milk, and curd, or dairies in the rivers. My uncle told me to pay respect to the mountains and the rivers, paying respect to its spirit, the nomads, and the animals. That was the only way to live and preserve our traditions for countless generations and until today.
Luckily, I had that beautiful opportunity and destiny to live in other countries for a while and get inspired by so many amazing cultures. And I realized the differences with the people of the modern world who are working really hard and living in a civilized environment. Being disconnected from this beautiful and virgin Nature, they might have the need to spend time in here with us. I believe, it will give them something they may have forgotten due to their active life. When you ride and venture through remote natural beauty, you definitely get back the lost power and adrenaline you normally feel as a human being. As a man who grew up in one of the world's last true natural and authentic environments, I sincerely welcome you to join our beautifully designed West Mongolian horse riding adventures, to bring back this authenticity, and this feeling of being yourself, as part of the nomads in their original country.
HORSE RIDING ACTIVITIES: WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE MONGOLIAN HORSES
The relationship between nomads and their horses is as beautiful as it is a duality: from the traditional habit of letting the horses roam free to catching them in order to “break” their habits for a time and allowing people to ride. Let’s explore more examples of how Mongols are working together with horses. Typically, the Mongols release the horses by the end of some days after their ride, and the horses freed run back to their pack. Yet again, only when needed, the nomads go back to catch their horses for another ride. It is only back to his siblings that the semi-wild horse gets back his strength and instincts, which makes it a little harder for the herders to get it back to remember all the training and habits to be ridden again. There is always a little time for the horse to get back to this state, and then only the Mongolian horsemen say “this horse is now underhand”, ready for the ride.
The Mongols never give special names to their horses. But they use over 200 words to qualify them: by the colors, and by their unique traits such as a “horse with the white moon on the forehead”, or “with four white legs”, or “whitetail horse”, or “brownie”, “wild horse (horse with typical wild colors, stripes…)”. Basically, every Mongolian horse is half-wild, meaning that they need to be tamed, taught to behave good and respond well to the commands of the rider, and be useful for all kinds of needs/events (riding for all-day nomadic lifestyle - herding, and at various speeds - fast and slow), carry, transporting, milking, racing).
WHY THE MONGOLIAN HORSES ARE KEPT SEMI-WILD?
The Mongolian traditional way of herding is following the classic nomadism, which is very much dependent on free pasture, open wide lands and most animals choose and go after the best grass themselves over large distances. Therefore, in Mongolian horses herding the most important thing is having or finding a brave stallion line inherited in their bloodline to breed, control, and lead the herd, and also protecting them from the predators like the wolves. Those stallions are essential animals, acting as representants of the herders, therefore giving the nomads time to focus on other duties and chores.
SPECIFICS ABOUT THE MONGOLIAN HORSES:
Living together with Central Asian classic nomads for centuries those beautiful creatures inhabit and became their own unrepeatable way of life in this wild country with wolves and nomads. They always live for themselves, and it’s been never fed or given any additional grass even during the winter days. The Stallion needs to take responsibility for the safety, the wellbeing of his pack: breaking down the ice/snow, find the grass and water which make them survive and stay healthy and strong throughout the harsh central Asian high plateau weather. That made them very smart, and resilient animals, really useful tools to the nomads. All this life made them very specific in regards to each individual horse, with a different temper, and character. This makes the journey very exciting for the rides. In time, we get used to and attached to our horse behavior. The bond between you and the horse creates a beautiful adventure even more enjoyable.
Mongolia is a vast country divided into 21 Provinces, each having its very own weather conditions, landscapes, and nomadic traditions. Gobi Mountain Lake chose to ride horses to the Western provinces, being part of the many destinations we advertise on our website, but also to provide a different riding experience, far from the ones you can experience in the center of the country or crowded tourist sites. This land is untouched, still very raw and remote, with its people true to their origin. The way they ride is also very distinct, and that is the experience we would like to share. You will, therefore, ride in amazing places, with elevation starting from 5000 and up to 8000 feet (1,500 to 2,400m). Gobi Mountain Lake rides are designed in four distinct regions where each represents a truly astounding unrepeatable nature.
At Gobi Mountain Lake we promote the opportunity to see and feel the true Mongolia. You will not only gallop on the open steppes, trek through the taiga mountain wilderness, and ride through historical sites but also, you will explore the real-life of Mongolian nomads and their cultural heritage including Mongolian religions and ethnic group customs.
LOCAL HORSE GUIDES
We are paying extra care for the wealth of our local people and their horses so that they can develop their own activities. Our dedication provides them other benefits as well on top of making them responsible for an amazing adventure. Ever since the company created the Argadai Berhdei project that bringing back to herders the Bankhar-native guarding dog, we support the idea of a long term plan with the local nomad families, for their own well being and resources, so that they can also join us during the horse riding tours without worrying about keeping an eye on the animals and their home. The reintroduced Mongolian shepherds' dog will keep those tasks safe for the family.
For those who wish to venture and discover Mongolia a different way on horseback, our tour leader and a local horse guide (horseman) will help you make that dream come true. Here are some first tips to help you enjoy even more this amazing adventure: Mongolian horses are very different from those of the Western countries. They indeed are smaller, but keep their natural wild temper. So it is important for us to provide extra information for our travelers to get the most of their journey, in a fun and exciting way!
Our tour leaders and local horse guides will be pleased to assist you to adapt your riding style to suit the Mongolian horses and tack. On the location, we will also discuss our saddles, stirrup lengths, and other safety issues of horse riding before we begin each horse trek. You will likely ride the same horse every day unless it’s not a good match or the horse needs a rest. After making adjustments to your new horse, saddle, and introducing the riding briefing in every part of riding by our team.
Traveling with horses dates back centuries ago, along with the development of the history of the Mongols. It is thanks to their horses that they have been able to create the largest Empire the world has ever seen. Here we introduce the first horse riding tours in very distinct landscapes and environments. Those places have their own traditions ruled out by the local nomads. It is our privilege to discover 4 different riding paradises with different ways of tackling it, along with visiting and learning about the families that your journey will support. All of this made possible with the comfort of our own private Gers welcoming you every evening for a well-deserved rest.
Not only because a horse is the most respected animal in Mongolian culture and by necessity using these animals to live, but we deeply love them. We learned to live with them and work together to create a beautiful future, and through it develop our own way of life until today. We understood the importance of riding horses in a relaxed way, with happy horses, and making the experience safe for everyone, both for the herders and our guests. Riding in those different landscapes, far from the crowds and those potential issues, make the experience even better, enjoyable, relaxed, and safe. As GML on a path for a more sustainable, and ethical future, it is our responsibility to protect the environment and all of its living species. The very least we can do is ensure our practices are not causing harm to the wildlife and animals who call the destinations we visit home.
This is why we created those beautiful programs for riding in 4 major destinations in Western Mongolia, 2 times per location to fully appreciate the feeling and the connection with the horses, at the pace of 4 hours per ride. This way, we can respect the horses, and not develop fatigue that can sometimes be fatal for them in a long run. After all, they need to remain semi-wild.
There are principles we value for horse riding:
Horses that are normal weight and age should be ridden
Consider rider's weight before booking riding and aim to choose an animal appropriate to your size and weight. An appropriate weight for a standard size Mongolian horse to carry is on average 120kgs (260 pounds / 18 stone)
Ride only healthy horses as with horses, Tour leaders are responsible for alerting you if you believe that the animals are not being well cared for
Treating the horse well, ie excessive whipping, stop and find an alternative driver
Mongolia is a massive country, and so you can choose to ride to very different terrains or regions. Depending on your choice, and the terrain configuration, you shall ride on average 20 to 35 kilometers a day. It can take 3 - 8 hours to a full day to cover those distances. Again, very terrain dependent.
The Mongolian horses, despite being short-size full-grown horses and not ponies, can carry a person of 1,95m/6*4 tall, and up to 100 kg/221 lbs. Beyond, we would not recommend this adventure both for comfort and safety (see Riding Guideline).
You need to be confident in your ability to take on a Mongolian horse ride for your own safety and for the wellbeing of the horses you’ll ride. We’ll need to know you have the means and determination to do the training and arrive horse ride in Mongolia ready. We’ll want to know you can handle - and enjoy - life on the steppe. The trips are created in Western Mongolian countryside so we’ll be looking for the experience of traveling to remote areas, camping, and general previous adventuring to demonstrate an understanding of day to day living conditions during the trip.
Where you don’t have specific experience to make sure you’re horse riding journey ready you’ll need to demonstrate the commitment and practical access to the training and time in the saddle you need before you head to Mongolia. As well as the above skills, you will need to develop distance riding fitness. We recommend cross-training to develop further fitness capacity that will enable you to enjoy your adventure maximally. Our horse riding tour for reasonably fit travelers and advanced to expert riders only. You will need to prepare for horseriding in large open landscapes, with various types of terrain: on sand dunes, crossing rivers, progressing through forested and rocky areas.
You shall keep in mind and be able to:
- Comfortably mount and dismount without block
- Cover the entire duration of the ride, be endurant and show the necessary skills to trot with the group for 3+ days covering 15-35 km per day
- Ride with confidence in a wide variety of terrains (sand, rocks, crossing rivers, in-even terrains)