April 28, 2014

1071 MONGOLIA - A child jockey to a horse racing

Nowhere are horses more central to daily life than in Mongolia. Mongolia is known as the land of the horse, and Mongols have a reputation for being the best horsemen on Earth. Over the centuries, using chariots as well as mounted warriors, nomadic armies of Mongols struck south of the Great Wall and into the heart of Europe. The legendary thirteenth-century warrior Genghis Khan established an empire that extended from Hungary to Korea and from Siberia to Tibet. Known in Europe as “Hell’s Horsemen,” Mongols could ride up to 80 miles a day, across deserts and mountains considered - until the arrival of these mounted armies - to be impassable.

Even in the twenty-first century, Mongolia remains a horse-based culture and retains its pastoral traditions. Beyond Ulaanbataar, the horse is still the main means of transportation. The Mongol horse is purported to be largely unchanged since the time of Genghis Khan. Nomads living in the traditional Mongol fashion still hold more than 3 million animals, which outnumber the country's human population. The children learn to ride when they are as young as 3 years old. Horse racing is a favorite sport, and young children, from 5 to 13 years old, are often the jockeys, as the Mongolians believe the race tests the horse's ability, not the rider's. Mongolian horse racing takes place during the Naadam festival, and is a cross-country event, with races 15-30 km long. The length of each race is determined by age class. Up to 1000 horses from any part of Mongolia can be chosen to participate.

Before the races begin, the audience sings traditional songs and the jockeys sing a song called Gingo. Prizes are awarded to horses and jockeys. The top five horses in each class earn the title of airgiyn tav, and the winning jockey is praised with the title of tumny ekh or leader of ten thousand. The horse that finishes last in the Daaga race (two-year-old horses race) is called bayan khodood (meaning "full stomach"). A song is sung to the Bayan khodood wishing him luck to be next year's winner. Many of the riders wear vibrantly colored satin capes and matching suits to be recognized from a far distance.

The Horse in Mongolian Culture - American Museum of Natural History official website
Naadam - Wikipedia

About the stamp

The stamp is part of a definitives series of four, issued on July 21, 2013:
• the blue one - it's on the postcard
• the orange one - it's on other postcard
• the green one - it's on other postcard
• the pink one - it's on other postcard

Sent from Ulan Bator (Mongolia), on 10.04.2014
Photo: V. Battulga

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