Horsemen of Kyrgyzstan by Josef Bürgi

Like in many other nomadic countries, the horse in Kyrgyzstan has a very important place in rural life. It used to be the only way to travel in the high mountains of the Tian Shan, the sole companion of many shepherds and an ally in various horse games.

Like in many other nomadic countries, the horse in Kyrgyzstan has a very important place in rural life. It used to be the only way to travel in the high mountains of the Tian Shan, the sole companion of many shepherds and an ally in various horse games.

The horse is still a very important part of the national identity, present in all national games and festivities. A local idiom says that “horses are the Kyrgyz’s wings”. And a man who does not know how to ride a horse is not a man, they say. And they all ride horses, boys from a young age until very old men.

Kok Boru or Ulak Tartysh or Tai Kazan is possibly the most famous of all traditional Central Asian sports and is more commonly known as Buzkashi. Buzkashi means ‘goat grabbing’. Two teams wrestle on horseback to win possession of the carcass of a dead, headless sheep or goat. Once procured, the aim is to ride super fast and place the animal in the other team’s goal. Teams must have an equal number of riders, the dimensions of the field are approximately 300 x 150 metres, and the game lasts 15 minutes. There are not many rules that stipulate how to ‘pass’ the sheep – which can weigh up to 40 kilos – to team members. A very fast and tough game indeed. Many fall of the horses or may injure themselves. I saw a man and his hans were very damaged. Another game is to pick up something on the ground with full speed. While doing so they lean over the saddle and try to catch the money or other things. The horsemen master the horses very well.

Kyrgyzstan is also home to the yearly exhibition of traditional Kyrgyz horse games every July.

About Josef Bürgi

Born in 1965 in Stans, Switzerland, Joe Buergi started around 2000 with photography. He studied engineering at the Bale Institute of Technology and works now full-time as a project and team leader for the local government. As a pure autodidact, he developed the knowledge by himself but also by studying the masters. His music photography, together with travel, have become two of his life’s passions. [Official Website]

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