Country #4 – Kazakhstan: A Horse Called Donut or Our Small Wedding Tradition

Although Kazakhstan has centuries if not thousands of years of nomad history and riding traditions (it’s a proven fact that horses were first domesticated in the territory of central Kazakhstan about 5500–6000 years ago), currently, there are not many places for rides and you would never see Kazakhstan riders in Olympic Games or any big international competitions.

Anyway, even with the limited choices, you can still find something in almost every country. And my favourite place for a ride is at the Uzhet stables, which are located at the outskirts of Kazakhstan’s former capital and biggest city, Almaty.

The stables have about 100 horses. The owners also raise different kinds of domestic animals, so the place also serves as a farm zoo.

We went to Uzhet with my best friend, who is also a horse lover. Actually, this was some kind of a continuation of a tradition I started a year ago—the day before my wedding, we also went to Uzhet. This time around, I came to the wedding of my friend, and we went to Uzhet the next day

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And as in the previous year, I got my favourite Altai horse, Baursak. “Baursak” is a traditional Kazakh dish made of dough pieces fried in oil, somewhat similar to donut, but without a hole in the middle. This word is also sometimes used to describe shabby people and animals. Needless to say, Baursak’s name fits him perfectly—he is round, soft and very sweet. He also has the thickest mane I’ve ever seen. It’s not common to cut or pull the mane of local breeds, so at times this could be a bit uncomfortable for horses. So Baursak would shake his head regularly to remove his forelock off his eyes. To make him feel better, I plaited it, and the braid was wrist thick.

To get to the fields where we were allowed to canter, we had to cross a river. Surprisingly, ice-cold water didn’t bother our horses much, and Baursak was seriously thinking about taking a bath right there. Only a few kicks in the ribs (sorry for this, buddy) prevented him from rolling off.

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My friend and I spent about an hour riding up and down the hills, cantering next to each other and enjoying one of the first warm days that year. Middle of spring is certainly the best time to visit Uzhet. The colours are bright, the wind is fresh and everything is busy blooming and growing.

All went as usual apart from the small rescue party in the end. Don’t worry—everyone is alive and well. It was just Baursak, whose tail, which was never cut or trimmed like his mane, got a huge ball of tumbleweed stuck to it. Dismounting to help him was not an option as we heard far too many stories about Uzhet horses running away from fallen or dismounted riders to the warmth of the stables. So we came up with a plan. My friend was supposed to make her horse step on the tumbleweed in order to free Baursak’s tail. It took us a while. Baursak couldn’t understand why the other horse was getting close to his rear end. And as a polite horse, he would step aside every time my friend stirred her horse closer to Baursak’s tail. On the other hand, her horse didn’t like the idea of stepping on the tumbleweed, so we continued our weird dances for quite a while. A few minutes later, when we were very close to giving up, the right combination of flora and fauna was found, and the whole thing worked out and Baursak’s tail was released from the foreign object. :-)

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Meanwhile, we forgot to check the time, and since we paid for a one-hour ride only, we had to canter back to the stables. The horses were just happy to do so. We all know that it’s never a problem to make a horse move faster in the direction of the stables.

Every time I go back to this day in my memory, I usually picture this: a perfect April day, blue skies above us, fresh new grass beneath, birds singing their lungs out, Baursak’s copper-red mane flowing to my face and majestic mountains, still covered with snow, seen in the distance.

Useful link: http://ksk-ajar.kz/contact/

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