Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Back In The Saddle, Again

My Mongolia scheme was seeded a few years back when a friend who had travelled there told me about the horse situation; he said there's plenty of them, and it's possible to buy one cheaply and ride off into the sunset. Ever since the eight year old version of me dropped the reins of my uncle's horse Nobby, causing him to cross wheat fields and jump ditches at breakneck speed, I've been dreaming of horses; I know how fast they can go, and I know they know where to place their feet in order not to fall.

I've been on one several times since then, but always in very restricted circumstances; horse rental in America is expensive, and you have to sign an insurance waiver and go with a guide who makes sure your horse doesn't break a sweat. So, Mongolia sounded like the perfect place for another wild ride; a place where my currency goes a long way, where most of the land is unowned, and where the horse to human ratio is 13 to 1.

slow enough for a photo

I had hoped to meet someone with more knowledge of horse tack and care than me who would be interested in a long ride, but I, of all the non-Mongolians I encountered, was the most interested in horses. So, I went on a tour that included a two day horse trek at Lake Khovsgol instead.

Lake Khovsgol

What I didn't anticipate was the difference in saddles. Mongolian saddles are made of wood and a bit of felt, and Russian saddles are made of wood, metal, and a bit or leather. Russian saddles are considered more comfortable and usually given to tourists, but they are still far less comfortable than a full leather, western saddle.

Russian saddle

The stirrups are also shorter on both styles of saddle, giving me a pain in the right knee for most of the two day ride.

Mongolian saddle

I would have preferred to gallop the whole way, but there were several problems. First, we had a really lazy horse boy; he often fell asleep as our horses plodded along, and being the only one who knew where we were going, and speaking not a word of English to inform or direct me, I had no choice but to follow.

horse boy, 17 yrs old

For me, sitting on a walking horse was far more painfull than riding a galloping horse, both physically and mentally. Each step seemed to have four distinct movements, each registering in a different area of my weary backside, and having the effect of making me want to gallop my horse even more, both for the thrill of the ride, and in order to get it over with sooner.

goats from a horse

I'll admit that going this slowly allowed for seeing more scenery, but when a member of our group decided that it wasn't "nice" to ride horses, which meant her horse would be doing a lot of stopping and eating from that point on, I could hardly keep my eyes from rolling right out of my head. The horses, being social animals, liked to stay in a group, so if one dallied or ran, the others followed.

Against all odds, I did manage to get my horse going at a good clip now and then, but I've reached the conclusion that, as an American, if I want to enjoy horses, I need to be either very rich, so horses can be a hobby, or very poor, so they can be a part of my income. I doubt either of those scenarios are going to happen.

I bought these smoked fish along the way. Dead fish always look so mean, and I'm sure it's not nice to eat them, but they were delicious!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

filled with jealousy still, and always a good distraction from homework!
thanks baby cheese

8:29 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous wadingwater said...

Hey Desireee,
I like your blogs and stuff very interesting. I don't think I would be capable of that journey, far to many variable factors. I am far to controlling for that, so my hat of to you sister.

10:40 PM GMT-5  

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