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Monday, 31 October 2011

Why a Horse Riding Accident in Mongolia Is Good for the Soul - Page 3

Written by Mariusz Stankiewicz
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Sukh, a cheery man, yet no different in muscular build as the horse he rode on, suddenly stood up and entertained us with yet another game of charades. Perfectly stable in his stirrups as the horse was in a canter, he pretended to be firing a bow and arrow, forwards and even backwards, telling the story of Mongolia’s greatest feats which changed the course of world history forever.
 
Genghis Khan, Mongolia’s omnipotent ruler and military strategist, conquered a massive territory which spanned the Black Sea, all the way to the Japanese Sea, in the 13th century. And this couldn’t have been made possible with only artful horsemanship but also impressive archery skills as well. The devised strategy was to sally forth the enemy, devastate them with an ambush of arrows, and retreat hastily proving that such a tactic could only have been done with fast and flexible steeds.
 
When combined, the “Horse and Bow” tactic succeeded in terrorizing opponents on foot or horse and proved to be key in dismantling armies in Genghis Khan’s path. Major cities were destroyed, populations decimated, and massive territorial changes commenced as far as Russia, Ukraine, the Kingdom of Poland and Hungary. This, of course, came after tribal confederations and conquests early in his reign, of Mongolia, Manchuria, China, and even Korea and Vietnam.     

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After a few hours of prancing around leisurely on my horse, I finally decided to ante up and see if I could ride this mare like a Mongolian warrior. I looked over to Sukh who was casually chewing on a twig, unduly bored, and signaled him with a firm nod to race me, if he dared. I was comfortable riding and felt I had perfected this system of “choo!” and “brr!” and controlling the reins—or so I thought.  
 
We raced, had our diversions, but no victor had been decided. I then nodded for the final bell lap. To get the lead, I began whipping my surefooted mare’s haunch faster and harder than previous whips. I kicked its side belly with my ankle to signal exactly what I wanted to achieve and before I delivered my third kick, the horse took off in such a gallop that it might have omitted the first “gears” of trot and canter.
 
After giving me a head start, Sukh and I were suddenly head-to-head. If the race were to finish then and there, it would have been a dead heat. But I was edging him, then he was edging me, we were about even when cornering the mountain. His stance seemed sturdier as he stood up in the stirrups; mine, looser and inexperienced, but still at one with the horse. The green fields before me were zipping by as though I were watching them from the Trans-Mongolian rail. My long hair was flowing in the wind and my beard dancing around on my face. We then cut the valley sharply and headed towards the empty horizon, when suddenly, disaster struck at a 40-kmh gallop.
 
I veered off to the side, and while trying to regain control, the saddle’s buckle under the girth broke. My handle, too, specially devised for the beginner – gave out and wedged open from the wooden frame. I saw nails sticking up which I figured was not supposed to happen. Then, suddenly, the saddle felt like a loose garment and gave out under me, taking me with it. I flew off head-first into a dense growth of bushes, just short of Mongolia’s only tree standing tall enough to see across the vast territory.   
 
I thought I was done for. Mongolians in the countryside, in times of emergencies, rarely head to hospitals and usually opt to remain at camp hoping to have fate decide things or let the immune system fight their afflictions and injuries; and if a hospital was even close by, how would a dumb foreigner like myself be received especially after wanting to race the greatest jockeys/warriors known to man?  



(Page 3 of 4)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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