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Riding the Asian Steppe

June 8, 2011

I'm on a horse

I went horseback riding over the Mongolian plain. I think that statement pretty much stands alone. Enough said. There’s really no need to elaborate on the experience of the open landscape, the communion between man and animal, channeling the spirits of the nomads who have traveled this vast land in years long gone, or riding towards a broad horizon under an endless blue sky.

Not that I really felt any of that. Maybe a little. I spent most of my time focusing my efforts on the following goals:
1. Trying not to look stupid
2. Trying to improve the communication and teamwork between myself and my horse
3. Trying to mitigate how stupid effort #2 made me look
4. Cursing Holly, an experienced Aussie rider who made it look so easy, under my breath
5. Not falling off the horse.  This is probably actually #1.

The herd

In all seriousness, riding on the vast Asian Steppe really is a special experience. The horses themselves are absolutely incredible. Much smaller than those horses us Westerners are accustomed to; it’s difficult to believe that these are the horses that carried the Mongolian armies to victory and were instrumental in creating the largest land empire in history. These guys make up for their diminutive size with their hardiness and stamina. Surviving a land that does not provide an overabundance of feed, not to mention to the extreme temperatures ranging from regular winter time lows of -40 and summer time highs exceeding 35 degrees. Truly an impressive animal and one that has earned my respect even if they are stubborn creatures that refuse to go downhill and seem inclined to snap their legs in marmot holes so long as it resulted in bucking me.

A little bit of the Steppe

The landscape found on the Steppe seems tailor made for dreamers, poets, thinkers, and, nomads. It’s vastness speaks on a primal level and suggests of limitless potential while also putting the smallness of the individual in stark perspective in the face of the greater world. To travel this place in the dusty footsteps and hoofprints of the indomitable nomads and horses that came before us is truly a special experience. One that I will not soon forget and hope to repeat again.

 

I mean, look at these horses below.  They’re just so tiny and adorable.  How awesome does that look?  Seriously.

Riders crossing the ridge

 

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