National Horse Games


To the Kyrgyz, a horse is a prized possession, and horsemanship a much-prized skill. Perhaps, therefore, it is not surprising that among the most popular national pastimes, or sports are contests on horseback. The relationship between a man and his horse is praised in the heroic epic poem "Manas" - The mighty hero, Manas, resembles a tower built of silver and his snow-white steed Ak-Kula carries him swiftly over the mountain tops. The horse looks like a bird hovering over the sharp peaks of the mountains. At the present time traditions related to horses are still alive. One of them is national horse games going back to extreme antiquity. Often they are an integral part of a holiday or a big celebration.




Kyz-kuumai (Chasing After the Bride). In older days this game was a part of the wedding ritual. According to the rules the bride was given the best racer and she was entitled to a head start on her horse that began the race. The bridegroom set out in pursuit to catch up with her, in this way proving his love and right to marry her. Being at a disadvantage with the slower horse the bridegroom sometimes failed to catch up with his fiancée. Yet, although she might beat him with her Kamchi (or horse-whip) she did not reject him and the wedding would be held all the same.

At present this traditional folk game is usually held during holidays for example in the green meadows of high mountain pastures, (jailoo) or on racecourses.


Ulak-tartysh or Kok-Boru. Ulak-tartysh is a fight between two teams of riders for a goat carcass. Apparently, the game originally historically developed in antiquity when herds of cattle grazed in the steppes and mountains all year round - exposed to possible attacks by wolves.  Having no firearms, the shepherds could not deal with wolves. Brave djigits (horse riders) chased after the wolves until the beasts of prey fell, and then they began beating them with sticks and lashes, trying to snatch them away from each other. 

It is also said that the game was devised to train skilled horsemen - helping warriors to learn the secrets of horsemanship and combat on horseback. Over the course of time, the place of the wolf was taken by the carcass of  of a goat.  The skin endures the heat of battle well, and their long hair is easy to grab hold of.


Tyiyn enmei. This is a competition in which young djigits can show off their hosemanship and agility. It used to involve picking up coins from the ground while galloping - but these days the coins have been replaced by flags made from coloured rags. These are placed at measured intervals along a course flags and the riders gallop towards them, beding down over the side of their horse to reach down and grab them as they pass.  As the rider grabs one, he throws it high into the air and the audience counts to keep tally. After three passes, the rider with the highest tally is adjudged the winner.

 Kyz kuumai


 Tyiyn enmei