Build Your Riding Confidence in Mongolia
Build Your Riding Confidence in Mongolia – Naturally
The notion to build your riding confidence in Mongolia may sound counter intuitive to many. Mongolia is known for its long distance horse racing, its fierce horseback warriors of ancient times, and Mongolian horses who live in herds, roaming free as their wild ancestors. And yes, when you see youngsters in the Mongolian countryside, as they gallop bareback across the steppe, it doesn’t instill confidence that as a beginner, or re-starter on horseback, riding in Mongolia is for you.
But there is a very different side to horses and riding in Mongolia, and its very conducive to learn, to build or regain your confidence for horse riding. Obviously, you want to mount a horse that is gentle – “nomkhun” in Mongolian language. And many are, either by nature or by the way they have been trained and are being used.
It is a myth that Mongolian horses are particularly wild or difficult. In general, just the opposite is the case. With their average standing height of 14 hands, they are of a very convenient size, I think. Less intimidating than a tall thoroughbred. But more important, they are mentally balanced and of easy going character. Living in a herd, in their natural environment gives them no reason to have any neurosis that plagues horses who grow up in stables and often go on to lead a life without the social interaction and safety of a herd.
Young foals in Mongolia get acquainted to humans very early when their mothers are being milked for the raw material to make airag, the national summer drink of fermented mares milk – much sought after as a cleansing cure, and for its tangy taste and low alcohol content. Young horses are being ridden by young children, and its a very natural way of horse and human getting familiar with each other and develop a communication when moving together.
Horse Trekking to Build Your Riding Confidence in Mongolia
Horse trekking is a great way to combine several experiences. It is generally slow travel to experience the landscape and natural environment we are in. It is about traveling with a herd of horses, pack – and saddle horses that move along together. Its fun, and a much richer richer experience than just “horse riding”. It is learning about herd behavior and witnessing horses in nature. And it is long days of opportunity to be with your horse, communicate, feel him and his gaits, and learn from him. Plenty of opportunity, but no pressure, to try different gaits, go slow, go faster, according to the terrain. Plenty of time for “ground work”, spending time with your horse during breaks. Or even after the ride, when he takes off for grazing with the herd.
Helpful Horses to Build Your Riding Confidence in Mongolia
All our trail horses that carry guests, fall under the category “nomkhun”. When we acquire new additions to our equine team, we choose horses that are calm and responsive. Like the two joining last season. They came from a herder family living the traditional lifestyle of nomads, running a beautiful herd of horses on the grasslands, and training their riding horses to be reliable, calm and cooperative. These horses were in good healthy condition, and of great conformation
Mongolian riders mostly hold the reins with one hand, and the horses are used to what we call neck reining. Having said that, the horses will also understand if you hold the reins like in English riding, and they of course feel cues of your legs and shifts with your body weight. They have a great ability to tune into the riders cues of communication, and accept different styles. From our own team at Stone Horse, our horses are used to both our Western riding, and the riding style of our Mongolian horsemen. Riding styles that are not that different after all, as we all use Western saddles.
We have witnessed so often how our trail horses tune into the riding ability and intentions of their riders, being careful and slower with inexperienced or timid riders, and showing what they have to the riders who like to go for a run. Some of our horses, one named Rocket for a reason, used to work in therapeutic riding, giving children and young adults with special needs opportunity to feel movement they were not capable of or make a connection to another being they otherwise found hard to establish. Yet, these horses are tough as any of their team mates when they have to be. It just says a lot about the nature of the horses as sentient beings.
The Stone Horses, as we refer to our equine expedition team, also know and seem to like their jobs well, heading out to nice mountain pastures and good water sources. They know the routes and are sure footed in any terrain. Traveling for eight or more days with them, to the rhythm of their movements, and living to the rhythm of daylight and dark, is a very natural way to travel and ride. Its good not to overthink the mechanics of riding. I sometimes think that people make it harder for themselves as they try to rationalize the riding process, the moving of horse and rider in balance together, too much. Its best to relax and let your body, your instincts, your intuition guide you. Of course people are different, and if helpful, think about the physics of the riding process.
While you want to trust your horse on the trail with his negotiating difficult terrain, of course you want to remain assertive nevertheless. Don’t be shy to let him know what you want, how fast or slow you two go together, and where to. He will appreciate that. We see sometimes a good horse getting frustrated when an inexperienced rider is well intentioned, but not clear in their communication.
And of course keep in mind that we are traveling in terrain with natural predators of the horse, namely wolves. We have lost horses to wolves and they are, naturally, aware and careful. Some more than others. And a slight movement in the bushes, or a deer, might startle a horse for a split second. As they move as a herd, the first in line may spook for that short moment, and when they all see it was just a leaf in the wind, a bird or indeed a deer, they know its no problem and calmly keep moving.
Saddles and Tack to Build Your Riding Confidence in Mongolia
We take great pride in our saddles and tack for our guests. Stone Horse Saddles are hand crafted in our own shop, and each is a unique piece. But apart from craftsmanship, by a woman saddle maker :), we pay attention to the saddles’ purpose to provide comfort and safety for horse and rider. The construction of the seat and the placement of rigging and stirrups provide for balanced riding. The materials are high quality for the saddle to stand up to the rigors of expedition riding. And they are fitted with safety features like cages on the stirrups to prevent a rider’s foot from ever slipping through. Stirrups are wide and with padded treads like an endurance stirrups. All these saddle features help to prevent fatigue, support proper riding position and help both horse and rider to get through a long day on the trail while staying comfortable.
Tour Leaders, Horsemen and Fellow Equestrians to Build Your Riding Confidence in Mongolia
We take time to introduce you to your trail horse, and to the equipment we provide and give you opportunity for familiarization. While all is prepared when you arrive as our guest at the staging area, it doesn’t mean we leave without everybody being comfortable. During our treks, there is often a one-on-one ratio of guest to Stone Horse team members, all of whom keep an eye on riders, horses and equipment. We lead our own expeditions, and when we set out, the Stone Horse trekking team includes the tour leader, two horsemen, a cook/camp assistant and sometimes an extra hand, all of whom are experienced riders whose primary concern is your safety and enjoyment during the trip. And it is common that camaraderie grows among the guest riders as the days go by, and a very supportive and friendly atmosphere develops that is conducive to build your riding confidence.
We want riders to be or become confident on horseback on our expeditions, as much as we want you to enjoy the landscapes, and wilderness experience and appreciate your travels in a different cultural setting. We want you to ride your horse in confidence, to make your experience richer, to allow you to take in your surroundings. And on our longer expeditions into the Khentii wilderness it is even more important that you feel confident on horseback when navigating this more challenging terrain.
These are not places where we want to lead a rider on a lead line. Instead, each rider should be capable to ride their horse through more difficult terrain. And we would not want horses that are unfamiliar with the area, and not trained and well-known by the expedition team.
It matters to us that you come back with great memories of an adventure you took part in, that you became ore competent and confident perhaps in something you doubted you could do.
Enjoy the Ride
We want you to get into the “flow” of back country riding, to develop your skills so you can take on the challenges you meet. Then you will enjoy the ride and savor great memories of it. And so will we!
Find the Right Expedition for You!
Stone Horse Expeditions travel to two distinct destinations – the pastoral landscapes of Gorkhi Terelj National Park, where nomadic herding remains a tradition until this day, and the Khentii Wilderness of mountains, boreal forest, wild rivers and lakes. The Khentii expeditions travel through Gorkhi Terelj National Park into the Khan Khentii Strictly Protected Area.
Check out our 2022 Schedule of Horseback Expeditions.
Contact us to see what expedition is right for you!
We look forward to riding with you!
Add a Gobi Desert Tour to your Mongolia Adventure.