Nomad Horse Games - celebration of traditions
The horse has always played a significant role in Kyrgyz tradition and daily life. It serves as a tool, a cultural symbol, and a loyal friend to men. National sports reflect this relationship, and the National Horse Games Festival offers an opportunity to experience traditional Kyrgyz horse games.
The festival takes place in summer months at popular locations all over the country. Major festivals you may find at Bokonbaevo (Issyk Kul), Song Kul, Kyzy-Oi (Suusamyr valley), and Sary-Mogol (Alay region). The festivals are organized by local enthusiasts and communities with the support of tour agencies. The list of upcoming events you can find at our website. Local artisans and performers demonstrate the ancient traditions in handicrafts, folklore, music, eagle-hunting, and many other elements of nomads’ daily life. But the highlight of the event are horse games of Kyz-Kuumai, Tyiyn-Enmei, Ulak-Tartysh, and Er-Enish games, all of which are captivating representations of Kyrgyz tradition.
Kyz-Kuumai is a game that reflects wedding customs. According to tradition, the wedding cannot be completed until the groom chases the bride. Dressed in colorful national outfits, the couple races shoulder to shoulder at breakneck speed. The game ends when the groom catches the bride and kisses her. If the groom fails to catch the bride, she will follow him back and beat him with a horse-whip. Regardless of the outcome, the wedding celebration will continue!
Tyiyn-Enmei is the ultimate test of a jockey's skills. Riding a galloping horse, the jockey races across the field, trying to pick up as many coins from the ground as possible. This game is a remarkable display of acrobatic feats and agility, as well as a colorful spectacle. With every passing second, the question remains: who will be the richest in the shortest time?
Ulak-Tartysh is a game in which two teams with unique uniforms cross flat meadows covered in dust to carry a goat carcass into the opposing team's zone and score a goal. The jockeys wear pilot and tanker hats, embossed saddles, tight spurs, and carry whips, as they compete with double doses of adrenaline in their veins. The only rule is to achieve the highest score, and all stunts are allowed. Jockeys play with a unique “ball” made of a 30kg goat's body, and the game's original name is "kok-boru," which means "blue wolf" in Kyrgyz. This game is popular in Central Asia, including Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan, and it is considered a game of nomadic tribes. Ulak-Tartysh continues to inspire competition among the younger generation.
Er-Enish is a game that tests the strength, cleverness, and toughness of the contestants by having them wrestle while on horseback. In this dangerous dance of movements and poses, the rider and the horse work together
Traditional games will open you the window to Kyrgyz nomadic culture, which was tightly tied to nature, horses, and family bonds. Horse games are the demonstration of unity between man and the horse, which is still celebrated at national events. Save a spot in your itinerary for these events, so you can learn more about local traditions.