Home of the world’s longest and (toughest) horse race - “Mongol derby”, which is officially claimed in the World Guinness Records, – Mongolia is the land of nomadic culture, vast open space and of course, horses!
In Mongolia, most people learn to ride horses when they are like 5. Mongolian horses are relatively stubby, but strong as they are trained at young age and used for transportation, sustenance, companionship and racing.
Mongolians enjoy horse racing throughout the year. However the most extended and the exciting one happens during the Naadam Festival. During the festival, participating horses are divided into six categories based on their ages. Distance of the race varies in each category: two-year-old horses race for 10-12 km (6-7,5 miles), for instance, stallions race for 23 km (14,5 miles) on average, and seven-year-old ones race for 25-26 km (15,5-16 miles). Moreover, though, the distance varies from race to race depending on the surface of the race field in different locations.
Horse jockeys are usually between 5 and 13. Due to the lengthy distance of the horseracing, jockeys are preferred to be light, yet experienced. During the race, jockeys not only ride horses, but also they are responsible for cherishing their horses with a special song called “giingo” and raising their spirits.
With no doubt, several months before the race, both horses and jockeys go through intense training. Especially the horses are given a special diet and treated with tenderness during the said period. In the race, horses and their jockeys coming in first five are rewarded and revered. Like the winning wrestlers, winning horses are given titles like “tymnii eh” or the leader of ten thousand. Horse trainers, whose horses perform exceptional in consecutive races, are also given special honors like “Leading trainer”, or “National famous trainer”.
During the Naadam Festival, from 10th to 12th of July, around 180,000 horses race throughout the country (in 21 provinces and 329 soums).