Kazakhstan invented horseback riding – at least they seem to be the first people to put a bit in a horse’s mouth. They had picked up on herding the wild horses on the open steppe by learning from cattle-herders to their southwest; they ate lots of horseflesh. The best piece about it is http://www.carnegiemnh.org/anthro/olsen-botai2.html, by Sandra Olsen, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, who has been a principal in the excavations at Botai in northern Kazakhstan, in the north of the broad band of semi-desert steppe that runs east and west for thousands of miles. A museum in the nearby big town of

When they started riding, 5500 years ago, the area was “open steppe with scattered pine and birch woodland”.  Now it’s more wooded, although it’s been cleared. It was and is appallingly cold in the winter. Steppe residents of every era had to live in 40 below, which you can see in the semi-underground “pit” houses, and later in the fur-lined outfits of the women and horsemen.


 For millennia its occupants lived as horseback herdsmen and/or raiders, looters, conquerors – armed parasites of the mounted persuasion.

Click for larger image


The country is virtually unfenced, ranged by herds of horses, apparently more numerous than cattle. The people today drink horses’ milk and eat their meat and on weekends play a team horseback sport closer to rugby than polo.



Forhad broke two fingers and both collarbones at horse games. Nodded off riding up mountain. They whip horses sort of automatically, maybe to establish relationship; often produces no result but is not repeated. Whip upon mounting. First time, his whip was a spark plug cable. Unshod, although maybe one shoe. Amazingly stable: 12.5 horse-days, only two shies, more like skirting. Train for contests by pushing log with chest, shoving other horse in small corral lined with nails pointing inward. $10,000 horse broke spine in contest crashing into another horse because not well trained. Biggest on May 1 and May 9(?) (Independence Day).

Sort of gaited: broken pace, slower than trot – you have to hold them in/collect them so they don’t trot – that is still rough, no sliding of hinds or termino, but quite sittable, not like trot. Saw no posting or cantering. Ungroomed.

“Russian saddles”. (Also Kazakh saddles: high cantle to hold you in, “horn” to hang goat prize from.) Narrow; seat pad.

Yvgeny says fatten horses until two fingers of fat on belly. Forhad says Kazakhs drink vodka and eat horse meat, Russian drink vodka and eat pickles.

Koumiss tastes like watered-down buttermilk.

Short stirrups – anywhere from 120 degrees to less than 90.


No jets overhead.



The preparation of the kazy was unnerving. The woman selected one of a number of two-foot long cuts, each with about a four inch square cross section. She trimmed quickly trimmed a narrower piece, and inch or an inch and a half thick, and put it in a metal tray. She put in a handful of what looked like chopped garlic, and then stuffed something pale into a hand grinder and ground it out. This she also put into the tray, in between steps rinsing her hands in a bucket of water behind her. She rubbed the meat around in material in the tray. Then she cut a piece of fat about a fifth of the size of the meat and lay them parallel. Now she reached over and pulled a piece of intestine from a sheaf, and proceeded to stuff the meat assembly into it. She tied off one end, and after cutting the other end stitched it up with a toothpick.



There seems to be a very subtle aftertaste or odor – I think I remember it from the meat market as well – neither pleasant nor unpleasant, just distinctive, so that maybe I could identify horsemeat in future.


The Kazakhs use the same “huit!” yell as the Indians to