Thursday, October 23, 2014

Mongolian Royal

I was born in Kansas City, Missouri.  When I was three, my parents moved my brother and I about an hour away from the city, and although I spent my adolescence in Iowa, I always considered Kansas City my home, and moved back there as soon as I graduated from high school.  I don't consider myself much of an American, but I am Missourian, so it warmed the cockleburrs of my little heart to see the Royals make it to the World Series for the first time since I was an anklebiter.

I am telling you all this because I had an experience over the weekend that brought back other Kansas City childhood memories...of the American Royal, specifically.  My Dad took Shaggy and I at least twice, and I remember the excitement of the rodeo.  When I went back as a college student, it wasn't quite the same, but I enjoyed it nonetheless, so when Engrish told me how she'd seen an advertisement for the Thousand Foal Festival in Altanbulag this past Sunday, I was all for it.
To call this festival a rodeo isn't quite accurate, but there's both ropin' and ridin', so close enough.  The day begins by capturing the young horses and tying them to a picket line.  You can probably imagine that they aren't exactly enthusiastic about this.  I'm not sure how young horses are brought up in other parts of the world, but these foals are a little like first graders...kinda feral.
It took quite a bit of doing to get the SoundCloud track embedded (I forgot how I did it when I came back from Tokyo in April), so I hope you enjoy it.  The real fun begins around 9 seconds, although you can hear the herders on their motorcycles at the beginning.
Well, there's only so long that you can wander up and down the picket lines taking adorable photos before you get hungry.  And fortunately, we tailgate on the steppe, too.  This family was running their khuushuur business out of the back of their van.  The lady in red made balls of dough with meat in the middle, the person inside the van rolled them out flat, and the other man cooked them on a ger stove (remind me to tell you about making ger chili in my next post...amazing...)  The meat was VERY dark.  I think it was actually horse meat, which might have been a little gauche under the circumstances but was also, as Blondie said, damn tasty.
You may be wondering why we drove all the way out into the countryside to see a bunch of baby horses.  The point of the day was that they eventually moved the mares to the other end of the field and raced the baby horses to see who would reach their mother first.  And of course it would be pathetic to have a horse race without betting.  Which brings me to my next point...I am totally going to Hell, because not only did I ditch church on Sunday, I went to a HORSE RACE where I bet on a baby horse.

I have a soul as black as night.  Good thing I'm such a sucker for my kids or I might never redeem myself...
After putting my 5,000T down on number 32, Engrish, Blondie, and I had Enkhaa drive us to the other end of the field, since that seemed like the thing to do.  The "winner's circle" was set up down there, and the herders were showing off their skills. 
One interesting skill they were showing off was picking their "lasso" up off the ground at a gallop.  Some were able to do it...and others weren't.  There was a scary moment when one rider overturned their horse - maybe he was too heavy for the angle required?  I don't know how well you can tell from the photos, but Mongolian horses are quite small, and the rider in question was fairly heavy.
Finally the mares were moved to the other end of the field, and people went to the picket lines so the foals could be released.  This was the moment we'd been waiting for...would number 32 prevail over 84 and 89 (Engrish and Blondie's picks)?
Well, yes.  Actually he did, although I didn't realize it until I went back and looked at the pictures after I'd gotten home.  But he didn't win the race; that honor went to a different foal, number 60, I think.  At least 32 went the right direction, unlike these shmucks. 
The majority of the foals followed their mothers' scent, which led them in a long arc away from us rather than straight across the field, and they needed a little help from the herders to figure out where they were going.  They got there in the end, though.
Where ya goin', Tiny Horse?
The Thousand Foals Festival was a nice trip out of the city (even if I underestimated the cold).  I'm not sure I would go again, if I had the chance, but I'm glad Engrish and Blondie were up for it, and that Enkhaa drove us (in spite of the fact that driving us to Sukhbaatar wrecked his "Land Cruiser").  Not just because it was unique and made a good blog post, but because it answered a very important question in my mind...why Twilight Sparkle and friends are animated running the way they do in My Little Ponies.  Answer: because that's how carefree young fillies actually run. 

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