Kyrgyz Horse Games – a Day Trip from Bishkek

Published: August 3, 2015

This year elections for the Issyk-Kul region were coming. This does not affect life much as a temporary student in Kyrgyzstan except that it means that the Бир Бол political party set up the Horse Games with free entrance for anyone! This was only a half hour walk outside of Cholpon-Ata.

The games started about 5 p.m. The political sponsors certainly made sure to let everyone know who was the main sponsor of this event; flags, shirts and even a song that was playing before the show started let us all know.

Most of the ceremony was conducted in Kyrgyz so I cannot say what was going on from the announcing stand-point but the opening ceremony where Kyrgyz equestrians showed their prowess in various tricks was spectacular.

The equestrians would bring their horses up to speed in front of the stands and then proceed to do various different tricks from the saddle, including jumping off the saddle and running along-side the horse for a few steps and launching themselves up and over the horse to do the same on the other side and then jumping back into the saddle. There was also one who did sword tricks while riding. At one point in the opening ceremony, a woman ran by the stands throwing small pieces of cloth which the horsemen then picked up from the saddle at speed.

After the opening ceremony the games changed into being simple horse-races split up by age group, with the youngest going first and progressively getting older. Due to other plans, I did not stay for the entire show but it was a lot of fun seeing the opening and some of the equestrian skill that Kyrgyz culture promotes.

The Hippodrome also hosts Kok Boru, a game that involves throwing a dead goat into a goal. I did not get to see but is one of the main horse sporting events of Kyrgyzstan.

This event was seen as part of SRAS’ Central Asian Studies course in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

National Kyrgyz Horse Games /
Национальные конно-спортивные игры

Address: Ипподром near Cholpon-Ata on Issyk-Kul

About the author

Ian Walker

Ian Walker graduated from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada May of 2015 with a degree in Philosophy and a minor in Law & Society. He is now studying Russian as a Second Language with SRAS in Bishkek while serving an SRAS-arranged internship at a local NGO to learn more about non-profit work and international community development. He hopes to start Peace Corps service in the following year or two to continue his career in community development. In the picture here, he pictured in a Bishkek park that has a tower which is locked until one purchases a ticket to go to the top, and holding a bottle of Maksim Shoro, a popular Kyrgyz fermented drink.

Program attended: Challenge Grants

View all posts by: Ian Walker