|2005-01-20 - The Yakuts - part 2
The Yakuts - a legendary horse people, part 2
20 Jan, 05 - 21:44
GPS-pos: N67°28´ | E153°42´ | Alt: 11 M
Thursday the 20th of January. It is -31°F with a light southerly and overcast here in Srednekolymsk.
The Yakuts, in the same manner as the Patagonian cowboy, name their horses either after how they look or a specific of the nature at the place where they´re born or what weather it is that day. My wife Titti and myself spent a year living together with these southerly cowboys and during our visit to Nalimsk the other day, I realized there are many similarities between these two equestrian cultures. The saddles are more or less the same construction. The Yakuts make them from birch and the style is old traditional Castilian, in Patagonia called recado. The saddle blanket is a work of art. It is made from tangled hairs from the horsetail and it is thick and very comfortable. The same handy work is done with the saddle straps. Hair from the horsetail. Thick, beautiful and comfortable. Everything else is made from leather from either cow or horse. The bite is simple, comfortable and soft. At least in comparison with the Patagonian variety. The stirrups are normally made of birch as well.
´´I bring my horses to drink here every day during the winter´´ , Vasili tells me at the same time as he cuts a whole in the thick ice and, suddenly he looks up and shouts; ´´Look, there are more thirsty horses in this village!´´
Five other Yakut horses trots cautiously our way. They don´t like our hurried movements, our camera flashes and stops. But finally they make their way to the watering hole. Even the tame horses walk freely around the village as they like. Well, at least normally. This winter, however, a big herd of wild caribou have made their way down from the barren tundra in the north to feed in the taiga of this area. And big packs of the giant polar wolves have followed their tracks.
´´These beasts can weigh up to a 100 kg:s´´ , Vasili claims, ´´and they will easily kill my horses and my other cattle in no time. For this reason, we keep a vigilant eye on our horses and even keep them locked up during day time.´´
The Yakut cowboy is as impressive and beautiful as his horse. Vasili is dressed in head cover made of the thick fur of the wolverine, he dons a coat of reindeer skin, his thick fur trousers comes from the laika or husky and his boots are made of the skin and fur from the hind leg of the horse. Same boots as the Patagonian cowboy.
´´Do you know´´ ,Vasili asks me proudly when we´ve returned indoors again, ´´that we Yakuts arrived to this region with our horses and our cattle at the end of the 15th Century? 50 years after the first Russians passed through here on their explorations. It was the horse which brought us here and opened up this vast land to more people than the natives who lived here than? Yugahirs and Evens.´´
In most Yakut villages we´ve visited, we came across plenty of totem poles, monuments from the Soviet Era and wall paintings depicting the horse as the number one symbol of this people. The Yakut name for horse is salgit as a collective name, but the local Kolymskaya horse is called at. And when seeing the Yakut handling his horse, it is easy to see how much they love this intelligent and beautiful animal.
´´You know, if we end up with an aggressive and violent horse or foal, it can take up to a year before we can ride it´´ ,Vasili continues to explain, ´´we never beat or use violence when training a horse. It has to take its time. This is a graceful and sensitive animal. And, I have to point out this, if a person has to beat a horse to make it do what one wants, this person is no horseman. He´s a brute.´´
The Yakuts don´t, as an example of their horsemanship, use a whip, riding stick or anything more brutally big than this to command their horse.
´´I am of the opinion´´ ,Vasili states, ´´that if you´re together with a horse every day for many years and after all this time still needs to beat the horse, you don´t understand horses. A real cowboy knows how to get his horse to do what he wants it to do, without using force.´´
´´It seems like you don´t shoe your horses?´´ I ask.
´´We used to in the old days when we rode big distances and at times ended up in rocky areas´´ ,the old man explains, ´´but we don´t ride any great distances today. And our local surroundings are made up of marshes and forests. You don´t need shoes than. But we do cut their hooves on and off. At least once a year.´´
Before the arrival of communism and the Soviet power in the 1930´s, who relocated all people in the area to a few big villages instead a many small ones, there was a stable every 30 km:s all over the territory. A place where both men and horses could get rest and food. A normal riding distance.
´´Our village Nalimsk was a kolschoz during the Soviet era´´ , Vasili sums up before we leave, ´´we had a fox farm, a pig farm, we farmed tame reindeer and we had a lot more horses than. All this fell apart with the arrival of perestroika. However, no matter what happens in the future, I know our Yakut horses will survive us humans. They´re much wiser, stronger and braver.´´