National gamesHorsemanship is a much-revered skill in Kyrgyzstan; due to the horse’s endurance and good co-ordination in the rugged landscapes, they are traditionally well-loved companions. In keeping with the Kyrgyz love of horses, and their importance in their lives and culture, they feature prominently in their national sports. These popular and unusual games feature at special events and give great pleasure and amusement to the local people.

“At chabish” – Popular horse racing. The competitors race their horses over long distances, often over 30 miles, testing the horses speed and stamina. The winner and his horse gain honour and glory among the villagers. There are also races for younger foals who are entered for shorter distances; when they turn three years old they can be entered into the main race. Occasions such as holidays and festivals are times for an Aht Chabysh race, and the winner receives jewellery and cattle as prizes.

“Djorgo salysh” – A competition of special breed of horses known as Djorgo.

“Kunan chabish” – Racing foals, two to three years old.

“Ulak tartysh” (or “Kok boru”) – Literally “Goat Snatching” also known as “Buz Kashi” in other part of Central Asia . Two teams of expert horsemen snatch a goat in a cross country racing match. A very widespread game amongst the Kyrgyz, Kazakh, Tajik, and Uzbek. The name “kok-boru” mean, “gray wolf”. In fact this original game is very ancient. It is appeared in those remote times when herds of cattle grazed in the steppes and mountains all year round without a shelter or top dressing exposed to the attacks of wolves. Having no firearms the shepherds could not deal with wolves on the spot. Brave djigits (young men) chased after the wolves until the beasts of pray ran off their feet, then began beating them with slicks and lashes, trying to snatch it away from each other. Later “kok-boru” was replaced by “ulak tartysh”. At present time this game is played on green meadows of high mountain pastures as well as on racecourses. To seize a goat in the center of the field and deliver it into the gates of the contesting team is the objective of the game.

“Oodarysh” – wrestling on horseback: Two riders try to pull each other off the horseback. It is allowed to throw the rival together with his horse. The time given for wrestling is 10 minutes. The rider who manages to pull the rival off his horse or throw him down together with the horse wins the competition. The rules allow the player to seize the rival by his sash or arms, by his torso, to press his knees or feet against the trunk of the rival’s horse.

“Tyin enmei” – picking up the coins from surface while racing on horseback:

Each gamer is allowed to make three attempts.

“Kyz kuumai” – Traditional game in which the boy on horseback must catch the girl and kiss her.

Previously the game was a part of the wedding. The bride, the bridegroom and a sister-in-law – with the friends took part in the game. The bride did her best to gallop away from her fiancé; the sister-in-law assisted her in this. The bride was given the best racer and she entitled to begin the races, so the bridegroom was given a handicap in distance. The bridegroom set out in pursuit, he had to catch up with her in this way proving his love for her and his right to marry her. Being at a disadvantage the bridegroom sometimes failed to catch up the girl. Yet she did not reject him and the wedding was not canceled. Following the tradition the man rider is given a 20 meters handicap. The young man has to catch up with the girl and kiss her while galloping or at least touch her with his headdress. Galloping back it is the girl who chases the young man and in case she catches him up she takes off his headdress. This is regarded as the sign of her victory.

“Er-siysh” – Two riders try to pull each other off the horseback with pikes.

“Kuresh” – Traditional wrestling.

“Toguz kargo’ol” – Traditional game played with nine balls.

“Jumby atmai” is a skilful game that requires the player to shoot at a target while galloping. A Jumby is a large bar of precious metal, usually silver, on a thread tied to an inclined pole. The aim is to break the thread by shooting it and bring the jumby down. Bows and arrows were traditionally used before being replaced by firearms.

“Falconry” on horseback is also a common sport, hunting for foxes, wolves and pheasants with falcons and eagles.