Those of you who follow me via
Faecesbook Facebook may have gathered that I fell in love with the horses while I was over there.
I was always taught that the official definition of horse vs pony was simply that a pony was under 14 hands high at the withers. Turns out from a quick google this may actually be a competition-only definition, and that ponies have a different conformation to horses. Whatever, my point is that I had a terrible time not crying out "Look at the PONIES!", which I understand is deeply offensive.
(Seriously, though. Look at the ponies!)
They're an ancient breed, suffering little impact from human-induced selection, which probably explains their straight-backed conformation as much as it explains the incredible variety of hide colours.
The Mongolians (who don't name their horses) have over 300 different names for the colours of their horses. I was astonished when I first learnt this: I was even more astonished when I saw that the Mongolian horses need over 300 names for their different colours. There are horses over there sporting hides for which I had no descriptor.
They're short of stature, but they have hearts as big as the Mongolian sky. Those little horses will go, and go, and go. And they'll choose the pace, thank you very much. (You wanted fast, didn't you?) This was fine by me. The first word I learnt to pronounce properly in Mongolian was the command to go faster. Then, while cantering1 through countryside riddled with the burrows of the Mongolian gerbil, my Mongolian horse-riding guide taught me, through mime and mimicry of animal noises, the Mongolian names for horse, cow, sheep, goat, and camel. He also threw in dog and tiger for good measure.
If I ever make it back to Mongolia, it will be for a horse-riding holiday.
- A process perhaps best described as being perched atop the world's most willing pogo stick [↩]