Horses are a way of life in Mongolia and a central part of the Mongolian culture and identity. Most anyone who has grown up in the countryside here has used horses to get around, to race, to carry goods and to ride for pleasure. It’s not uncommon for people to have a small herd of 30 or 40 horses, or if more ambitious, three or four hundred. Riding during the autumn in some of the national parks, like the Gorkhi-Terelj NP in the Khentii mountains just north of the capital city Ulaanbaatar, horse herds of all sizes can be seen roaming free, almost wild, part of the natural landscape.

 Keith Swenson, an expat living in Mongolia for the past 24 years and co-owner of Stone Horse Expeditions, says, “riding through these cultural and wild landscapes, both inside and outside the parks, you move past herds of horses that seemingly belong to no one. They’re beautiful and stunning to watch and will come running to you in their curiosity to see who is passing through”. Of course, each horse is definitely owned by someone, but the custom in Mongolia is to allow herds to roam about without human supervision, a lead mare guiding their movement under the watchful eye of the herd stallion. The horseman/herder knows where their herd is most of the time and can easily locate them when needed.

There are a number of opportunities to take a multi-day horse camping trip, where one can travel through extraordinarily beautiful landscape and see these herds for yourself. Traveling by horse in Mongolia through pristine nature is “soothing for the soul”, as Keith puts it. “Being with close friends or like-minded companions on a small group excursion, really brings you into focus with yourself and your horse, the outside world is far away”. This sounds great, but it’s always good to approach this type of travel with a bit of preparedness and knowing the outfit has the experience, the equipment and the resources to provide good, calm horses that are treated well and can get in and out safely and in comfort that can accommodate all level of riders.

While visiting Mongolia, one of the protected areas to visit on a day trip, or for an overnight experience, is Hustai National Park, where herds of the true wild horse can be seen. The Przewalski horse, or the “Takhi” in the Mongolian language can be found a few hours outside of Ulaanbaatar. These are true wild animals and a throwback to before the horse was domesticated. They’re smaller, stouter and way tougher than any riding horse. An ancient symbol to a past era when horses were hunted wildlife, revered and painted on cave walls.

So, for the horse enthusiast, or anyone who is keen to experience and adventure travel trip on horseback, Mongolia is the place to be in 2023. It’s easy to get to via Seoul, Hong Kong, or Istanbul if coming from Europe. There are also a number of other cultural and tour activities available that are not all horse riding that one can enjoy visiting while in this ancient “land of blue sky”.

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