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Home » Arts and crafts of the Kyrgyz people. Culture of the people of Kyrgyzstan.

Folk art of Kyrgyz.

The history of horse tackle is long and varied. Different nationalities developed their own embellishments - but the whip (kamchi) was probably the first implement to be invented.
The bridle - providing a link between horse's head and the rider's hands first appeared over 5000 years ago.
The bit - although now made of metal - would probably have been originally out of rawhide, and fits naturally into a gap in the horses teeth.
The bit would be held in place by straps, or metal plates linking it to a headband and these features would often have been highly decorated - the decoration providing evidence as to who had made the piece and when.
Saddles were made out of wood, and often decorated with silver, leather and special coverings.
There were four main types - man's, woman's, children's and pack. Early saddles were large and heavy with a large pommel.
Later, lighter models with a narrower pommel and wider seat were adopted.
The wider seats and smaller pommels are typical of saddles designed for women.
A child's saddle came equipped with holes for leather traces which could be used to tie the child safely in and enable it to ride without fearing it would fall off the horse - an essential feature for nomads on the move.
The pack saddle was used for transporting luggage and wares and was later adapted for use with cattle.
A strap ("martingale" or "komolduruk") was used to fix the saddle - attached to the saddle and running along the chest and over the shoulder of the horse.
Stirrups appeared in Central Asia about 1500 years ago, although there is evidence of stirrups in India in the late II century BC. At first they may have been developed to minimize the danger of mounting a horse while carrying weapons, (apparently, Cambyses, King of Persia fatally stabbed himself leaping onto his horse in 522 BC).
Later, full length pairs of riding stirrups were developed. It may be surprising that something as the stirrup should have appeared so many centuries after man domesticated and began to ride horses.
There are some early stir rips, (identified as Turkish), dating from the 6th-8th Century to be found in the Historical Museum in Bishkek. They were attached to the front of the saddle. 
The "jeldik" is a felt mat which was placed under the dassle to protect from rubbing.
A special device (a "baldak") was adapted to fit onto the saddle to support the rider's arm when hunting with eagles, or other birds. Soon after foals were born, they would have been marked on the ears - or in the case of especially valuable horses - the nostrils.
The actual cuts used in the marking would have indicated which tribe they belonged to. Both Horses and cattle were also marked with a metal brand - the design was called a "tamga". 
When they arrived on the scene, the Russians taught the Kyrgyz how to shoe their horses. Before this the horses were never shod, and even later on it was not universal. 
Horses were also a source of meat and milk and served as a form of money - exchanged for goods, or given as gifts such as a dowry. Horsemeat was highly prized and served to honored guests - the choice of cut helped to define the status of the guest - the rump being given to the most honorable visitor.
It was considered to have curative value and was given to pregnant women and children to help build up their strength. A horse is still the preferred meat for weddings, funerals and other major celebrations and special herds of horses bred for their meat are kept - they are never ridden as this is said to ruin the quality of the meat.
The meat was usually boiled, but it was made into sausages or smoked. It is possible to buy and try some of the sausages in Kyrgyz markets, restaurants all around the country and of course at private homes.

Folk art of Kyrgyz.Folk art of Kyrgyz.Folk art of Kyrgyz.Folk art of Kyrgyz.Folk art of Kyrgyz.Folk art of Kyrgyz.Folk art of Kyrgyz.

Ian Claytor