Thursday, 12 July 2012

Horse Racing

It had to be done; a trip to the Nadaam horse racing about 30 kms from UB city centre. Left at 0700, for the wildest ride ever; a complete no rules death race of buses, vans, cars, trucks – and us. Officially one lane in each direction, but in reality five lanes each wayt one 'proper' carriageway but numerous tracks and the hard shoulder, all being used to overtake anything and everything and all at top speed. It was a bit scary on a bike though – vehicles change lanes without warning and just shove you out of the way if you let them, and the dust cloud is phenomenal; its like an old London pea souper of sand and gravel which chokes as well as blinds you. So you have to just keep going and hope for the best. ( Can't upload the video at the moment but its a good 'un) 

We were two up on the new bike and we survived both the traffic and the bike. It rattled and screeched, the wheels wobbled and the brakes needed lots of encouragement but it too kept going. It does have some good points though; the double horn is excellent and the paint job is cool – fire engine red with gold Cyrillic lettering ( which spells Mustang 5) The rest though is woeful and I will not be swapping my Hornet for it. But the scoots are another matter; they are the business, despite mine having died.

We spent the day watching the races. It was nothing like the race meets in the UK or Aus - no starting gates, and a field of about 100 horses who charge off from the line and run a course that takes about 2 hours, ridden by colourfully robed child jockeys who bash the horses with huge great poles.

Spectators crowd the finish line and when the horses arrive, it all comes together in a huge stampede – horses, jockies, spectators all pushing and shoving and kicking.

We got caught in the melee which was actually a bit scary because people really do just shove for all they are worth to get into a space- regardless of whether there is anybody already in it. And we had a line of horses behind us with their riders egging on their friends in the race. Unfortunately, they got a bit spooked by the noise and the the shoving and one trod on Nadine's foot and then kicked me. Good job we were wearing boots then and not soft shoes. Never had a dead leg from a horse before and probably wouldn't want another, given the choice.

There were also a couple of bactrian camels there – two hump jobs ( dromedaries have just the one) but I think these were for rides rather than racing. But a camel race would definitely be one to watch.

The skills of the horse jockies are very impressive. Men, women, small kids ( boys and girls) completely at ease aboard a moving mass of mane and muscle. And wooden saddles or just blankets and a rope around the horses' neck. And the rider rides standing up while the horse runs rather than gallops. 

It looks very odd at first – a bit like those old fashioned news films where people and animals move a bit too quickly, and look like they are trying to run while giving the appearance of walking in case somebody notices. But that's what Mongolian horses do – run as not gallop.

The animals get worked hard but they are looked after too – even getting a lift to and from the race on the back of a pick up truck or in the back of a car. How considerate is that?

But there are a few dud riders. Even I know that horses puff their guts out so the girth needs to be checked before getting on. Not this bloke though.

And the police clearly had ' super friendly, I'm your mate, you can trust me' orders today. Check out this officer giving local kids a ride on his police bike! That wouldn't happen at the Notting Hill Carnival.