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Horse riding is not just a recreational pastime in Kyrgyzstan. The Kyrgyz, traditionally semi-nomadic herders, have always largely relied on horses. One ancient proverb refers to them as “The wings of the Kyrgyz” because they represent a friend, worker as well as a source of food. The nomadic heritage is in the culture present until today, as many herding families seasonally move from lower valleys in winter to higher pastures in summer. Horses are indispensable for agriculture and transportation in Kyrgyzstan. In the country’s mountainous region horses can reach areas that would hardly be accessible for vehicles without consuming costly fuel. Additionally, horse milk is an irreplaceable component for the national drink Kymyz.
These pictures offer a tour of the Kyrgyz national sport which is - what else than - horse games. All photos were taken by RFE/RL Kygyz Service, Radio Azattyk photographer Vlad Ushakov on November 9, 2011.