White, Wild, and Wonderful

Katie and Myles, Mikey's sister and her main man, are visiting us for two weeks. We have had an action packed time together!

Once the pair adjusted to the 12 hour time difference from Denver to Dushanbe we started our adventures by going horse back riding. This wasn't a pony ride at the fair or a follow the leader trail ride like we remembered from our youth. We rode buzkachi horses, horses that are trained to run fast and fight.

We arrived mid-morning to a village where the horses and chirvandos (buzkachi competitors) lived near Dushanbe. Mounting the horses was an experience in itself. Katie who hovers around 5 feet tall was assisted by the chirvandos. Viraf, a fellow Fulbrighter and Southern Califronia native was not the recipient of such help. Men don't insult other men by offering assistance. Viraf had never sat on a horse, much less ridden one, and my laughter prevented me from being any help. Eventually our horses were led to a near by wall where Viraf and I were able to settle into the wooden saddles and join the group.

Once on the horses, we realized the plan was unclear. We were delighted when two chirvandos joined us as guides. They were clearly unaware of our expectations which were based on horse back riding tourism in the states. Initially, we were all confused. We were startled when our horses started bucking and kicking towards one another. The guides were surprised we were stupid enough to put our horses so close together, yelling "these are buzkachi horses, they will fight!" A variety of lessons were learned quickly.

The weather was snowy with near white-out conditions for the duration of our two hour ride. If there had been scenery other than white, I'm not sure we would have been able to enjoy it. The majority of our energy was spent trying to stay upright in the saddle and to restrain our horses from galloping. Katie's horse was the spunkiest; it dumped her in a pile of snow half way back to the village. What a way to be welcomed to Tajikistan! She showed her gumption by remounting the feisty steed and leading us all back to the village.

This weekend we will attend a buzkachi match with a clearer understanding of how spetacular the chirvandos and horses are!


  1. this is good. keep doing things like this. You guys are an inspiration.

  2. This is great! Horse back riding trips can be so boring but it sounds like you all found the right kind of horses for some action! Is Mikey in training yet to win you some livestock as a buzkachi champion? Also, my vote for the name of the donkey (please, accept this late entry) is Tingalayo.