Photos Featured Polvo the Mongolian Horse

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#1
I'm in Mongolia right now traveling with a horseback caravan of people who just met on the internet. Here's the continuing story of my lil' Mongolian pony:

img_20160707_010527-jpg.40814_Polvo the Mongolian Horse_Furry Nomads_Squat the Planet_3:00 AM

Polvo being fat and healthy, weeks into the caravan.

When I first saw this guy, he was tied up to the halter of a big, strong, healthy-looking chestnut horse with a full mane (all our horses so far had theirs shaved for the summer, kind of a visual bummer). I wanted the flashy horse, but we still had bigger taller people without riding horses so I gave over regretfully.

I took a quick look at the other horse -- a drab, shaggy dust-brown gelding. He was all ribs and hips and spine, with huge pits over his eyes, but while the other horse was stuffing his face to the exclusion of all else, this one was looking at me.

The horse was watching me closely, but didn't flinch or back away. He let me touch his head. He rubbed his forehead on my hand. I took the rope off his neck and stuck his head in a halter, and he just kept watching me calmly and allowing it. I leaned onto his back and he sniffed at me. I lead him away, awkwardly scrambled onto his bony back and walked him around a bit.

img_20160607_015307-jpg.40829_Polvo the Mongolian Horse_Furry Nomads_Squat the Planet_3:00 AM

Polvo's winter hair and brand

He seemed like exactly what I was looking for... a nice, easy, likeable horse for someone who doesn't know how to ride horses. Enough grain and grass oughta fix the skinny part. I'd daydreamed of some beautiful gray or silver horse, but a mud colored pony suited me, too. I got his bridle on, saddled him without much resistance, rode him up over a hill and out of sight.

The motto of this whole trip had been, thus far, for better or worse, "Go big or go home." My motto could had been "Fake it till you make it". Two minutes later he was galloping out of control. "Out of control" meaning I had only the vaguest idea of how to control him, and it didn't work. He crested the hill, started to barrel down, and launched me off ahead of him right before kicking the whole saddle off.

By the time I dragged my saddle back to camp, the horse had been recaptured. I was swollen from neck to ribs to elbow and couldn't raise my right arm. I told the guys I wanted the horse, staked him out with our other horses, then collapsed in my sleeping bag and suffered.

The next day I discarded all the names I wanted to call my imaginary silver horse and decided to call him Polvo.

img_20160531_232759-jpg.40815_Polvo the Mongolian Horse_Furry Nomads_Squat the Planet_3:00 AM

First time carrying my gear, no big deal.

After a few days, I could move enough to saddle him if he stayed put and I could do it one handed. This did not happen often, and he eventually got fed up with my fumbling and stopped cooperating. I stuffed him with grain, gave him parasite meds, but couldn't do much more then walk him like a dog.

When the caravan started moving, I'd ride him, but we'd not spent much time together. He'd ignore me and just follow the other horses. I tried hard to get over it, but the fall left me pretty scared. I'd get him to trot, then go stiff and cling to the saddle.

img_20160611_194604-jpg.40816_Polvo the Mongolian Horse_Furry Nomads_Squat the Planet_3:00 AM

Polvo and Bo at seed camp.

I was very grateful for him. His problems were so minor. After a few days of difficulty he settled back into accepting the saddle and only giving me trouble with the bit. He never ran away, he never kicked or bit. He took his saddle bags and a bundle across his back on the first try. Nothing seemed to spook or surprise him. He'd be calm after days without being ridden. Sometimes I'd rage and curse and yell when he'd stubbornly refuse to go anywhere without another horse to follow... but of all our horses, I think he is the only one I could handle one-handed and in pain all day.

Soon after we left seed camp, I was feeling restless, cranky, and maybe functional enough to leave the caravan for a bit. To carry enough food for the long trip ahead without being an awful bastard, I'd have to walk and lead Polvo with my gear.

After a big storm and a big argument, I loaded up my horse, gave a "Hey seeya bye", and lead him off, hoping the long walk would wear me out, help me be more patient with my friends and my horse. As soon as Polvo realized what was going on, he started to try and turn back, and call to the other horses, but I pulled him along until they were out of sight.

img_20160707_010646-jpg.31992_Polvo the Mongolian Horse_Furry Nomads_Squat the Planet_3:00 AM

The first night with just my small tent, fire, and my little horsie munching grass and scratching his butt on trees.

From that point on, I didn't have the heart to be hard on him. I had him figured for a thick-skinned, stubborn horse, too used to harsh Mongolian treatment to pay any attention to me being nice... but the next morning, I let it take as long as it needed to to get his bit in without tying his face to a tree, hobbling him and wrestling the thing onto him. I started gently touching his mouth whenever he was enjoying a good head-scratch. After three days he stopped fighting me every morning.

I kept him eating tall, lush grass whenever we where not moving. I'd get up twice a night and move him so he always had the best. He'd rush up towards me every time I came out of my tent. He'd wake me up at night if I was slow about it. He lost the last of his winter hair, and was plump and glossy under it. His back rounded out and the pits over his eyes filled in. After a week, he was either relaxed or exhausted enough to lay down and sleep, something he previously would never do without the security of a herd.

img_20160710_211510-jpg.31994_Polvo the Mongolian Horse_Furry Nomads_Squat the Planet_3:00 AM

All the best grazing for Polvo

As long as I lead him, he seemed pretty happy for a lonely horse. He'd come up and nuzzle my hand, follow me with no hesitation, crash through thick brush and marsh, climb over rocks and through deep water. We'd swat the same flies, dip our heads into streams side by side... He'd eat grass while I filled my pockets with wild herbs and greens. One morning, while I was picking nettles to boil for myself, Polvo came over in his hobble, watched intently, then grabbed up a mouthful before I could stop him. Fortunately the stings seemed to fade pretty quick.

img_20160710_214639-jpg.31997_Polvo the Mongolian Horse_Furry Nomads_Squat the Planet_3:00 AM

Riding, once my supplies had been lightened, was hit or miss, sometimes he's stumble and meander, trip over rocks in plain sight, try to follow herds of horses, yaks, even sheep and goats. Sometimes he'd go exactly where I wanted with a eager step, but I never rode him faster then a hesitant trot.

img_20160710_213325-jpg.31995_Polvo the Mongolian Horse_Furry Nomads_Squat the Planet_3:00 AM

Moments before being pummeled by hailstones....

After over two weeks alone, I'd run out of food and cash. With nowhere safe to leave him all day, I walked him right into Tsetserleg. Tsetserleg is a big town, a real town. I took him through paved roundabouts, apartment complexes, construction zones, gas station parking lots, and finally downtown, where I tied him up in front of a guesthouse and went to the bank. Other then trying to kick a lady who patted his butt, he did great, but I was too nervous to take even one hand off his lead for an awesome photo op, so no pics exist. I got my groceries and we left again without incident.

img_20160720_105407-jpg.31996_Polvo the Mongolian Horse_Furry Nomads_Squat the Planet_3:00 AM

A long day of being a shopping cart

Two days later, after 18 days, over 200km, lots of rain days and almost entirely me walking on my own feet, we rejoined the caravan. I brought him back, healthy and handsome and me proud enough to be his mama every time he got a compliment.
 
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#2
First time back on the STP in awhile and I get to see this. It is wonderful. It must really take some learning. He is a good looking animal. Is he shod? Also, how were most people and authorities in town with an animal? I'm guessing its a little different than most towns in the U.S. Great thread, something substantial.
 
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#3
It's a crazy amount of work and learning. You get on a horse and he's good. You get on the next day and he's awful. Then you're leading a second horse and they want to fight. Or race. The more I get used to my horse, the less comfortable I am with all other horses, even though we all pretty much rode any new horse that was brough to us in the beginning....

More then half the group including me had no prior experiance with horses. No one speaks Mongolian. One of us was out with a nomad family two weeks alone herding sheep on a wild little horse he just bought, with people he couldn't talk to. We've had horses run away for days, get stolen, get injured. I bailed out with basically no money, no way to communicate and a horse I could barely ride for a good part of a month, and came back better for it.

This is that shit I need to remember when I get restless and feel like we move too slowly. Really we're doing fucking well.

Oh yeah - questions. I don't know if horseshoes even exist in Mongolia. After a while you stop bothering to even look at their hooves. The only thing they've required aside from food and water has been wound spray and parasite meds. I think I might be disappointed by any other horse after seeing how tough these guys are.

Authorities? What authorities. Only policeman I've seen so far was clowning around with a drunk guy. Supposedly you are not supposed to bring horses downtown. In reality, there is a herd grazing in a weedy lot across the street from the guesthouse I'm writing this in.

I really, really love this country.
 
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#4
Found this one from Mandalin's camera from really early on when he was super skinny. Can't believe how much better he got in such a short time.

img_20160531_091451-jpg.32001_Polvo the Mongolian Horse_Furry Nomads_Squat the Planet_10:41 PM


I guess its pretty normal here, though. Mongolian herdsmen usually have dozens of horses - they can work one half to death, then turn it loose into the free roaming herd to eat and fight and play and run all it wants.
 
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#5
The story continues!

I pretty much used up all the good pictures, so maybe I'll pop some in here later?

Polvo learns to run!

I mean, he is a horse. Horses run, but it felt an awful lot like maybe he forgot how.

The first three days back in camp, I focused hard on getting my pony to gallop, and staying on his back when he does it.

My saddle rides like a wet log, I have mismatched slippery stirrups, and Polvo is pretty stoppy. On the first day, I felt like I'd launch off his back every time his front legs slammed down. Polvo would run with the other horses, sometimes without them, but he'd stop to fart, stop for mud, stop for bare dirt, stop for a piss, stop to look at distant horse herds.

Dogs chased us and he bucked me off. By this point I was limping on both legs. My right arm was still weak from the first fall, my left was scraped and bruised. I had major blisters healing in my boots, a jammed thumb, and the muscles up the left side of my back were all swollen from landing on my back on a hard water bottle. I was getting desensitized to minor injuries, and actually felt pretty confident.

The first day, he hit a pretty good gallop, even if he was hesitant about it. The next day, he did it again and held it longer, with his only friend Bo with him. After that, it got easier to hold him to a fast canter. He started running over mud and jumping small creeks. Ishtar's big tall horse leaves him in the dust, but he'll lay back his ears and try to keep up. My pony is becoming more ambitious!

I wonder how much of my fear he was picking up on. Now I've figured out how to balance right, and I love riding him fast. He still has thin legs, but he seems happy to go until he runs out of steam, and he'll take off again as soon as he cools off a bit.

Life is so awesome right now.






 

Brother X

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#6
Great stories! Always been fascinated with the Steppe cultures. As a horse rider I can tell you, it's luck of the draw with horses from "rental" services. However, I've noticed the longer you can keep one horse, the better your chances are of bonding with that horse and having them calm down. Sounds like your doing a good job. Cheers.
 
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#7
We actually bought all our horses. We got a good connection who arranged the sale at 350USD each... I guess it is fairly similar, though; we could only do so much shopping around. Guys from 50km away or further would show up, leading whatever horses they had to sell.

It felt like they were confused that we were being so picky. I guess if you're a Mongolian herdsman you just get on anything, wrestle it into submission and get back to work.
 

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#8
Wow - Looks like absolute fun! I've been watching a couple kids in FL on another site I mod - and they plan on cross country on horses. Right now they are gearing up and planning where they are going.
 
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#9
epic, epic, epic, epic and moar epic.

This is the kind of stuff that really moves me. I hope you keep up with the updates, amazing adventure you are taking there. You are the kind of people that really inspires me.
 
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#10
Now that is awesome. Have some amazing adventures. Your horse is so cool.
 

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#12
Thank you for sharing.

Your example is uplifting and inspiring. Adventure on!
 
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