Besides the Olympic (classic) equestrian sports, runs and jumps the folk equestrian competitions are very popular in the Soviet Union. They are included into the programme of Ail-Union Competitions which were initiated by the USSR Ministry of Agriculture in 1958 and now assemble many sturdy and brave riders from collective, state farms and studs. Over 25 years thousand jockeys, horse riders, equestrians and sportsmen have participated in these tournaments, and up to 10.000 horses have been tested for their worth.
Ail-Union Competitions are staged every year and continue for four consecutive days. The programme covers almost all kinds of equestrian sports: races, jumps, steeple chases, heats of Russian troikas (teams of three horses harnessed abreast) and rash Budyonny Horse-drawn machine-gun carts, contests in overtaking the obstacles, bright in colour national mounted games. Equestrians perform on the USSR-bred trotters and riding horses.
Such equestrian sporting events were a great success when conducted in Moscow, Kiev, Tashkent, Alma-Ata, Frunze and Tbilisi. The contestants were welcomed by equestrian sports lovers In Pyatigorsk, Krasnodar, Rostov-on-Don.
The competitions to mark celebrated dates of our country, are truelly popular and very aesthetic.
The X-th All-Union Competition dedicated to the 50-th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution will be remembered for a long time. Over 800 equestrians from the very distant regions of the country gathered at the Moscow Central Hippodrome in 1967. The Moscovites were witnesses of the unforgettable show. The bright procession of equestrians dressed in national costumes marched through the city center, along Leningradsky Avenue and Gorky Street.
Chestnut Karabakh, Don and Budyonny horses were glistening with gold in August evening sun rays. Light grey coats of Lokai, Arab and Orlov trotters were bright as silver.
Much interest was taken in the XXV-th All-Union Competition which was organised to mark the 60-th Anniversary of the USSR formation and staged in the autumn of 1982 in the highly developed horse-breeding Kuban area. The programme was comprehensive and magnificent.
The participants of the final are chosen at the trials held at republic and zone levels.
Thus, at this union-level forum meet able sportsmen riding best horses. Such Ail-Union equestrian events are very important from the animal science viewpoint as they help to detect the best horses to be used for breeding purpose.
The All-Union Competition programme includes "Russian troika" driving ("troika" - a team of three horses harnessed abreast) - great invention of the Russian people, unique heritage of the remote past. During the annual "Russian Winter" festival "Russian Troika" driving invariably attract many visitors to the USSR Exhibition of Economic Achievements. It is a real pleasure for tens of thousands of visitors to dash on the bird-like troika with bells ringing and jungling along snow covered alleys of the Main Botanical Garden.
These peculiar "aggregates" cover 1.600 m. distance in less than 2 min. On one of the troikas at the Alma-Ata hippodrome (with the rod-horse being the Russian trotter while side-horses being Thoroughbreds) the АН-Union record was put up at 1 min. 55 2 sec. over 1.600 m.
It is real art to bring horses together to have the troika and it is necessary to keep in mind that the middle horse (rod-horse) should be larger than the two others. It should be an agile trotter having good movements at the trot and with the head being held high up; all these make the troika magnificent. Side-horses should be well matched with the rod-horse in colour and distinctive for agile galloping. The best horses in this respect are Thoroughbreds. The troika is particularly attractive at the fast gallop when side-horses heads are drawn sideways and a bit lowered.
Mounted games that came from the dim past and have revived now, have as many versions as there are nationalities in the Soviet Union. With the Russian it is troika driving conducted at the time of "Russian Winter Send-off" festival, cassak's dashing fancy riding, competitions staged on rash horse-drawn machine-gun carts; with the Georgian these are exclusively impressive "tskhenburty" and "isindy"; with the Kazakh, Kirghiz and Uzbek people it is the long-run "baiga", thrilling "kokpar", magnificent "kyzkuu" and mounted wrestling ("sais" and "oodrysh"), with the Azerbaijan and Tadjik people it is the ancient "chovgan".
They all come under the heading of mass national equestrian sports being very popular. These games help to develop in young people bravery, strength and deftness. Many of these games were oblivious but at present have revived and are included into the schedule of the All-Union equitation contests.
What are these magnificent games?
"Baiga" is the racing conducted in the steppe over the distance of 25-50 km. The participants are not professional jockeys but amateurs, mostly children 13-14 years of age. "Baiga" is included into the All-Union competition programme.
The participants of such events ride horses on racetracks and make three or more circles dependent on the distance set (5 or 10 km), being constantly in sight. The competitors are numbered from 15 to 20 riders and sometimes even more. That who finishes the race first is the winner. Judges watch for inaccuraces in riders and have the right to deprive any participant of the prize for way crossing, or being an obstacle for others.
"Kyzkuu" ("chase the girl") is the national mounted game, the crowd-pleaser in Central Asian republics and Kazakhstan. The game being attractive and easy to be organized, gained increasing popularity in all Union republics. In this game, young men and girls competing in couples cover the distance of 400-500 m on the racetrack directly before the stands. During the first period of the game the young man is chasing the girl and if he catches her up he kisses her. During the second period of the game the girl starts chasing the young man and in case she succeeds she slaps him with "kamcha".
The degree of the rider's skill is determined according to a 5-point system. Horsemanship, horse's elegance and animation are considered. Couples usually wear fancy national costumes, while riding the horses being impressive in conformation and of the same colour of coat, and all this makes the competition to be very spectacular.
"Chovgan" is the mounted grass hockey. This is an ancient game. According to the legend it originated in Azerbaijan and Tadjikistan. From here it was introduced to Iran, India and Europe where it was named polo. On a flat grass ground 150-200 m by 60-120 m in area goalposts are set 3 m apart. "Chovgan" is rather like a horseback version of football in which the winning team is that which scores the most number of goals. The game is split into two periods of 15 minutes' duration with a 10 minutes' interval. Each team has six riders, four are forwards and two are engaged in defence. Grass hockey sticks, or crocket mallets with the extended handle and the ball may be used in the game.
"Sais" ("oodarysh") - the horseback wrestling is popular in Kirghizia and Kazakhstan. Just like in the ordinary wrestling, here the competitors are divided by weight with lightweight to be 65 kg, middleweights - up to 80 kg and heavyweight from 80 kg and upwards. The winner is that who manages to throw the opponent from the saddle. Duration of this game is usually 15 min. When one can not wrestle the rival to the ground the prize is awarded to that rider who exhibited in wrestling inventive techniques and high activity.
"Kokpar" is the favourite mounted game of the Kazakhstan and Central Asia peoples. It came from the time immemorial. No other game can be so exciting. This game may be regarded as the "king" of all national mounted games. Two teams attempt to push a mock "goat" (stuffed sack) over their opponent's goal line. This thrilling game is included into the schedule of national feasts held in the areas of its origin. There are many cases when tens and even several hundred daring "djigits" participate in this game. These contests are staged at the village ("aul") and later district levels. Valuable trophies are handed over to the winners. In All-Union equitation contests this game is played according to strict rules within the time limit.
Five horse riders line up along the sides opposite each other with one substitute being at each side. Contests are held at the hippodrome before the stands in the restricted area on the racetrack 400-500 m long. The game is time limited. Its duration is no longer than 15-20 min. The winning team is that which succeeds in passing the "goat's carcass", 30-40 kg in weight, over its own goal line most often.
The game requires the rider to be well experienced, to exhibit strength, a high degree of horsemanship, an ability to firmly seat on the saddle, to have a good reaction, and even, it would be appropriate to say, an arrant brevity.
Just like in football matches here the victory is won by the team, but not individually. Succes is achieved when the actions of "kokpar" players are in unison.
Horses play an important part in this game. They are usually a great help in pushing rivals away from the "goat carcass". Horses should be well manuevrable and endowed with intense agility. The latter feature is very important in those cases when the "goat" is hastily scooped up and quickly taken to the own goal mouth.
For these contests stocky, massive and powerful horses having been purposefully trained would do good. Such horses are highly estimated.
"Tskhenburty" is the old game glorified as long ago as in the XII-th century by Shota Rustavelli, the great Georgian poet, in his poem "The Hero Clothed in Tiger's Hide". Georgian mounted games, in general, are very aesthetic, dynamic and require a high degree of horsemanship.
Two teams of six riders in each, play this game. Their aim is to score the opponent's goal most often. The riders are furnished with long handle rackets with which it is possible not only to strike the ball but also hold it on. These rack-ets, "chovgan", look like large spoons.
The game is played in the ground 150-300 m long and 60-120 m wide. Goalposts are set 10 m apart. The game is usually divided into two periods of 15-20 minutes' duration with the 10 minutes' interval.
The riders wear fancy national costumes and sit on the well trained manuevrable mounts.
"Isindi" is the mounted fight with darts. Long-long ago when there were no fire-arms and troops were armed with sabres and lances, the battle usually started with the use of lances. Such is the background of the modern, completely peaceful, fervent game. There should be two teams of six riders in each, they are armed with "isindi" (light wooden darts 120-150 cm long with rubber caps). The game is played in two periods with 10 minutes' interval. The ground in which the game is played is rectangular in form and usually 110m long. Contestants are lined up along the wooden edges of the ground, 15 m away from them there are two, so called penalty lines marked with flag bending poles which are 80 m apart.
The game starts with the signal given by the referee. One rider of the first team crosses the opponent's penalty line and throws the "isindi" at the rider extremely left in the second team line, afterwards he turns round the bending pole and returnes to his team. Now the rider of the second team starts to pursue the former rider and at full galloping throws a dart at him. Having reached the opponent's penalty line he comes back to his own team. While returning he is chased and thrown at with a dart by the next rider of the first team. Ultimately all the contestants are one time chased and one time pursue over one period of the game.
The results of the game are valued according to the scoring systems. If the dart hits the rider, two points are scored, if the horse is hit - one point is scored; if the dart is intercepted in the air, two points are scored. Penalty points are scored for crossing the side and starting lines, for hitting the rival without a shot, and also for falling down a bending poles.
"Syurpapakh" (mounted basketball) is the ancient game of Azerbaijan people. The game is played on the racetrack 300-400 m in length, or in the court at both sides of which 3 m high posts with rings 50 cm in diameter, are set. The aim of the game is similar to that of basketball, only here instead of the conventional ball, a Caucasiantype fur cap-like ball (made of long hair sheepskin) stuffed with sawdust, is used. Each shot into the opponent's ring scores one point but if the ball is shot from the rear side of the ring, the goal is not made. There are two ten minutes' periods.
"Papakh-ojunu" ("take the fur cap away") is a merry coloured old Azerbaijan game. It is played as an individual, or team game. In both cases the aim is to take a cap off the opponent's head and try not to loose your own. In the first instance one girl and five men participate in the game and the rider who has taken two caps off the rivals, scores one point, and so does the girl whose headdress remains intact. The winner is that who scores the highest number of points. In team competition the rules of the game are the same but here two teams of 5 men and one girl are involved.
Fancy riding is a series of complicated, sometimes even acrobatic exercises executed by the rider on the fast galloping mount. In the past fancy riding included target shooting and other elements, and was of militarily applied nature. It was the favourite sport of cassaks of the Don, Terek and Kuban areas.
Elements of fancy riding are included into circus shows and are very effective, they are: horseback jumpings through a ring set to fire and some other events.
In equitation competitions fancy riding is usually conducted on the straight 300 m long racetrack. The way in which exercises are executed and fastness of paces are counted. The movements at the trot instead of being at the gallop and falling from the saddle are considered to be failure.
"Kabakhi" is the old game of the Caucasian people and a version of fancy riding. Individual and team competitions are admissable. The game is to be able to hit the target at the fast pace. Horse riders perform in turn. Various objects - targets - are placed 25 m apart from each other along the course.
The signal sounds and the rider starts with a fast pace rushing to the first 2 m high pole from the pedestal of which he fetches a lance, throws it into the air and catches it up. Then he makes a puncture with a lance into the stuffed animal lying on the pedestal of the second pole, then he throws a lance throught the ring fixed to the 3 m high pole, from the third pole pedestal he fetches a grenade and throws it through the ring of the fourth pole.
The rider scores a point for a "neat" hitting the target. With the equal number of points the winner is that who has covered the course quicker. The rider is eliminated if the horse's pace has been transient from the gallop to the trot, or the horse has stopped before the target.
All people especially those who spent their childhood in the country and had pleasure to be at the night-watch of horses at grass, as it was nicely depicted in the story "Bezhin Meadow" by I. S. Turgenev, are feeling inclination for a live nature with the horse included. It is pleasure and dream for many children to have a ride on a horseback even if it is the most common grey "Burka".
Now ponies are often met in recreation parks, exhibitions and zooes.
Riding these miniature horses help to develop in children bravity, resourcefulness, care for this obidient kind animal. Ponies have great future. The time will come when they are requisite of live animal keeping sections, children's playgrounds, children's houses, general education schools. Ponies will help to instil in children the care for "our minor brothers".
Hundred equitation schools, clubs, units set up on collective, state farms and at studs, are functioning in the USSR. Children at the age of 11-12 years are accepted to attend training lessons at schools and clubs.
Lessons are held two-three times a week. There are children's horse riding schools of such sports societies as Urozhai, Trud, Spartak (Moscow), Avangard (Kiev), Urozhai (Rostov-on-Don) and etc. There are also such schools at the Inter-Farm Association "Tulpar" (the town of Meleuz, Bashkirskaya Autonomous SSR), the experiment stud of the All-Union Research Institute for Horse-Breeding and other establishments.
A good example may be set by the rice-growing state farm "Krasnoarmeisky" (Krasnodar Province) where the sports facilities have been arranged for young horsemen with the nice manege and 35 horses at their disposal. Sixty children go in for horse riding here. Among state farm young people there is one Master of equestrian sport, two sport master candidates and six first-rate sportsmen.
The USSR Communist Party and Government take a great care of Soviet people health and physical education of the younger generation. The CPSU Central Committee and the USSR Council of Ministers Decree of September, 1981, "On Further Rise in Mass Participation in Physical Culture and Sports" provided for a comprehensive programme of the mass involvment of the Soviet youth into physical culture. The same is true of Equestrian sports; there will be established new equestrian sport schools and clubs in the city and country; classic and national equestrian sports as well as the favourite mounted games will be further developed.
The circus programme rarely can do without fancy ridings; it is the top of any circus performance on horses. Jumps with landing onto the saddle, an equilibrium riding on two horses at one time, exquisit exercises under the horses neck and belly - all these exhibit elegance and beauty of the magnificent animal - the horse which is ridden by brave and deft jockeys with a beautiful carriage.
Equestrian sport is not only an elegant but healthy element of physical culture. Horse riding is a pleasant pastime, it exerts a favourable effect on the status as it strengthens muscles and nervous system and is beneficial for the young and the old.
Over many years a large horse riding school have been functioning at the Central Moscow Hippodrome. Every year up to thousand Moscovites - people of different ages and occupation attend this school. Those who go in for horse riding, maintain their good shape and carriage, firm step, strength and spirits. It is well known that Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy even when he was 80 of age used to ride every day over long distances up to 15 versts (52.500 feet) - in any weather.
S. M. Budyonny, legendary Marshal of the Soviet Union, spent many years on the saddle. He liked to take rides up to his declining years and only when he was on the eve of his 90-th anniversary he quitted his stallion Sophist.
Among the contestants at the All-Union Horse Riders' Competitions there are many grey-haired veterans. S. Alishev, a 88-year-old member of the Tadjik team, was the third at the Alma-Ata competion in 1968 when he rode the ambler in a heat over 6.000 m distance having left ten young sportsmen behind.
Of late, horse riding started to be used as a therapeutic means against some serious ailments and chronic diseases.
Mounted tourism, an active version of pastime has gained an increasing popularity in this country. In 1971 the trail, passing through many scenic areas of the Altai mountains was first open to tourists. The tourist' base "Katun" which is located near the town of Biisk has 100 horses. Those who are fond of horse riding and wild nature enjoy such trips very much.
Mounted tourism is very popular in Latvia. Here the route is passing through picturesque areas of the Republic. The Tervete collective stud farm provides horses for this purpose.
In Bashkiria the admirers of this active sport put up at the tourists' base "Arsky Kamen" not far from the town of Byeloretsk. Here there are 150 horses of saddle and harness breeds. The tourists may take 16-20 days-long rides and observe the view of the Urals foothills. Parents and their children may take rides in carriages. In winter captivating rides in horse-drawn sledges await tourists.
There are popular trails in the Northern Caucasus (the tourists' base "Teberda"), in Buryatia (the base "Ulan Ude"), in Kabardin-Balkaria (the bases "Narzan Valley" and "Tashly-Tala", in the Kemerovo Region (the base "Yunost"), in Chuvashia (the base "Sursky Zori") and many others.
In the USSR, mounted tourism has a good perspective: a whole net-work of new mounted tourism bases is planned to be established in mountainous areas of the Northern Caucasus, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Bashkiria, Dagestan, Udmurtia, in the Crimean and East-Kazakhstan Regions and other areas.