Mongolian horse races are epic events. Unlike other countries, our races are measured in kilometers and held in the steppes. The distance depends on the horse’s age. The youngest, two year olds, race 10km. The farthest distances are for 6 year old horses. Their distance is up to 26km. The races usually occur in July, during Naadam ( Mongolian style olympics), but are also held for different occasions. This is how we classify and separate the races:
- 2 year old (daaga): 10–12km
- 3 year (shudlen): 12–14 km
- 4 year ( hyazaalan): 17–19km
- 5 year (soyolon): 22–24km
- 6 year and up ( ih nas): 24–26 km
- stallion races (azarga): 22–24km
Now back to your question: Do horses care if they win or not?
Yes, the horses are aware that they are competing and they have a competitive spirit, which makes them forget the rider. Sometimes, not often but it happens, the riders fall off the horses and the horses continue the race. They would race all the way until the finish. We recognise these horses and we don’t disqualify them. They get to keep the ranking according to finish. In older times, a horse would even be in one of the top five places. In recent years we changed the rules and the horses are automatically downgraded 5 places. So if the horse was the first, it would be automatically counted in the 6th place.
racing to the finish
just before finish