Nestled between the majestic Caucasus Mountains and the Black Sea, Georgia is a country with a rich cultural heritage that extends to its equestrian traditions. Horse riding has played a vital role in Georgian culture for centuries, serving as a means of transportation, a symbol of power and nobility, and a source of pride for its people. Let us delve into the horse riding traditions of Georgia and explore how they reflect the country’s unique history and traditions.
Long since a horse was not an object of luxury or just livestock, but an integral part of every Georgian. It was the duty of all brave men in the highlands to break in a horse: they had to tame this powerful creature and gain its trust.
It was a great honor to have such a responsibility for the royal stable-keepers.
Horse racing has been an integral part of Georgian culture long since. Ritual horse races were and are still held to commemorate the dead and the worthy.
Throughout the year, Georgia hosts numerous festivals and celebrations centered around horse riding. These events offer an immersive experience into the country’s equestrian culture, featuring parades, races, and performances showcasing the grace and skill of both horse and rider. The Khevsureti Festival and Tushetoba Festival are among the most renowned gatherings that celebrate the equestrian traditions of specific regions.
To fully immerse oneself in Georgian horse riding traditions, one must don the Chokha, the traditional clothing worn during equestrian activities. The Chokha is a striking wool coat adorned with intricate embroidery, worn over wide trousers and cinched with a broad belt. Completing the ensemble is the Papakha, a traditional hat made from sheepskin or fur. The Chokha not only reflects the practicality of the clothing for horse riding but also symbolizes the pride and honor associated with this cherished cultural practice.
Along with the traditions of horse care and treatment, which were formed in Georgia for tens of centuries, the process of breeding and improving new breeds of horses was also underway.
The horse was a draft, labor force and the most convenient and cheapest means of transportation.
The natural conditions of Georgia required the creation of such a breed of horse that would be strong, healthy and could easily move both in the plain and in the mountain conditions.
Our ancestors even created such a breed of horse. This is the Tushetian horse. It is small-bodied, but well adapted to mountain conditions. It moves very well on steep mountain paths, carries quite a large load and can easily find food in mountain conditions, which is lacking in large breeds of horses.
As can be seen from the existing literature, archaeological and ethnographic materials, the Arabian breed of horse has been imported to Georgia since the early years, as well as the Circassian and Kabardian horses.
The history of horse riding in Georgia has been going on since the distant past. Surrounded by enemies, the Georgian people always attached great importance to cavalry training as a means of mastering human valor, courage, endurance and fighting ability. A defender/ warrior/ rider was trained by training on a horse.
Georgian people created and developed horse riding and the culture of equestrian sports for centuries.
Georgian Kings used expansive horses, in historical documents, we find a description of the Georgian horse, from which it can be seen that it was beautiful, strong, energetic and fast. As a result of the archeological excavations, individual items of horse armor of the Bronze Age have been discovered.
In the center of the “Eternal City” – Rome, on the Mars field, by the order of Antonius Pius, in the 2nd century, a magnificent monument of the Georgian ruler Farsman II was erected on a horse. He earned this great honor in a horse race held in the Coliseum.
B.C. In the 10th – 11th centuries, various equestrian spectacles were held in Georgia – including sports knight games.
Horse riding was well developed in Khevsureti. The horse here was famous for being used in the mountains.
There is a legend when King Erekle won the battle with the Leks. He singled out one Khevsurian hero and told him, that he would reward him with nobility. But the Khevsurian warrior said: My king, I don’t want nobility, give me the horse that the Tushetian has. He liked the horse during the battle.
At the end of the 19th century, Georgian equestrian teams systematically traveled to American countries, where they created a furor at circus-racetracks, and since 1900, they have been performing in Europe as well.
Georgian riders were participated in the Wild West shows held in the USA from 1892, which greatly influenced the development of the cowboy subculture. Their appearance in London caused great public interest. Queen Victoria wanted to see them at Windsor Castle.
The Georgian horsemen who came to the celebration celebrating the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America left the population and even US President Harrison surprised and impressed.
Horse riding holds a special place in Georgian tradition, representing the courage, grace, and cultural heritage of its people. Through equestrian skills, traditional attire, festivals, and a deep connection with nature, horse riding in Georgia provides a window into the soul of the nation. So, saddle up and embark on an unforgettable journey to experience the profound beauty of Georgian horse riding tradition firsthand.