Horseback riding in Abkhazia. Photo report
Some people are fond of football and hockey, while others, on the contrary, consider these kinds of sports as boring as gas welding. All these strategies, tactics and games with balls or pucks, cast a gloom over them. Such people usually prefer figure-skating or rhythmic gymnastics, where there is aesthetics and grace.
There are people who are thrilled by martial arts – boxing, wrestling, judo. Those who are strong and nimble have always enjoyed success. These peculiar likings are universal for any country, including Abkhazia.
However, the equestrian games is the only kind of sport towards which no Abkhkaz shows indifference.
No Lexus can supersede their genetic love for horses, though, it must be noted that the ‘iron horse’ has been recently increasing in importance. However, the Abkhaz have immortalized the role of horses to the point that the love for this animal will a priori remain for all time. Even the word hygiene in the Abkhaz language is associated with horses: the phrase “to take a bath is literally translated from Abkhaz as ‘to wash one’s horse.’ Moreover, the terrible sin, suicide, is translated word for word as ‘to kill one’s horse.’
The sacral love for horses, in general, has been automatically transferred to the equestrian games that include dozens of different kinds of them.
As a rule, the tournament season begins in May. First, the district contests are held and then, throughout the republic. Nearly all Abkhaz villages have their own individual teams. Although these teams are considered to be amateur, the approach to training, in which there are no short-term pauses and regime violations, are similar to what is seen at the professional level.
Some teams participate on behalf of their village in races of various distances, while others take part in ҽыла ампыл асра (equestrian polo), аҵәеигәыдҵара (dart throwing), and аҽырхәмарра (fancy riding).
“Charaz is one of the most widespread equestrian games. The essence of this game is as follows: a horseman riding at a high speed along the plane grass field makes the horse drop speed by pulling reins and simultaneously slide on the ground with all four limbs. In this game, the winner is the horseman whose horse has made the largest tracks. It should be noted that a winner is determined taking into consideration the following: the horse’s slide; the horseman’s saddling techhnique, how one leaves the field and other parts of the competition.
In another equestrian game named “Аҵәеигәыдҵара (dart throwing) two groups of horsemen are facing each other at a distance of 100-300 meters. Each horseman has a 2-2.5 meter nut stick.
The game begins with a slow ride of one of the horsemen from the first team. He slowly rides up to the second group and up reaching a distance of 20-30 meters (from the set control line), he turns his horse around and gallops full-speed back to the starting point. At that very moment, one of the horsemen from the opposite team tries to gain on his ‘adversary’ and throw darts at him, trying to target either the horse or the horseman.
This process is repeated as many times as the number of participants in the match. The acme of skill is when the galloping horseman catches a dart thrown at him and counterattacks. The winning team is the one that has hit the ‘adversary’ more times.
Polo is regarded as the most spectular of all the equestrian games. Two teams of horsemen take part in this game. They each hold a 1.5-2 meter long racket, unique for the game. On one of the endings there is a widened pear-shaped part with a string net, similar to that of a tennis racket. A leather ball, the size of two fists and stuffed with moss is used in the game. The payers determine the size of the playing field by drawing the sidelines and face lines.
The game begins in the center. The ball is tossed up. The players try to catch the ball with their rackets and gallop with it beyond the face line. The team that carries the ball beyond the face line the most times is the winner.
During polo tournaments passions run high. I think those who have ever watched a game between the Likhni and Kutola village teams, with their harsh collisions, strikes, falls, broken limbs and rough play, will after this pageant definitely yawn if the whole community is watching on TV an evening match between such football greats as Barcelona and Real.
Toponyms and terminology used by the author, as well as views, opinions and strategies expressed by them are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of JAMnews or any employees thereof. JAMnews reserves the right to delete comments it considers to be offensive, inflammatory, threatening or otherwise unacceptable