Equestrian tourism in Azerbaijan

Baku, March 9, AZERTAC

In Azerbaijan, which is an integral part of the Turkic world, since ancient times they have been breeding horses. Today there are more than 425 breeds of horses around the world, two of which appeared in Azerbaijan - the Karabakh and the Dilboz breed. These two breeds of horses are the pride of the Azerbaijani people. About the most famous Azerbaijani national breed of horses - the Karabakh steed, we already wrote once. This time we will tell you in detail about another ancient Azerbaijani horse breed - the Dilboz racehorse, and also consider the wide possibilities that horse breeding opens for the development of tourism.

Graceful Horse

Dilboz is a breed of mountain-riding packhorses that have been brought out on the territory of the Kazakh, Aktafa and Tovuz regions of Azerbaijan. Until the eighteenth century, these horses were bred only in Azerbaijan and did not cross with other breeds. Since the middle of the eighteenth century, Arabian, Persian and Turkmen horses have had some influence on their formation. But in the development of the Dilboz breed, the Karabakh steeds also played their role.

Typical features of the Dilboz horses are their unbalanced temperament and wide distribution of amble (the type of the horse's gait). Dilbozy have good health, longevity and fertility. The horse's temperament is nervous and very energetic, a positive trait is high playfulness. With herd maintenance, they finish their development by 4-5 years. Horses spend the winter on pastures located 500 m above sea level, characterized by sharply intersected relief and semi-desert vegetation.

Dilboz horses belong to riding horses, the suit is gray or bay (brown-black), with a small hull. Height 135-140 cm, and in the improved individuals 147-148 cm. Speed at a distance of 1600 m - 2 minutes 20.3 seconds, and at 1800 m - 2 minutes 39.1 seconds.

A very important influence on the growth, development and improvement of the breeding capacity of the Dilboz breed was the testing of horses at the Baku State Hippodrome, which began in 1923.

The horses of the Dilboz breed are used for traveling in the mountains and national sports. The breed is very hardy and easily overcomes 45-55 km per day in the mountainous area loaded with cargo weighing 115-130 kg and 70 km under the rider. At present, the tribal core of the Dilboz breed is represented by the descendants of the Ters stallions Tselostat and Pygmalion. Horse breeders contain 140 of the most typical Dilboz horses, including breeding mares with a high proportion of the Ters blood.

National Equestrian Games

Different countries have long had their own kinds of games involving a horse, but the goal of each of them is to reveal among the participants the most powerful, clever, and most importantly, able to find the perfect mutual understanding with the horse. In Azerbaijan, as well as in the entire culture of the peoples of the Caucasus, equestrian games are rightfully placed on an honorable place. In our country, several unique equestrian games have arisen and are developing to this day, according to which various contests and competitions are held every year.

Here, for example, the temperamental national game of sur-papakh ("chasing a cap"), which is often called equestrian basketball. The game is played on a field of 300-400 m in length and 60-120 m in width. At the far ends of the platform, a three-meter pole is mounted on which rings with a diameter of 50 cm are fastened. A five-meter penalty line is established around the post.

Riders, throwing a hat from a sheepskin to their partners (handing it over from hand to hand, is prohibited by the rules), try to throw it into the ring on the opponent's pole, without crossing the penalty line. There are two teams of six players - four attackers and two defenders (the latter play only in their half of the field). The duration of the game - two halves of ten minutes, with the same break between them.

The cap, thrown into the ring, gives the team one point, while casting from the back of the ring is not counted. The participants of the game are prohibited: to go out with the hat for the front line and throw it out, to keep the hat in hand for more than four seconds, to pass the hat from hand to hand without a throw, to cross the enemy's penalty area, to knock off the opponent's horse, to strike the horse or the rider. For violation of the rules of the game and rudeness in relation to other participants, punitive strikes on an unprotected ring and the removal of players for a certain time, up to the end of the game, are assigned.

Perhaps the most famous equestrian game of Azerbaijan is chovgan - an ancient national sports team competition. He is considered the progenitor of modern equestrian polo. In 2013 the Azerbaijani chovgan was included in the list of intangible cultural heritage of UNESCO.

Since ancient times chovgan, which was an aristocratic game, was held on a separate field, on specially trained horses. Representatives of the Shah's family often took part in the competitions.

The chovgan game is played on a flat grassy area measuring approximately 200 by 120 meters. In opposite ends of the field, a gate is installed about three meters wide, with a penalty line of six meters in a semicircle. Riders are prohibited from crossing the penalty line. A game with the goalkeeper is possible, then the gates make a width of seven meters with a four-meter penalty line. There are two teams of six riders, who are trying to drive a small wooden ball into the opponent's goal with a “chovgan” stick.

The game starts from the center of the field and resumes from the same place after each goal scored. Duration of the game - two halves of 15 minutes with a 10-minute break between them. After the break, the teams change their gates. The balls, knocked out for the side of the playing field (out), are returned to the game by the players of the opposing team.

Players are not allowed to enter the front line and score a ball from there, cross the penalty area line, knock horses off the pace, beat horses and riders with sticks. The team that scored the most goals wins.

And, finally, we can not fail to mention the joke Azerbaijani game papakh oyunu ("playing with a papakha"), in which riders, trying to keep their hats, try to take off caps from rivals. Five horsemen and one horsewoman participate in the game. According to the rules of the game, a woman has the right to take off papakhas from men, and her headgear should not be touched by anyone.

The game is usually conducted on a race track, on a length of 200 m. The game lasts 10 minutes. After the end of the game, the riders who did not keep their caps dismount, and the winners kick them out of the field.

Equestrian tourism - romance and health

Equestrian tourism or traveling on horseback can be called a cognitive and healthy occupation. This type of tourism refers to sports and includes the passage of a route with obstacles, such as forests, passes, rivers. Equipment and products are transported in special saddlebags or on a pack horse. The routes are mostly thought out for the untrained, unprepared for riding people. At the camp sites under special programs, preliminary training is conducted, after which the tourist gets skills of caring for the horse, the ability to manage it, to saddle and harness.

Azerbaijan is perfectly suited for the development of equestrian tourism. A large number of trails and roads laid in forests and mountains, which in ancient times traveled by horse and carts, allows you to choose very interesting routes and enjoy yourself, both from driving, and the seen beauties, sights and historical monuments.

Horse tourism is considered an elite type of active recreation. Horseback riding is different: it can be extreme races over rough terrain, or maybe a quiet walk, when you just relax and enjoy the beautiful views. Many tourists choose horse tours, which are designed for several days. If you go on such a trip, you can see a lot of interesting things and get an incomparable pleasure. You will ride on beautiful forests and a mountain plateau, visit many exotic places.

All kinds of equestrian sport in Azerbaijan are under the jurisdiction of the Equestrian Federation (ARAF), established in 1996. All equestrian clubs are in charge of the Federation. The Federation also organizes most competitions.

Among the centers located in the regions, it is possible to mention the Republican Center of Equestrian Tourism under the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan. It is located in one of the most picturesque corners of the Sheki district - in the village of Dashuz. Several breeds of horses are kept and bred in the Center - Arabian horses, English racehorses, German "trakenine", Akhalteke (Turkmen), and others.

Twice a year - in December and May, the Center holds competitions on the national game chovgan and other equestrian games. Tourists are given the opportunity not only to watch the games, but also to participate in them. Before that, they can be instructed by an experienced horse riding coach or simply ride a horse. For the pleasure of visitors, the Center of Equestrian Tourism has developed several one- and two-day travel routes to various parts of the Sheki district, during which tourists can get acquainted with the rich nature and centuries-old historical sights of this magnificent region.

Equestrian rides are becoming popular not only among tourists who travel to the regions of Azerbaijan, but also in the capital itself, where the number of equestrian clubs increases from year to year. Clubs have an excellent line-up of horses and very good specialists who know all the routes perfectly. The clubs teach riding adults and children. Among the capital equestrian clubs can be noted Horse Husbandry, Gunay Equestrian Invest, etc.

Hippotherapy - treatment with horses

Horseriding, in addition to pleasure, can be beneficial for health. The method of rehabilitation through medical riding is called hippotherapy. Moreover, therapeutic horse riding has a beneficial effect both on the patient's psyche and on the physical state of the organism.

In many equestrian clubs in Azerbaijan, some of the methods of hippotherapy are practiced. For classes with the most severe patients, methods are used in which the beneficial effect of horse heat on the patient occurs (the temperature of the body of a horse is 1-1.5 degrees higher than that of a person).

Severe patients are usually put on a horse without a saddle. The patients are also beneficially influenced by the rhythmic fluctuations arising when the horse moves, and the massaging effects of the muscles of her back, close communication with a large, strong and kind animal.

Less seriously affected patients usually begin with a therapeutic ride, but for them it is only the initial stage. This group of children is further taught the elements of horse management, and then the rules of riding.

We also note that there are not so many contraindications to the use of hippotherapy or therapeutic horse riding. Absolute contraindications for studies are hemophilia, congenital fragility of bones, any diseases in acute and subacute periods. Relative contraindications are some chronic inflammatory diseases (with special attention should be paid to the presence of kidney disease, diabetes, injuries and some diseases of the lumbar spine).

It is noted that horse riding has a particularly strong healing effect on children aged 5 to 12 years. In addition, horse riding comprehensively develops the child, makes him bold, dexterous, hardy, resolute and resourceful, strengthens the spirit. No wonder they say that the horse, first of all, heals the soul.

Every year horse tourism in Azerbaijan expands its borders. Many modern tourist centers are being built, new interesting routes are being laid. Azerbaijanis are trying to do everything to make our country more attractive for horseback riding enthusiasts, so that every year they gather here to meet old friends, remember the best trips and learn new routes, join the fairy-tale nature of our country, its history and culture.

Emil Eyyubov

The article uses information from the brochure of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism "Horse Tourism in Azerbaijan".

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