Wind of Heaven
Moving across the landscape on horseback is a way of travel that is hard to match in grace, speed and enjoyment. Anybody who has done it will understand the Arabian proverb that says: “The wind of heaven is that which blows between a horse’s ears”. And while a bit of a run is fun, and some horses seem to like it just as much as their riders, it’s a steady, smooth, long trot that makes the real experience of horseback travel. The kind of travel we pursue on our Stone Horse tours in Mongolia, whereby you enjoy and learn about your horse, your company, the land you travel through and the people whose land it is. This travel may be following the course of a wild river, with views of distant mountains, following a centuries old horse trail in the wilderness that is now designated as a park, protecting the mountains and forests of the “Khan Khentii”. Maintained for hours, it offers everything you may want from a riding holiday – seeing beautiful scenery from a great vantage point, traveling light and natural, treading lightly on the earth while making good distance. It’s really good exercise too, for your body core and thighs. It is meditation on horseback, taking in the lay of the land, your mind alert yet peaceful.
Wind of Heaven – Experience it Trotting in Great Landscapes in Mongolia
But perhaps the most beautiful thing about the trotting is the way our horses take to it on their own impulse. And how they seem to let us know that they are “hot to trot”. And this is particularly true for the two greys. Being brothers and having spent all their lives closely together, they always like to coordinate their moves. Whether its leisurely grazing or shying slightly at the unexpected movement of a bird flying from the grass, a deer or shadow in the dark when they both perform a kind of choreographed dance, a quick turn to flight for a moment before gaining back their confidence that no predator is close, – or whether it’s to start the trot.
Of course it is easy to prompt this matched pair into a trot when the trail and terrain is right or the hour advanced and we want to reach camp to allow for a restful time. But mostly, this is not even necessary as they probably have the same idea anyway. Either of the two may start the trot, with a smooth transition from their fast walk. It feels so natural and they seem to really enjoy it. It seems like they are on “cruise control”. During our early expeditions, when we explored the Stone Horse routes, we would move along at this smooth pace for hours, allowing us to cover long distances between camps.
Horses’ Gaits and Riding Adventures in Mongolia
The ease of trotting has been studied to learn what horses knew anyway – that trotting is the most energy efficient gait for a wide range of speeds between walk and gallop. The horses just seem to love the feeling of cruising along at this natural gait with the “wind of heaven” whistling through their ears. This is even more so when heading home. And upon arrival back, after hours of trotting, I have witnessed the energy efficiency of the trot, and the fitness of my horse. There may be no sweat at all on his back under the blanket when I take off the saddle. Still, he likes to have a good roll and get all dusty before strolling off with his brother and the rest of the horse team to graze in his home valley – just back from cruising around the mountains for some ten days of adventure and exploration with riders from around the world.
If you want to read more about the energy efficiency of horses gaits, this is one paper on the subject: “Gait and the Energetics of Locomotion in Horses”, by D. F. Hoyt and C. R. Taylor, published in Nature, Volume, 292, 1981. If you want to experience it, go here.
You will enjoy views like these: