Everything You Need to Know About Horse Riding in Mongolia

If you really want to see what Mongolia is about, hop on a horse!

Aagie Batjargal Tour Guide

Guest Post by: Aagie Batjargal

Hi! My name is Aagie, I’m a tour guide for Meanwhile in Mongolia. I will be giving you insights and perspectives of a local on exploring our beautiful country, as well as joining you on the tours we host!

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If you really want an immersive experience when visiting Mongolia, hopping on a horse is the way to go.

It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for an afternoon adventure or a few days completely off-grid, riding a Mongolian horse opens the door to unforgettable experiences. It’s the perfect way to find a genuine connection to the landscape and get a unique insight into nomadic culture.

Here’s everything you should know before riding a horse in Mongolia or booking a horse riding trip.

About Mongolian Horses

Mongolian horses, locally known as “taki,” are known for their resilience and endurance, playing a crucial role in the practicalities of nomadic living. Acting as a reliable mode of transportation and an efficient herder of Mongolia’s big five (goat, sheep, horse, camel, cow), the Mongolian horse has been a companion to nomadic communities for centuries.

Standing at an average height of 12 to 14 hands, this breed might seem smaller than Western breeds, but their sturdy build suits the challenging terrains they navigate with exceptional endurance. You can especially witness this during the Naadam festival, when local herders race their horses against one another for both prize money and pride. Training and raising strong race horses is a very big deal here.

Having been born and raised in Ulaanbaatar city myself, and with no relatives still living and practicing the traditional nomadic lifestyle, I started my journey of connecting with my nomadic roots not so long ago. Learning to ride these free-spirited Mongolian horses has been a “wild” ride. Here I’m going to share the things I’ve learned from the local nomadic herders I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time with, men and women who have formed lifelong bonds with their horses starting at the age of three or four.

Mongolia Horse Riding

Are Mongolian horses really semi-wild?

Our horses are intentionally kept in a semi-wild state, allowing them to maintain a spirit of independence and resilience to survive in harsh environments.

There are no fences in Mongolia and horses are allowed to run free for most of their lives.

Herders will go out in search of their herds daily, checking on them and taking them to water and making sure each of their horses are okay. In Mongolia, horses are godly and being a horse herder is one of the most respectable things you can do.

The horses live off the land and Mongolians, for the most part, do not eat horse meat as part of their regular diet. Instead, it’s more desirable to have a larger herd. The more animals you have, the more successful you’re seen as.

Things to Know Before You Go Horse Riding in Mongolia

Since horses are a nomadic herder’s most prized animal, it’s important that you show respect when horse riding in Mongolia.

Here are a few things to keep in mind before mounting a Mongolian horse:

  • Always approach slowly from the left side and never walk behind a horse.
  • Don’t wear clothing that makes loud noises, like a rain jacket, or loose flapping jackets or backpacks that may accidently scare the horse. Never try to take off a jacket when you’re on the horse, always dismount to do these things.
  • When saddling up, a Mongolian horse may feel shorter compared to a Western horse. Sit in your saddle slowly and with caution and always be conscious of keeping your feet barely in the stirrups in case they start bucking. Basically, always be cautious and respect their spirited nature.
  • Steering with one hand is common here, but using both hands will work too. The key is to be decisive and confident and to never let go of your reins. If you feel uncertain about riding, ask your horse riding guide to pony you until you feel comfortable enough to ride on your own.
  • If your horse starts to go to the bathroom, stand up in your stirrups. Doing this takes pressure off their kidneys.
  • If your horse starts to lay down while you’re on it, try to dismount as quickly and safely as possible. Don’t let the horse roll over with the saddle on its back. Try to get it to stand up as quickly as possible.
  • Our horses won’t respond to harsh whippings and rough handlings. As you guessed by now, they haven’t gotten much training throughout their lives. Locals lean more on horse whispering techniques rather than taming them. The command “chu” or a gentle kick is usually sufficient to prompt them to start moving.
  • Never wear boots with spurs when riding in Mongolia. The horses don’t like it and neither do the herders, and these are their animals. Please show respect for that.
  • Mongolian horses know the land better than anyone. When herders ride them, there’s a level of trust, with riders not needing constant control, and acknowledging the horse’s instincts. In fact, trying to control Mongolian horses too much can sometimes make them more stubborn. The magical part about horse riding in Mongolia is the bond you create with these fearless and free animals.
  • These horses know when they’re getting close to home and they get eager to do so as quickly as possible. This is when most accidents happen, as your confidence is high and the horses start to quicken their pace. Remain calm and never let the horse go faster than you feel comfortable with. If you need to, have your guide go ahead of you to keep your horse at a manageable pace.
  • Last, but certainly not least, ALWAYS wear a riding helmet and appropriate riding footwear. I also like to wear a pair of thin gloves when riding. This helps with handling the reins and also keeps my hands cleaner.

With all that said, rest assured that upon your arrival, local horse guides will warmly greet you, ensuring your safety throughout. These experienced guides will carefully match you with the most suitable horses based on your level of skill and personality. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, no matter how stupid you think they might be, and don’t assume you know everything about riding here, even if you’re an experienced equestrian.

As you finally start bonding with your horse and grow a little more comfortable on it (and stop sweating from the fear, like I did when I started), take a moment to look up and appreciate what’s in front of you. Truth be told, I was so nervous I don’t remember much from my first horse trek!

The beauty of the landscapes, endless skies, and encounters with nomadic families along the way, who warmly welcome you with food and milk tea, basically everything they have, will undoubtedly give you a sense of peace, appreciation, and presence.

What to Pack for a Mongolia Horse Riding Tour

Having led several horse riding tours in Mongolia, below are some of the essentials I can’t live without. Take it from me, for a comfortable horse riding experience, it’s important to pack these essentials:

  • Horse riding helmet with ventilation. I recommend this Ovation Deluxe Schooler Helmet is reasonably priced, lightweight, and has a visor for extra protection against the sun.
  • Packing durable, comfortable riding boots with flat soles. Do not wear hiking or other clunky boots that could get stuck in your stirrups when riding.
  • Your riding boots should cover your ankles and calves. If you choose to wear short boots, like these Ariat Paddock boots, wearing a pair of leather half chaps will be a lifesaver for your legs.
  • Pack layers as it gets chilly once the sun goes down, even in summer.
  • Bring a wind and waterproof jacket and pants, as you never know what the weather will be like in Mongolia. The best time to visit is summer. Note that your rain jacket and pants should be made from a material that won’t make noise if you want to wear them when riding. Clothing that makes noise can easily scare the horse.
  • Given the prolonged exposure to the sun and the dry climate, wearing horse riding gloves under long sleeves is an excellent way to prevent tan lines on your arms.
  • Consider packing a pair of comfortable walking shoes for times off the horse.
  • Carry a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen for sun protection.
  • Mongolia is at an elevation and people get dehydrated extremely easily here. Be sure to bring a refillable water bottle to stay hydrated. Ask your guide if they’ll provide clean drinking water for you or if you’ll need to bring a personal portable water filtration device like a Lifestraw water bottle.
  • It’s usually recommended that you don’t wear a backpack when riding. However, if you’re going to spend long hours on a horse, you can wear a small, secure backpack like this Camelback pack to hold water, snacks, and hand sanitizer. A waist belt like this runner’s belt is also a great thing to pack so you can carry your phone close to you.

For a complete packing list, you can browse this Amazon shopping list.

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