Manipuri martial art of throwing darts flighted with peacock tail-feathers.

The darts can be thrown singly with the aid of a throwing stick or in bunches.  Arambai were critical in the conquest of NW Myanmar and parts of Assam by the Manipuris.  It is played on the Manipuri Pony, which is becoming extinct.

Buzkashi (Afghanistan)

Afghan rugger on horseback with a beheaded calf, goat or sheep as the ball.

Several different variations of the game are played across central Asia.  It is played as a team or individual game.  There are two main types, Tudabarai and Qarajai. The former is a relatively static game where the buz, a beheaded calf weighing over 60kg has to be got clear of the other players of whom there can be over 100.  The latter is played with a lighter buz, which has to be carried around a marker, that can be anything from 500m to several kilometres away and deposited in the starting circle or a marked goal circle.  Sometimes played in teams and sometimes individually.

Arambai Humba (Manipur, N.E. India)

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Turkish game throwing blunted javelins at opponents, introduced by the Seljuk Turks in the 13th century, banned by the Sultan in the 19th century for being too dangerous but is still played in the east of the country.

Points are scored for hitting an opponent (1), knocking an opponent out of the saddle (2) or catching a thrown Cirit (3).  Points are also awarded for ‘forgiving’ an opponent - the armed man waves the Cirit over his opponent rather than throwing at close range.

Coin Picking (Altai Mountains, Mongolia)

A Kazakh/Mongol game.

A course of 4 or 6 coins, now generally plastic flowers are laid out in two rows about a yard apart.  The rider has to gallop down the line and pick up the flowers.  The top riders use alternate sides rather than picking everything up with one hand.  It requires a lot of skill to keep the horse going straight while scooping the flowers off the ground.

Cirit (Turkey)

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In the north-west of Cameroon and the Dogon area of Mali and Burkina Faso, the Fulani herders have dancing horse competitions.  Horses are taught to prance to the beat of a drum. 

In the Dogon area, they also show the horse off with a type of levade, a deliberate controlled standing on the two hind legs at about 45 degrees and lying down without the rider dismounting. 

In Cameroon they also practice the corbette, where the horse, standing on its back legs, jumps forward to land on its back legs.  It then takes one cantering stride and repeats the performance.  This will be done six or eight times in succession.  The riders said it was part of the ‘old style Fulani riding’.

Fantasia (Cameroon)

A display of horsemanship put on for the Lamido (local king) by his mounted nobles.

Dancing Horses (Cameroon, Mali, Burkina Faso)

A game played by the Oromo in central and southern Ethiopia.  It is a game of chase with the chased person using a shield to ward off his attacker, who is armed with a long stick, symbolising a spear. 

Points are scored for hitting the person on the body with the spear.  It is played on a pitch from a third to half a mile long.  On reaching the end of the pitch, the roles are reversed for the return run.  It is played at festivals and weddings.

Gazelle Hunting (Zagros Mountains, Iran)

A Bakhtiari sport where one man tries to shoot a gazelle with a single arrow or shot from a rifle.

A group went hunting and one person was chosen to hunt the gazelle while the rest watched from a vantage point.  It was done in the mountains.  The hunter would have to stalk the gazelle to get close enough for his shot.  Often the gazelle would see him coming and break away, so the line of approach was critical.  To get his shot, he would have to fire, often at a gallop over rocky ground.  With both hands used for shooting, he would have to control the horse entirely with his legs.

Faras Gugse (Ethiopia)

A type of Polo played in the foothills of the Karakoram mountains. Played around Gilgit in Pakistan, also in Chitral.

The pitches are about 250 yards long and fifty wide with a wall running down either side. Until recently a goal was scored by jumping off and picking up the ball once it had been hit through the goalposts.  Play is half an hour each way with a ten minute break at half time.  Riders use the same horse throughout.  Ends are changed after each goal.

Hunting with Eagles (Altai Mountains, Mongolia)

A Kazakh sport, riding with a female Golden Eagle which is used for hunting hares, rabbits, marmots, foxes and sometimes wolves. 

It died out in Kazakhstan but was kept going in the Altai Mountains by Kazakhs, who escaped the Russians 200 years ago.  It has since been revived in Kazakhstan.

Female Golden Eagles are used and returned to the wild when they are about 12 years old.  Special supports in the form of a Y stick are attached to the saddle to support the rider’s arm when riding.

Gilgit Polo (Gilgit, Pakistan)

A Kazakh game, symbolising the time when it was necessary to find a bride outside the immediate village or encampment and grab a girl from another group.

The man and woman set off level and at halfway, the woman can start to beat the man with her riding whip.  If the man manages to keep well in front of her over the required distance, he may kiss her.

Maiden’s Headscarf (Iran)

A Bakhtiari game from Iran.

It symbolised stealing a girl from another encampment.  The bride, sometimes on foot and sometimes on a horse, stands at the end of 2 lines formed by her relations.  The bridegroom is at the far end of two lines formed by his relations.  He rides between the two lines, takes the headscarf fro her head and rides back as fast as he can to his encampment.  The bride’s family give chase, trying to get the headscarf back to prove that he is unworthy of her.  His family try to protect him so that he gets ‘home’ with the headscarf.

Kiss the girl on the horse (Altai Mountains, Mongolia)

A trial of strength between two mounted players using a dead goat as the rope.

The buz (goat) is picked up from the ground by one player and then as soon as both players have a grip, the contest begins.  The loser is the one who lets go or is pulled off his horse. 

It is played in the Altai Mountains area of Mongolia by both Kazakhs and Mongols, and is possibly the forerunner of Buzkashi.

Sagol Kangjei (Manipur, NE India)

The seven or nine aside forerunner of modern international Polo.

It went from Manipur to Silchar, where the first Polo club was formed.  From there it went to Calcutta where it changed to four aside and goal posts were added.

There are no goalposts, a goal is scored by hitting a ball over the opponent’s base line.  Another ball is thrown in as soon as a goal is scored.  There are 2 halves of 20 minutes with a 10 minute break in the middle.  The rider uses the same horse throughout.  Manipuri ponies are used exclusively and, if they die out, Polo’s forerunner will cease to be played.

Mongolian Tug of War (Altai Mountains, Mongolia)

Tent Pegging (India)

A game originally played by the Maharrattas in north west India.

It was used to hone the skill of riding into an enemy encampment and letting down the tents so that the raiders could plunder the livestock while their opponents were struggling to get out from under their heavy felt tents.

It was not used to practice pulling out an elephant’s toenails when fighting an organised army.  The elephant’s trunk would have kept a lancer on his horse at too great a distance.

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In Georgia and Armenia, people are trying to preserve and revive their indigenous horse sports.

In Georgia there is a great equine tradition.  The country is flanked by the High Caucasus mountains in the north and the little Caucasus in the south.  Between the two are rolling plains and hills which have been the avenue for countless invaders coming from the east to the fertile lands round the Black Sea and beyond.  The Georgians have always resisted, fighting on the plains and sending forays down from the mountains.  The skill of the horsemen has been a crucial element in their fight to maintain their country.

The horse games used for cavalry training t included -

Tshenburti, the forerunner of Polocross, which has been played in Georgia for over five centuries.  The length of the handle of the racquet was the length of a Georgian sword.  It produced dexterity with a sword as well as manoeuvring a horse at speed in proximity to other horses.

Issindi, throwing a javelin at an opponent, similar to the Turkish Cirit , though with different rules.

Khabakhi , throwing a javelin to knock a ball or other object off a high pole.

Mkerdaba, literally chest fighting rather like Sumo wrestling.  Two ridden horses are put in a small marked circle and they have to push the other out.  It was good training for horses in the crush of battle.

Chekwa , A rider with a sword in each hand had to gallop down a lane of sticks with a sword in each hand and cut the top off as many as possible.

Marula long distance racing over 10 to 25 kilometres to improve the stamina of the horses and so exhaust enemy horses. 

Bokneva Battle dressage  which included Maknowa- stopping from a gallop to rear up on a coat.



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