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Tricky move in Year of Horse

The Year of Horse, the animal that combines nobility and industry, elegancy and endurance, love to freedom and sincere devotion to people, has begun. It’s almost impossible to find a horse in a large city, so I go to Gorki. My trip has another reason: the construction of a roofed equestrian centre at the local Sports School for Children and Youth is almost complete.
By Olga Kislyak

Handsome Epilogue
I notice three riders on chestnut horses from afar. It’s a true pleasure to observe them graciously prancing by the new centre. Moreover, they seem allowing me to enjoy them. Eventually, a dark, handsome horse gets tired of my camera shots and nervously moves his ears while waltzing and twisting his head. “Calm down, Tolsty,” the horsewoman pats his velvet neck. “The horse is very proud and cannot stay idle for a long.”

The Trakehner horse (a popular in Germany for equitation) is named Epilogue. He has been Natasha Litvinovich’s pet for eight years. The duo has won regional and Republican competitions many times in those years. “Tolsty [translated as stout] is his daily nickname. I also call him Masyanya. He never feels aggrieved and even loves these names more. Provans’ second name is Ryzhik [red] and our beauty Eskada is named Mashka at home. Horses are delicate animals and can intuitively feel people’s attitude and mood,” the woman tells me.

While observing Epilogue, I agree that everything told of him is true. After his ride, a nine year old girl comes to the stall and Epilogue kneels down to enable her to remove the bridle. However, he is not always so obedient.

Even horses love kind words
The Sports School’s Deputy Director, Tatiana Geller, is a former equestrian coach and knows Epilogue’s habits well. “He loves to compete. After an excellent performance, he finds me with a glance in the crowd and hurries to receive a sweet. He knows I always have sugar or an apple for him. However, he values praise most of all. If he fails to cross all obstacles at a completion, he never comes up or even looks at me,” she says.

Those spending a lot of with horses know that these are among the most devoted animals. They don’t save themselves if they need to work. However, like people, horses all have different characters.

Beauty Savanna could fawn best of all. If she failed to perform brilliantly during a training session, she would approach a coach and nestle her face into his back guiltily. Of course, it was impossible to remain angry with her. The local girls cried much when Savanna died in a fire (she was sent to Moscow for training, but a stall containing nearly twenty horses was burnt down). The Sports School’s coach, Svetlana Shchedronova, recollects, “Savanna felt people she knew at a distance — beginning to nicker, which indicated that she missed them much. However, some horses prefer not to lose their independence…”

Even as a novice at the stall, I can understand these words. Some horses ignore people, while others come close, wishing someone to pet them. Shire horse, Sheriff, is extremely kind… but loves to eat. In line with rules, a horse receives 8kg of oats and 8kg of hay. However, this is not enough for him. Sheriff searches people’s pockets for treats and gets quite upset if he fails to find anything. He then kicks the door with his hoof — as if to say ‘No need to hang around…’.

A full range of characters
Galaktika, a beautiful chestnut, pokes your arms with her face, asking to go out. However, she never leaves the stall without an order, even if the door is open. Ms. Geller admits, “Of course, we might use a horsewhip sometimes during training, but each horse needs an individual approach. For example, Virginia is nine year old. She is respectful to people, but does not love other horses and could even kick any animal that approaches her. During competitions, we weave a red ribbon into her tail for others to know that they need to avoid this horse. On the other side, black-brown Gerda (with a white star on her head) is the kindest animal. Being a true pensioner (Gerda is 15), she is used to train people. The horse needs no orders. She knows when to start а dressage, how many laps to ride and when to return to stalls.”

During the autumn and winter, training lasts for 30 minutes (although sportsmen need to train for 90 minutes, three times a week). However, it’s hardly possible to go out in rainy or snowy weather. The roofed centre, due to be launched in January, would solve this problem. The horses will also have new spacious stalls, instead of their 50 year old, tired quarters. These have been demolished and the new stables and a centre are being built instead. The Deputy Chairman of the Gorky District Executive Committee, Anatoly Shimanovsky, informs me that around Br12bn, of regional and district budgets, were allocated for this purpose. From now on, horses will have an area to ride in winter. However, work would continue after the reconstruction, as it’s necessary to equip the grounds for field training, as Gorki’s horsemen take part in horse trials.

Local coaches are worried with another problem these days. In recent years, the number of horses at School has dropped from 56 to 24, and a new animal is too expensive to buy (around $4,000). With this in mind, even the ‘pensioners’ are respected and well cared for here. Among them is 24 year old Hural. He cannot take part in competitions but children love to pet him, take him out for walks or comb his mane. As the coaches stress, it’s necessary first to learn how to communicate with horses before learning how to ride. In this case, an animal would respond with love.

Lovushka needs host
The Zarechie horse breeding farm in Minsk Region’s Zhodino faces another problem. They breed Belarusian harness horses, and they are sometimes sold at extremely low prices — $1,200. If no buyers are found, then these horses are killed for meat.

Natalia Sazanovich, the foreman of the farm, which has operated since 1969, explains, “We announce sales from time to time, as we are breeding young horses. The most recent sale began in October. Actually, we have many horses here and need to control the livestock. Around 60 or 70 animals will remain. We’ve put 33 horses up for sale, and 20 have already been bought, including 23 year old Shashka and 4 year old Nashatyr (sold for Br15m). Our horses are mostly bought by villagers, but Russians also show interest. We hope to find a sponsor for our ‘pensioner’ Lovushka. She is old but much loved, so we’d never kill her for meat.”

The farm also temporarily accepts other horses, and a sponsor needs to pay around Br1-1.5m each month for the rent of a stall, feeding and care. The employees also hope to launch horse-riding services which would definitely enjoy demand. Even those uninterested in animals admit that horses boast unique grace and poise.

Interesting facts on horses: 
The horse is a sacred animal for 23 nationalities.

The smallest horses are Argentinean Falabellas — being not taller than 70-80cm. In turn, the largest horses are English Shire: they weigh around 1,600kg and can grow up to 2m tall.

A horse can ride at 60km/h at a race.

Horses see dream in colour.

The most expensive horse was Shareef Dancer — a British-trained thoroughbred racehorse. In 1983, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum sold him at an auction for $40m. 

People who work with horses have 50 percent less chances to get diabetes.

Horses are wonderful ‘doctors’ and hippotherapy is popular worldwide to treat patients suffering from problems with their locomotor systems.

Horses are extremely clever. Orlov trotter, Kvadrat, won prizes for almost three decades. A rider once dropped the reins after a tough struggle (in order not to harm the animal) but Kvadrat charged in to eventually win. Meanwhile, a monument to Anilion was erected in the Krasnodar Krai. The horse received recognition for his victories and ‘royal’ habits. Several people oversaw him and the horse loved to pretend illness as he enjoyed people fussing around him.
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