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“The country of nomads, and we are shy of shepherds.” Why develop equestrian tourism in Kazakhstan

01 June 2021

The nomadic lifestyle is an integral part of the history of Kazakhstan. Representatives of all the peoples who inhabited the territory of our country were excellent horsemen. Blogger Kazhym Dzhumaliyev will tell how he was surprised by the development of equestrian tourism in South America, and will discuss what potential this type of leisure can have in Kazakhstan.

“In 2019, I went to Argentina to participate in a week-long horse expedition in Patagonia. I really liked the approach and level of development of this type of tourism. Take, for example, the concept of gaucho (“cowboy” or” shepherd ” from Spanish). Life and natural conditions forced the first settlers from Spain to become shepherds and partly nomads. The work is hard, so to speak, peasant, obviously not prestigious, but, look, now the gaucho is a style-forming element of the national marketing of Argentina. Around the shops in the style of Gaucho, souvenirs a la gaucho, ethnotourism bienvenido to gaucho – “welcome to visit the cowboy”.

Фото Кажым Джумалиев

For a couple of decades, Argentina has been able to create an attractive image of a gaucho shepherd, make him a hero of the country, and develop crafts and production in this segment. Tourists from all over the world come to get acquainted with these people, their foundations and life experience, ” the blogger shares.

Фото Кажым Джумалиев

From the travel diaries of Patagonia:

“Day one. We got up a couple of hours before dawn, we were packing, and Pablo was getting the horses ready. I was interested in what kind of korzhyns they use (a saddlebag-approx. the author), it turned out, none. For things, we took a special pack horse with a special saddle for transporting heavy loads. Pablo’s horses are excellent, well-groomed, and, apparently, he loves them very much. I also liked the saddles, the design is like that of our cavalry, but everything is done according to the mind, ” says Kazhym.

Horse equipment in one of the shops in Argentina. Photo by Kazhym Dzhumaliyev

“What about us? The largest state with a nomadic civilization, 100 years ago the nation lived only by nomadic animal husbandry. We are nomads with a history of thousands of years… Here is a topic for country marketing. But after all, there is nothing for this, and we are somehow shy of our shepherds and do not really want to show them. What can I say, the country of nomads today does not produce either yurts or saddles, ” the traveler complains.

From the travel diaries of Patagonia:

“By lunchtime, we were sitting at the table, the locals again talked a lot, told each other again and again the experiences of the expedition day, and were happy as children. I looked at all this in a kind of surprised delight, wondering what they were so sincerely and with pleasure happy about. I even wanted to ask Gaston quietly, because he noticed my confusion, and then suddenly it dawned on me. They enjoy life! A meeting with friends, a gentle sun, the fact that you helped with your money some gaucho and the guys-guides. And, in general, it is not necessary to constantly maximize and value the events in your life. They live easily-without strain, we, born in the USSR, and young Kazakhstanis do not yet understand this, we all fight with our elbows for the result. Our upbringing is different, ” the traveler writes about his impressions of the locals.

Фото Кажым Джумалиев

“There are several weighty arguments to the question of why to develop equestrian tourism in Kazakhstan. First: we have a huge territory, the ninth largest in the world, and at the same time, inbound tourism is not developed at all. All because we do not have our own chip, the highlight. The point of interest is missing. More or less attractive for international tourism is Mount Khan-Tengri as the highest mountain in Eurasia, which is also located on the territory of Kyrgyzstan and China. There is a Beluga whale, which is also found in Russia. The rest of the attractions are local in nature.

Khan Tengri Peak and Tuzkol Lake. Photo by Shutterstock

Why are there ten times more incoming tourists in Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan? Because they don’t try to build entertainment centers and skyscrapers. They sell their identity, their culture. In Mongolia alone, there are more than 150 companies that organize horse tours around the country. Tourists come there specifically to get acquainted with the life of a nomadic civilization and culture.

Second: the life and way of life of Kazakhs are inextricably linked with horses. And for the development of equestrian tourism, we have everything: nature, nomadic culture at our core, horses. It remains only to combine it into a single complex. Unfortunately, not everyone understands this, and, in particular, the government does not take any incentive measures. Now this topic lives thanks to enthusiasts, for example, in Almaty and Akmola regions.

Фото А. Мадьяров

What hinders development? First of all, there are global issues that the country faces and should be resolved at the government level. For Kazakhstanis, this is a new experience, here we do not have any knowledge. It is necessary to rely not only on enthusiasts who fill cones on their experience. It is necessary to try to train specialists in equestrian tourism on a systematic basis. To do this, it is not necessary to invent something yourself. You can use ready-made developments.

Equestrian tourism is well developed in Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Chile, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia. We need to use the ready-made experience of these countries. It seems that it is very simple – I got on a horse and went. And in the same Mongolia, experts from New Zealand were invited, and they gave lectures at the Academy of Tourism on environmental recreation and tourism. For example, horses must be prepared in a certain way. Balanced, calm and hardy, who will not let you down and will behave adequately in difficult conditions.

Джунгарский Алатау, 2020 год. Фото Кажым Джумалиев

Secondly, a simple shepherd may be a good person, but he is not a guide. A guide is a person who monitors customer satisfaction, who knows how to cook in the field, has first aid skills, and can speak different languages. Our ecotourism resulted from the development of hunting tourism, so our huntsmen actually became guides in equestrian tourism. We specially prepared them, made a list for them, a set of rules – what is possible, what is not. Up to the distance from the base camp to go to the toilet. And, by the way, all foreign tourists are eco-active, a Kazakhstani will not even think about what harm an ordinary toilet can cause in the wild. And they ask such questions, there are special technologies that allow you to make a trip to the toilet as ecological as possible in the field. This should be taught to people.

Фото Кажым Джумалиев

The third question is horse ammunition. We say that we are a country of nomads, but in fact we practically do not produce ammunition. And if we do, then very expensive, impractical gift options. We buy the same saddles in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, where all this is established and works.

The fourth issue is camping and camp accommodation, base camps. Multi-day expeditions are not easy. Often, after two hours, an ordinary city person begins to feel difficulties. Riding a horse turns into a painful process when the muscles are not prepared. You should always have camps that can be made on the basis of yurts or tents. But they must also meet certain criteria and rules. No one has this knowledge in our country. Almost no one produces yurts in Kazakhstan, the tents are used low-grade, Chinese-made, ” Kazhym Dzhumaliyev summed up.

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