The Highlight of Naadam 2023: A genuine Mongolian horseman
Looking back at the past few years, it often feels like a nightmarish chapter. However, the thought of the world triumphing over the pandemic fills us with a sense of collective heroism. It is essential to recognize that our loved ones who lost their lives to Covid were also heroes in their own right.
NAADAM 2023 has been concluded on Jul 11 - 12, bringing forth numerous highlights and reigniting the pride in the hearts of Mongolians. It has transported us back to a time before the pandemic, evoking a sense of nostalgia. The grand opening ceremony was particularly epic, with some travelers even likening it to the spectacle of an Olympic opening ceremony.
In today's era of social media, dominated by platforms like TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram, there is a widespread desire to follow and emulate "influencers" who create content showcasing their lifestyles and cultures, often hailing from the United States, the United Kingdom, or other distant locations.
Mongolians experience a similar phenomenon. However, for us, the Naadam festival and Tsagaan Sar (Lunar New Year) serve as our "national vaccination" shots, instilling a deep sense of pride in our heritage as descendants of Genghis Khan, with nomadic culture and traditions running through our veins.
One of the standout highlights of the Naadam festival was Mr. Ulaankhuu Erdenee, a horseman and horse trainer from Luus soum (a village) in the Dundgobi province. He participated in the national Naadam festival for the first time, accompanied by his three-year-old horse, Shudlen Har Uree, and an eight-year-old jockey from the same village.
What sets Mr. Erdenee apart is that he is an ordinary but incredibly talented nomad. He trains horses and tends to his livestock in his hometown. He does not fit the mold of someone who possesses great wealth, buys the fastest horse, hires local horsemen for training, and gets a "title" to himself in the event in case, his horse wins a prize.
His story is a testament to the indomitable spirit and dedication of Mongolian nomads, who rely on their skills, passion, and close bond with nature to excel in their pursuits. Mr. Erdenee's participation symbolizes the true essence of the Naadam festival, where talent and genuine passion shine through, irrespective of one's background or financial status.
Mr. Serdaram Damdin, a Historian and professor at the Mongolian University of Science and Technology, shared a powerful post on his social media:
"Ulaankhuu E. is a descendant of Genghis Khan's legendary warriors with muscular and dark appearance which is a result of their relentless battles under the sun for most days of the year. They have got a leather-bound braid, a mustache, an intense eagle-like gaze, a lean yet strong physique, and a small, sharp sword strapped to their waist, along with his bow and arrow, 'Black Legend' (Kruchki A). During the Naadam festival, Ulaankhuu E. became the jewel in the crown, evoking an overwhelming sense of pride and joy among Mongolians. His presence brought tears of admiration to our eyes, as he exemplified the essence of Mongolian heritage and warrior spirit.
This heartfelt tribute beautifully captures the profound connection between Ulaankhuu E. and the legendary warriors who have shaped Mongolia's history. It not only acknowledges his physical attributes but also celebrates his unwavering spirit that has been passed down through generations, serving as a testament to the enduring legacy of Genghis Khan and his valiant soldiers.
Moreover, Ulaankhuu carries with him the tools of a humble horseman, such as his binoculars, bridle, and whip, which he proudly displays in his belt around his waist. These symbolic items further emphasize his commitment to preserving the traditions and heritage of Mongolian warriors.
Ulaankhuu E.'s participation in the Naadam festival serves as a powerful reminder of our rich cultural heritage and the pride we hold as Mongolians. His presence embodies the strength, resilience, and fierce determination that has characterized our ancestors throughout history.
In his humble manner, Mr. Ulaankhuu Erdenee expressed his heartfelt sentiments, saying,
"Participating in the national Naadam festival has always been a dream of mine, and it was more than enough for me to see my horse among the Airag's 5 horses. Witnessing my horse achieve first place and receive a prize in the national stadium filled me with indescribable joy and a profound sense of fulfillment. I am immensely grateful that my horse's success was accompanied by the blessings of the Mongolians, who hold a deep love and reverence for these magnificent creatures. Their unwavering support warms my heart. I'm immensely grateful to my late horse training teacher, Mr. Altansukh Ch., as well as my parents, parents-in-law, my wife, and my family, and their support and encouragement have played an instrumental role in this journey."
Beyond his prowess as a horseman, Mr. Ulaankhuu Erdenee possesses a great passion for singing. He had the opportunity to showcase his talent by participating in the competition "Horsemen are Singing," organized by Taliin Mongol TV. We invite you to enjoy his captivating performance below.
In Mongolia, horse racing is a cherished tradition where horses compete in long-distance races spanning between 22 and 50 kilometers. The race begins with a gallop, covering the first half of the distance, and then transitions to high-speed racing.
The top five horses, along with their jockeys, are awarded prizes for their remarkable achievements. These prizes often include Airag, a traditional fermented mare's milk, symbolizing the deep connection between the horse and the people of Mongolia.
Article by Mrs. Crystal Batdorj, a dedicated travel designer of Premium Travel Mongolia.
Photo credit to TV5 and Zarig.mn