With its endless plains, deep forests and inaccessible mountain ranges, the Russian Empire never could have been built without horses. The animals were urgently needed for conquest, cultivation and transport well into the 20th century. And even today, they are an essential part of daily life in many regions of the vast Russian territory.
The diverse breeds of Russian horses – hardy riding animals, speedy trotters, hard-working pack animals, powerful cart horses and stoic ponies – had to be tough, vigorous and undemanding. But above all, they had to be able to adapt to various environments, just like the people who lived and worked with their cherished animals… In Russia’s Horses, we will roam the stunningly diverse landscapes of Russia, and meet men and women from widely different Russian peoples. Their horses will provide the thematic link between all the stories. Simply looking into their eyes is like gazing into the Russian soul ...
Russia’s Horses blends a broad range of topics – travel, nature, wildlife, culture and environment. No other animal serves man with as much versatility as the horse. In telling the animal’s story, we will also provide deep insight into centuries of Russian history and Russian life today. According to a Russian proverb, people are reflected in their horses. But what does this really mean? Russian horses are definitely not like their Western European counterparts. Despite their inconspicuous appearance, they are tough and hardy, docile and undemanding, not to mention incredibly motivated. Is this also true of the Russian peoples? What do we know about the Yakuts of the taiga or the Tuvans of the Altai Mountains, for instance? We will travel to Russia’s most remote regions to meet fascinating men and women and observe them in their daily lives. They will also give us insight into the often centuries-old history linking them to their beloved horses.
Like elsewhere in the world, diverse horse breeds evolved in Russia to meet the various demands. However, Russians never would have dreamed of breeding horses according to Western European standards: noble bloodlines, regular physique, distinctive gaits and an aptness for tournaments. Such characteristics were useless in Russia. For centuries, Russian horse breeding revolved around commitment, stamina, hardiness, and a pleasant nature. Beauty and elegance were not appreciated until the breeding of the Orlov Trotter in the 19th century – the horse of choice for aristocratic troikas.
Western audiences are generally unaware of the diversity of Russia’s landscapes despite their stunning beauty. Beginning in the country’s cultural and political centre in Moscow, we will travel through the woodlands of Northern Russia. From the cold, barren heights of the Caucasus Mountains, we will continue onward to the fertile plains of Central Russia and further east into the endless snow-covered steppe of the Siberian taiga during wintertime. From there we will turn westward again to the cold Norwegian Sea and finally to St. Petersburg – the great metropolis on the shores of the Baltic Sea. While roaming through these unique landscapes, we will come to understand how close the relationship between man, horse and nature truly is.
Through our interest in their animals, we will meet a wide variety of protagonists. We will also take a look at the latest developments in sport horse breeding, as well as the centuries-old symbiosis of man and beast in the Asian-influenced regions of Russia’s East. Along the way, we will shed light on many of the most important episodes from Russia’s epic history and provide exciting and touching insight into the lives of Russian peoples today.