Traditionally Turks and horses have never separated from each other in daily life and also fought wars together in different lands. The horse brigade of the Ottoman army played an important role in the conquering of many places. Horses which have been a comrade for Turks, who have established many states throughout history, have played an important role in their daily lives and in wars.
Human beings were not just satisfied with only using the strength of horses. The bones were used to make apparatus and the skin was used to make clothing which made life easier. It was a turning point when horses were tamed as they were of much use in the desert life of the Arab peninsula and the nomadic life at the steppes. Prof. Dr. Aydin Usta who is a historian specializing in Medieval ages, has claimed that the earliest records of taming horses dates back from 400BC to 3000BC.
Horses are the wings of Turks
In communities prior to Islam, people were mostly buried together with the objects of importance in their lives. Horses found buried along with their owners at 'Pazirik Kurgani' which is on the skirts of the Altay mountains, is a sign of the value given to horses by the people living the steppe life. Turks who brought justice, tolerance and prosperity to the lands that they ruled over, owed much of their later conquests to the close relationship that they established with their horses. Prof. Dr. Aydin Usta who made reference to the importance of horses on Turkish history has said, 'We can see expressions such as horses are the wings of Turks in Chinese sources or in Divanu Lugati't-Turk. This comes to the meaning that horses are not just objects in the life of a Turk but life itself. They use them as a food source and as a source of strength that a warrior needs against other communities that they are fighting against, hence always in motion with them'. As Turks, who have spent most of their lives on horses were conquering the world, the world knew them with their horses. This was such the case that Napoleon who lost the war against the Turks in Egypt was forced to admit and said 'It was not the Turkish army that beat me, it was the Turkish horses'.
It was also the horse brigade which played the most important role in opening the doors to Anatolia and Rumeli. In the 16th century when the training of horses and horse culture was at its peak, the horse brigade of the Ottoman army had reached about two hundred thousand in numbers. Prof. Dr. Aydin Usta has indicated that the horse brigades played an important role in the war tactics of the Ottoman army as follows: 'According to sources, the most important remarks about Turks is about the horse brigade power... In all of the tactics of the Turks - especially in the Turan and Hilal tactics - it has been applied in the Turkish armies. These methods can only be applied with horses. If you look at Malazgirt, the Byzantium army was annihilated. These are all successes that have been achieved together with horses.'
For Turks, horses were an inseparable part of not only military life but also of civil life. Mounting stones were placed at the beginning of streets , as they were never separated from their horses while they went hunting, traveling or playing games.
As technology advanced, horses were of much less need in wars and hence were of less importance. Horses which are used as a mode of transport in areas where technology is not yet available, are more an element of the racing industry and entertainment these days. However the longing in the hearts of Turks has never ceased for beautiful horses that were trotting to four corners of the world in seven climates.
The world's most beautiful horse Akhal Teke
The reflection of horses on literature and art
Horses have for a long time been an indispensable figure in Turkish literature. It was an indispensable item both in mythology and in folk literature. Horses have found their much deserved place in a majority of our literature ranging from epics to proverbs and poems to tales.
The poet Yahya Kemal with the following verses, 'Like lightening we were thrown to a suburb from seven directions, / Like lightening from the path of the Turkish horses,/ joyful as children with the parade of one thousand horses,/ that day with one thousand horses we beat a giant army...' has reflected on the indispensable place of horses in Turkish history...
You can also trace signs of the value given to horses and the friendship established by Turks even in literature. Horses have a special importance both in Turkish mythology and folk literature. Horses, which are an indispensable object of epics, tales and folk poems, have also many proverbs about them.
When Bamsı Beyrek, who is the hero of Dede Korkut stories, fell prisoner to his enemies, his horse waited 16 years for him. In this story, the horse is a symbol of loyalty. Also, a horse plays an important role in Koroglu stories. The hero named Koroglu that we know of has appeared in the aftermath of the the events which took place after the Bolu Bey had heard of the reputation of the white horse.
Horses have not only been an inspiration for many works of literature in Anatolia, nut also in Central Asia as well. The famous novel named 'Elveda Gulsari' by the Kirghiz writer Cengiz Aytmatov, which has also been portrayed in theater, is one of the best novels which portrays the relationship between a Turk and a horse.
The impact of horses on Turkish culture is not only limited to the reflections on literature. The value that Turks have given to horses has also played a role in hand crafts and expertise such as saddles saddlebags and horseshoes. According to the information supplied by Prof. Dr. Aydin Usta, the expertise in saddles and felts were more of use in colder climates, such as Central Asia. Felts are insulated against hot and cold. Hence in communities which were based on horse culture, felts were of more widespread use.
Horses in Kirghiz culture
For Kirghiz who are also one of the Turkish tribes, horses have also been an indispensable element of life from past to present. Nomadic tribes have spent most of their lives on horseback. Horses have become the closest friend for the Kirghiz. This relationship has been certified in the archaeological diggings made in Central Asia. When the graves of soldiers were unearthed, their horses were also seen by their sides. This unity is expressed in a Kirghiz proverb, 'If we are alive our lives are one, if we are dead our graves are one'. Other proverbs which are still in use these days in Kirghistan include;
'A horse is a persons wings', 'One who separates from his horse is no longer a warrior' and 'However a person is, his horse will be the same'. In the Kirghiz community, a horse shows its relevance in every aspect of life.
In the olden times amongst the nomadic people, there were many clashes and races for the fastest running horses. The Kirghiz, who are a nomadic people, have given more respect to horses than any other animal. Kirghiz scientist Semyon Tyan Sanskiy has observed the place of horses in the lives of the Kirghiz during his Central Asia studies. Sanskiy has said, 'The Kirghiz who have spent half of their lives on horses, have become accustomed to them as inseparable friends; for this reason a horse for a Kirghiz is most closest and the one he believes in'. The historian Kubat Tabaldiyev, who has recorded that the relationship of the Kirghiz and horses goes back to old times, has continued as follows: ' We have used horses in a widespread manner throughout history in our daily house chores, military needs, culture and customs. In archaeological diggings we see the skeleton remains of people together with their horses. Generally in historical Kirghiz sources, the words of the proverb 'If we are alive our lives are one, if we are dead our graves are one' are in reference to horses and of widespread use. During our diggings in our research of soldiers that have been buried together with their horses, we witness that more than the importance of being a house or military use we can see that the sentimental value is of importance.'
Horses have remained to be the most important helper to people in rural areas in Kirghistan In Kirghistan where horse trainers who have a good relationship with horses are highly respected, there are horse races ranging from 7 kilometers to 100 kilometers in distance. Especially during ceremonies of celebrations, games that include horses such as 'horse cabis', 'warrior enis', 'girl kuumay' 'tiyin enmey' and 'kok - boru' are still spectered with much joy all the time. Horses are accepted as an unchangeable object in culture and arts, especially in the making of movies for cinema. The well known stunt man named Satar Dikambayev, who is the undisputed star of dangerous scenes, has for years made many performances with horses in many movies. As the riding school in the capital city of Bishkek is open to anyone who wants to learn how to ride a horse, the horses with talent at the school are busy from one race to the other. Horses, who have been a part of every aspect of life in history, are continuing to be a part of the Kirghiz life culture even today.
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