Interesting! Where is he going to?
It wasn't Mongolia that I went to last year, but Xin Jiang. There are many similarities.
I would suggest he take/buy his own saddle there if he's going to ride. The local variety is designed for a very particular style of riding, which most of us would probably prefer not to do.
I have tried it, and it's definitely doable, but very very different. The seat of the saddle is very uncomfortable, and the locals ride at all speeds by sitting first to one side, then the other, never centred in the middle. One leg is always sort of "hooked" on the pommel, and the riders seat is off the horse. Some ride in military style saddles as a modern alternative. He can buy one there if he wants, very cheaply. Stirrups will not be safety stirrups, saddles won't have "e" attachments for stirrup leathers, so probably worth taking his own.
Also girth. Many horses have horrible girth sores. The owners I met are concerned, but helpless, because they don't have access to good quality materials. I could have sold my elasticated girths and safety stirrups 100 times over! In fact I did give them all away at the end of my trip.
along with my hoof rasp. My stirrups went to the ten year old boy of one of our host families, who'd had a really serious accident a few months earlier when he'd fallen from his horse and been dragged. He'd suffered serious head injuries which his father, in the absence of medical care,had treated with herbs. He was the treasured son, and his father was scared to let him ride again, but of course, in that culture, it was inevitable. His father begged me for my stirrups. I couldn't say no.
The horses will almost always be the "A" framed shape, all the way down their backbone, (with a few notable exceptions!) so it's vital to have a saddle that gives a good spinal channel, but which doesn't have bars too long on these short backed horses. (Treeless are pretty much impossible.) The bars also need to be more angled than for our flat backed horses, or you find that the upper edges dig in. The old McLellan military style saddles often fit well. Many of the horses are ridden in very badly fitting saddles, and perhaps it's because the locals don't actually sit in the saddle that they don't do as much harm as you might expect. For our style of riding though, I think it's essential to make sure the saddle is going to fit well or you're going to have problems. I like these http://www.pampasaddlery.com.ar/site/en/saddles.html
, because I'm heavier than the average local so want to reduce weight as much as possible on these small horses. If I was going to spend any time doing this again, I'd try to save up for one.
The horses (and riders) in the area I went to are descendants of Ghengis Khan's army. They are renowned as having a heritage of highly skilled horsemanship. To be honest, I was a little mystified, and disappointed.
They are incredible horsemen, insofar as staying aboard a moving horse at high speed and undertaking remarkable feats. (I'll have to post a video I took of them playing buzkashi!) But their horse handling skills seemed to me to be sorely lacking, and they don't get the best out of their horses.
The few things that I did to gentle my horse and make him into a better trail companion drew huge interest and admiration. Which was pretty shocking, considering how much they depend on the horse for everything.
An example is, you are told you must not approach or do anything with a horse on his right side. The horse WILL kick you. It's almost superstitious and totally unquestioned. Riders are almost universally (with a few notable exceptions once again) completely afraid of the horses response to work from the right. It took about 40 minutes of concentrated work to have my horse (REALLY wild!) accepting me on his right, touching him, and finally saddling and mounting from the right. (Then of course, I had to teach him to turn right too!) Made my life sooo much easier on our long treks! And my audience were ridiculously impressed, as if I'd done something magical.
Same with hoof handling. Very few horses will allow you to pick up a hoof. For shoeing, they are put in stocks. But with a little approach and retreat, good quality, gentle pressure/release training, they're soooo trainable. I think in a way, their wildness makes them easier to train, as their reactions are so pure.
I think, aside from teaching your young man to ride, it would be very useful to him to teach him the basics of good traditional training techniques - pressure release, teamed up with scratching rubbing stroking. The reason I suggest this rather than CT with food is that the horses generally don't eat carrots, alfalfa, oats apples or anything else we tried to tempt them with. My horse, eventually, after gaining his trust through pressure release gentling techniques, finally began to accept certain wild flowers off me, after I carefully observed which ones he sought out. Then I could add food reward to our repertoire.
If he has some idea of the theory of horse training (there's a little book called " The ten golden rules of horse training" which is an absolute gem.), then he'll be able to teach his horse the things that are important to him, that he finds the horse is lacking. I highly highly recommend this.
As a cautionary tale, there is a British woman currently travelling from Beijing to London on horseback. For the cross china part of her journey, she took three native ponies. I visited these horses where she had left them in Xin Jiang to carry on across the border. They were very small, no more than 12 hands high, round cute little ponies. But she'd had the most serious accident of her very long horse riding career off one of them, which had nearly ended her journey. Simply because he was so wild, and couldn't be handled on the right, among other things. I wouldn't accept this personally. I would want to have a very trusting working relationship with my horse before I put my life in his hands, because I DON"T hang on a horse like a Mongolian.
And I think it's totally doable. My husband, son and I, all spent time working with our horses, checking them out, building trust with little exercises, while others just saddled up and galloped round. Our horses became, over a short period of time, such good and trusted friends, that we were able to really relax and enjoy our time with them, and do things together that others couldn't dream of. My horse, who'd bucked me and his owner off the first time I met him and was absolutely terrified of being touched (difficult to ride them without touching them
) became so attached to me, that one morning, when our guide went up the mountain to catch him from where he hopped (hobbled), he took off galloping in rabbit gait, caught sight of me from three hundred metres away up the mountain, called out to me and ran down to stand behind me for shelter.
Another big difference, you mention, rein handling. Yes. And this is one of the things that mystified me. I saw figurines in the museum of Urumuqi, which clearly show Ghengis Khans riders, sitting on well balanced, rounded, collected horses. In later figures, the shapes change to what you see in the horses now - upside down necks and hollow backs. Somewhere, I think, they've lost something in their heritage. I did see a couple of magnificent horses when I was there, ridden in a style that would be admired anywhere in the world. But it was definitely not the norm.
Now, the horses are ridden in a very particular style, with a different kind of bit to what we use in the western world. The bit is wider than the horses mouth, with a single joint in the middle, and curved around, so that when pulled up tight to the cheek straps, it doesn't sit on the bars of the horses mouth, but pulls up into the corners of the lips. When pressure is applied, the horse pokes his nose out and flings his head up into the air. The rider uses a pulling back motion with elbows bent, hands high and body inclined back, and the horse pulls up short, with very "impressive" snorting and tossing, nose flipped up to be the highest point. All movement faster than a walk, the horse moves with neck stretched out for balance, like a racing thoroughbred. Direct contact is only taken up when needed to stop, slow or turn. Horses don't chomp the bit, or foam at the mouth, and do not give down into the hands. It's like the images of the worst of "western" riding, with the exception that with the bit not resting on the bars, the horse doesn't seem bothered in the same way by the pressure.
The horses, with a few notable exceptions again
, all have the hugely developed muscles under the neck, no muscling on top, and hollow undermuscled backs.
We took bitless bridles with us to use- we tried a little "s" hackamore, a simple side pull, and even the local halter which is similar to a bosal, and all were effective... except on my horse. He couldn't accept the feeling of pressure on his nose, and eventually I didn't have time to accustom him to it. His owner insisted that it was part of the reason he was bucking, and I think that was partly true. He felt more freedom in his usual bit, because he could pull into it, whereas the noseband brought him up short and frightened him. So
, I had to shamefully and sadly revert back to his own bridle, with what I considered to be a very crude action as well as against my principle of bitless...
What I found, was that the trust and directional handling exercises, and companion walkiing I'd done with him really paid off. I was able to ride with a feather lite touch on the reins, keeping them softly looped at all times, taking them up only for a direct aid to complement and clarify my indirect (neck reining) aids and body position. My horse was so sensitive and intelligent and tuned to me, that he understood my point immediately and was such a fast learner, that by the end of the first day, he was neckreining like a seasoned pro, and transitioning through gaits with verbal commands and body weight, and had found the sweet position of having a lowered and slightly rounded neck with a long and stretched top line.
I fell in love with him completely. AND he had a running walk!
And he loved the way I rode him.
The other horses did equally as well in their halters/hackamores. Being more experienced seasoned horses, they didn't have the same difficulties my young one did adjusting to a different bridle, and they all went VERY happily on a loose rein when they figured it out.
I think it will be very worthwhile for you to teach your young man to ride with good rein handling style - I would recommend western/vaquero method rather than English. (And I know this is right up your alley!) The horses will almost certainly understand it and respond to it very quickly, particularly if he understands the method of training used to get to it, using direct aids only to complement the indirect ones. The riders I saw attempting to use English style of contact didn't do so well. The positioning of the bit doesn't encourage the horse to give to the bit, so all their hard work in "asking" with the bit for give was wasted, and their horses were just continually pulling and tossing their noses right up in the air. I'll see if I can find some photos to illustrate it..
Some took their own bridle with English bit. I'm sure the horses could have been taught to respond, but from what I saw, they were just REALLY uncomfortable, with the unaccustomed pressure on the bars of their mouths. Though the local bits look very crude and uncomfortable, I think in some ways they are less harsh.
A little bit of hoof knowledge, and ability with a rasp would probably be a good thing too. Because of the difficulties of hoof handling, many horse have their shoes put on only once a year. They basically grow off and get replaced again the next year. Many end up with terribly long toes that make it difficult for them to walk up hill, and many end up missing shoes that don't get replaced. I trimmed four or five horses while I was there. One was literally unrideable until we shortened his toes so he could go uphill. These were all horses that had to be put in stocks normally to be shod... and yet with five or ten minutes of approach and retreat and reward, they were happily allowing me to trim, even their hind feet on their right sides.
Much to the onlookers amazement. Shoeing is generally done by the owner. Some is done well. Many don't have much clue, and don't even own a hoof rasp. They simply tack a new shoe on, directly to whatever hoof wall they are presented with. The lucky horses are the ones that do lose their shoes early on and are able to wear their hooves down naturally themselves before the new set gets tacked on.
Lots for this man to learn!
Good luck with your endeavours! I think your young man is very lucky to have found someone who can give him such a valuable grounding! I'll look forward to hearing more about it.