Horses have always played an important role in Tibetan life. Historically, they’ve been used for travel, transport, status and sport. Spiritually, they symbolize the wind horse, harbinger of luck, the air that balances the four other elements, of wood, water, earth and fire. This symbolic horse appears printed on prayer flags or bits of paper to flap in or be tossed around by the wind on special occasions.Lately, with the coming of cars, motorbikes, trains and trucks, the horse has become less ubiquitous, though still prominent in the hearts and minds of the people. Nomads have a saying: The horse is the next best thing to a father as the female yak is like a mother. Travel was essential to life on the plateau, mainly for trading, making the horse indispensable, and thus seen as the kindest and most useful of companions. The dri provided the dried cheese packed for a journey and the milk availed from nomads on the way.
For nomads, the horse remains a must-have both for work and as a status symbol; it is still indispensable for herding in areas where the terrain is so rough that only a horse can pick its way through, and for circling the herds of yak and sheep. There is also pride in horsemanship, where young men race bareback or stand on it while it gallops. For them, the horse is part and parcel of the attributes of the admired hero; a chestnut-color stallion decked in decorated halters and reins, an elaborate saddle and handsome stirrups, the rider in a wool or sheepskin chuba, a smart fedora, a rifle slung across his shoulder, Finally, there is enormous love for the animal itself, its breed, color and bearing.Families show off their stallions at horse races, laptse festivals and other ceremonies involving elaborate pageantry. A horse is decked up for races and special occasions like men and women are with their jewels. A horse’s ornaments include the halter, studded with tiny silver bowls, a saddle blanket woven like a carpet, topped with a wooden saddle decorated with silver and gold, sometimes studded with semi-precious gems. The stirrups, made of iron, can be cast out of silver. When inviting a young lama to his new abode the horse is covered in brocade.Today, horses are mainly shown off at laptse ceremonies. The main laptse in Ritoma gathers more than one hundred horsemen from all over the area. Incense is offered, clan arrows are planted on the conical contraption that dominates the hill, fresh prayer flags are strung, and cries of Lha Gyal lo! Dominate the air. The laptse is followed by a horse race, which attracts hundreds of onlookers. If a family owns a race horse, the prayers and offering rituals performed at the lapse are believed to bring that family both luck and merit.Their horse will bear khatas and blessings strings carrying the blessings of a lama to counter any obstacles. When going a long distance, a horse is like a father In this world, I need a mother (yak with a white flank, meaning young and with white markings) If I can’t have a mother, I want a female yak (won’t replace a mother །། I one can save up cheese and butter, it is like a mother. If you need to go far away from your community or family, The horse is considered like your father, the kindest and most useful. If one saves up the cheese and butter from the female yak, (dri) it is like (receiving a gift) from your mother.
Wear Tibetan clothing on your body, A hat on your head, (indian word for hat) The youth who has a rifle slung over his shoulder, riding a horse with stirrups, will be admired like a heroThe mouthpiece, saddle are the horse’s ornaments. There are gold and silver stirrups, and saddles decorated in silver and gold and studded with jewels. If a family has a race horse At the time of a race the welfare of both man and horse is sought after, Usually, incense is offered and prayer flags raised, ལབ་ཙེ་བསྟོད་པ། Praise to the deities made and rituals performed Because this is all a tradition for recitations and performing virtuous deeds, everyone believes that that familie’s karma and luck will be in ascendance. At the time of the horse race In order to counter obstacles, a khata from a lama and blessing strings are attached to the horse’s neck, like jewelry. Lately horses have made a comeback. Horse racing has become increasingly popular, which has led to a breeding and trading frenzy.