The moment we rode onto the rain-splashed alpine pasture, the prancing began. After hours spent raversing spruce-lined switchbacks and skidding down muddy hillsides, the eight sure-footed, solid-minded mountain horses were eager to open up. As the sun appeared for the first time all day, our little group—five guests, two guides and a translator—was raring to go. My flea-bitten gelding Jettagüs jigged sideways, his ears swiveling back to me. “Can we go yet?” he pleaded. He’d wanted to lead since leaving Shepherd’s Way Trekking the day before, as we climbed southeast from the Kyrgyz town of Barskoon. I waited while Misha, our crinkly eyed, camo-clad guide, diligently checked girths and stabilized
saddle bags. Including their riders, each horse carried about 20 percent of its mass. Yet not one faltered, belying centuries
of selection among the Tian Shan Mountains and more recent cross-breeding with tough Russian stock.
JANUARY 2017 I HORSEillustrated.com