The Child Jockeys of Mongolia
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The Child Jockeys of Mongolia

August 17, 2019


DREW VOICEOVER: I’m Drew Scanlon. I’m exploring the world through the lens of
games, and doing it with the support of people like you on Patreon. Help us out at Patreon.com/ClothMap Mongolia’s Naadam festival, which kicks
off with an impressive opening ceremony, is an annual celebration of Mongolian culture,
and revolves around competition in three events: horse racing, archery, and wrestling. These are traditionally known as the the “three
games of men.” But it’s a bit of a misnomer, since women
compete in two of the events, including the first of the three games to take place over
the multi-day festival: horse racing. But “men” in this case is doubly wrong,
because the riders… .. are children. [SINGING IN MONGOLIAN] On the outskirts of the capital city of Ulaanbaatar,
people from all over the country gather to watch and compete in a discipline that goes
back thousands of years. Like the other games of Naadam, the riding
roots run deep in Mongolia, a culture known throughout history for prowess on the horse. As our guide Khosoo explained, this has a
lot to do with the legacy left by Genghis Khan, or as they say in Mongolia, “CHEEN-gihs
HAHN.” KHOSOO: Yeah, I think it’s related to our
history. I’m sure you guys know Genghis Khan. He created one of the biggest Mongolian empires. Horse riding, archery, and wrestling are some
of the important sports to train soldiers. And now they have become some of the national
holiday sports of Mongolia. They’re very, very traditional sports of Mongolia. DREW VOICEOVER: Today, this ancient discipline
is being broadcast on television across the country. KHOSOO: And this is a national competition,
so all the top horses and the top jockeys are here. People say that this is like the Olympics of Mongolia. DREW VOICEOVER: First the riders check in
and submit to an inspection. KHOSOO: They’re going to get their fingerprints
checked, to make sure that it’s the right kid and the right horse. And each jockey needs to have a helmet and
protection for the elbows and the knees, as well. DREW VOICEOVER: It can be a motley assortment
of equipment. We saw rain boots and more than a few bike
helmets. But as long as everything is within safety
guidelines, they’re good to go. KHOSOO: And each jockey has a GPS tracker
as well, in case something happens to them. DREW: In case they get lost? KHOSOO: Get lost or fall down and get injured
or anything like that. DREW VOICEOVER: The Mongolian horse is smaller
than average, but many of the riders still need a bit of help to mount their steeds. DREW: The jockeys, they’re children! KHOSOO: They’re children, yeah, they’re children. They’re aged between five and 13. It’s in our spirit, it’s in our history. There’s an old saying in Mongolia that Mongolian
kids learn to ride a horse before they start to talk. So they love horses and they start at a very
young age. DREW VOICEOVER: And yeah, some of them ride
bareback, in case I needed any more proof that these kids are way tougher than me. KHOSOO: Is that a girl? Yeah, I think that’s definitely a girl. DREW VOICEOVER: The races are grouped by age,
of the horse, not the rider. These horses, in the three-year-old group,
and are heading to another inspection, to verify their age by counting the number of
teeth. KHOSOO: They’re going to count the teeth, and then they’re going to go to the start line, down there, and they they’re going to
race back, and this would be the finish line. I think it’s going to be at least three or
four hundred horses. DREW VOICEOVER: And with so many horses, this
process takes a while. Thankfully, like any good sporting event,
there is a concession area. KHOSOO: We can go to any of these, because
they’re all food courts, I think. DREW VOICEOVER: Inside one of these structures,
called a ger, we warmed up with some milk tea and a snack called khuushuur. DREW: And this is only served during Naadam
festivals? KHOSOO: This shape is, yes. DREW: Okay. KHOSOO: Usually it’s half-round, and because
it’s Naadam, it’s full-round. This is specially made Naadam khuushuur. It’s usually with beef or lamb inside, and
onion, salt, and it’s fried. In order to eat it, you need to roll it round. DREW: Okay. KHOSOO: So I know in Europe people put sugar
in their milk tea, but Mongolians put salt. So feel free to try and let me know what you
think. DREW: Okay. That’s really good. Nice and soft. KHOSOO: It’s good, right? DREW: And it was just made right over there! KHOSOO: Yes, it is. DREW: Alright, Mongolian milk tea. KHOSOO: Milk tea. Cow milk, yeah. DREW: Yeah, that’s just straight-up hot milk,
and it tastes so good right now! It is cold out there. DREW VOICEOVER: When we returned to our press
box, the audience had showed up, but the riders couldn’t be seen, since the starting line
is on the other side of these hills. DREW: The older the horse, the longer they
have to run? KHOSOO: Yes. The youngest ones start from 10 kilometers,
and the oldest one is about 26-30 kilometers. It depends on the horse’s age. DREW VOICEOVER: The three-year-old group starts
about 16 kilometers away, but eventually they got close enough to see. Watching these hills darken with hundreds
of Mongolian riders, it was frighteningly easy to imagine myself centuries in the past,
in the path of a Mongol force. A group of five ceremonial riders stood by
to intercept the leaders and ride with them across the finish line. The kids seemed no worse for wear, though
some arrived back without helmets, and some horses without riders. Thankfully, chase vehicles flank the race
the whole way, in case somebody needs a ride. I couldn’t imagine doing this as a kid,
but since many of these riders grew up on horses, they are, unsurprisingly, pretty nonchalant
about the whole thing. DREW: How old are you? KHOSOO: [Translating into Mongolian]
JOCKEY: [Answering in Mongolian] KHOSOO: [Translating] Ten years old. DREW: How was the race? KHOSOO: [Translating] It was really nice. DREW: How many races has he competed in? KHOSOO: [Translating] About five races, he’s
been to. DREW: Wow! KHOSOO: [Translating] He’s proud of himself. He’s happy with what he did. DREW: How old are you? KHOSOO: [Translating] Eleven. DREW: How long have you been riding horses? KHOSOO: [Translating] He’s been racing for
five years. DREW: Wow! Was the race very long? KHOSOO: [Translating] It was okay. DREW: What do you want to be when you grow
up? KHOSOO: [Translating] He wants to be the owner
of the horses. DREW & KHOSOO: [Laughing] DREW VOICEOVER: I couldn’t get over seeing five-year-olds heading out on this race course
alone. But as we learned, Mongolian kids are tough,
and riding is in their blood. In this way, this sporting event gives perhaps
the best sense of the proud and hearty Mongolia I could have asked for. Cloth Map is possible only because of our
supporters on Patreon. If you liked this video, and want to keep
seeing more like it, we’d love to have you with us.

Only registered users can comment.

  1. Drew you truly are an amazingly adventurous person and while I cant be in these places currently you have filled me with the attitude that once I can I want to explore the world and leave no stone unturned

  2. I sure missed those vids…
    Welcome back,Drew!
    I watch with nore care to see how Mongolia is related w/games…
    Big hug and success!✌

  3. Really happy to have some new stuff Drew, as always this was fantastic, you're always so positive and interested, it's so refreshing in today's jaded world. Looking forward to more!

  4. Lol @ those volunteers popup tents. They are really getting some mileage. Also loving seeing Portabrace camera gear all the way in Mongolia

    Keep it up Drew, awesome coverage as always.

  5. Oh, man, it's been a bit, but I'm glad to see a proper Cloth Map feature in my subscription box again. I hope this is a sign of things to come.

  6. Are you going to cover the video game market on Mongolia and other countries as you did in Brazil and Cuba? Great video btw!

  7. Another fantastic video Drew! I couldn't get over the editing and musical choice in this one! It was very seamless and focused, great work and thanks from a fan.

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