The greatest horsemen in the world

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I arrived in Park City around 8 p.m. tonight, ready to start my A session. Wouldn't you know that I ran into one of the greatest horsemen in the world already. Not at the USDF Program, but... at the sushi bar next to my hotel.

His name is Suki and he is the sushi chef at a little place called The Last Samurai. Suki is Mongolian and when I told him I trained horses, he mentioned that he used to ride horses. After spending 5 minutes trying to convince me that I must be a superior rider, because I jump things, I found out that Suki competed in his first horse race at the age of 6. I put two and two together and realized that Suki is one of those famous boy jockeys that you hear about on NPR, National Geographic and pretty much anything else talking about Mongolia.

So tomorrow, when I recover from eating way too much sushi and sit down for my first day of the "L" Program I will remember two things:
1. I can only work hard and hope to be half the horseman that Suki and his fellow riders are in Mongolia.
2. Even though I think it is one of the best sports in the world, it is still just a sport. Just when you think you are Ms. Serious Horsewoman, you will run into a Mongolian horse racer in a sushi bar in Utah. Not only will he be able to ride circles around you, but he will also be able to make better sushi than you.

About Horse Racing In Mongolia (from Wikipedia)
Unlike Western horse racing, which consists of short sprints generally not much longer than 2 km, Mongolian horse racing as featured in Naadam is a cross-country event, with races 15-30 km long. The length of each race is determined by age class. For example, two-year-old horses race for ten miles and seven-year-olds for seventeen miles. Up to 1000 horses from any part of Mongolia can be chosen to participate. Race horses are fed a special diet.

Children from 5 to 13 are chosen as jockeys who train in the months preceding the races. While jockeys are an important component, the main purpose of the races is to test the skill of the horses. [2]

Before the races begin, the audience sings traditional songs and the jockeys sing a song called Gingo. Prizes are awarded to horses and jockeys. The top five horses in each class earn the title of airgiyn tav and the top three are given gold, silver, and bronze medals. Also the winning jockey is praised with the title of tumny ekh or leader of ten thousand. The horse that finishes last in the two-year-old class (the daaga class) is sung a song wishing him luck.

Video of Child racing at the Naadam festival.

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