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Kyz Kuumai | Girl Chasing

Horse games are a staple element of Kyrgyz culture and tradition.  For centuries, young men show off their prowess, strength, and horsemanship through races, wrestling matches, hunting demonstrations, and polo-like games.  But women have their place among these horse games as well, and in recognition of International Women’s Day, we are taking a look at one of these games in which women frequently level the playing field. 

In Kyz Kuumai, a man on horseback waits at a designated starting line.  A woman on horse back starts from behind, bringing her horse to full gallop by the time she passes the man.  As soon as she passes by the male rider can then kick his own horse into action.  They race towards a finish line.  If the man beats the woman to the line he can steal a kiss.

If, however, the woman reaches the finish line before being caught, she spins her horse around and chases the man back to the starting line.  If she can catch up to him she uses her whip to let out a lash or two, signifying her victory.

As a traditional game, the riders are judged on their skill, artistry, and speed. They typically will perform and play in traditional dress, adding an element of theatrical drama to the event.

Kyz Kuumai is played with intensity, but also humor and delight.  Smiles beam from the faces of the fiercely competitive players, and the nature of the game gives an impression of constant tension between the riders.  Kyrgyz women have proved time and again their equal skill as equestrians, while Kyrgyz men are never shy to accept a challenge and give in to the chase!

by Ruby Mitchell, Online Content Editor @ White Leopard Travel Co. 

Main image by Jay Tindall, Tindall Photography @flickr

Kyz Kuumai Game

A short video produced by the US Embassy in Bishkek, showing the game of Kyz Kuumai played by horse riders from both Kyrgyzstan and the USA.

Art Worthy!

The spirit of kyz kuumai has been captured for eternity in this statue at the Bishkek Art School. The speed, skill, and cultural values around gender norms are depicted in this masterful work of art.

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