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Naadam Portraits

Horse racing is a part of Naadam, a Mongolian festival that has been celebrated since the times of Genghis Khan. It is most recently held every July to commemorate the People's Revolution. Traditionally, the jockeys are children in these races. It is said that Mongols learn to ride before they can walk and feel safer on horseback than on the ground. Boys and girls as young as five are used as jockeys because a Naadam race is not a test for riders, but for horses. However, the races can be very dangerous, with hundreds of horses running at great speeds across a steppe of 12 to 28 kilometers. In preparing for Naadam, children take part in repeated practice races and help the trainers take care of the racehorses. According to some estimates, 150 to 180 thousand horses with more than 30 thousand child jockeys compete in over 500 races each year.

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