There is nothing more natural than riding a horse in Kyrgyzstan, it sometimes seems, as locals trotting past heavily-packed trekkers shake their heads with a look that can only mean one thing: silly foreigners!
Organising a horse riding tour is pretty easy in Kyrgyzstan. Prices are reasonable, horse men and shepherds know how tourism works, and the landscape is perfectly suited for riders of all ability.
If you have plenty of time and are up for a real adventure, you can entertain the idea of buying a horse.
Horse riding tours
We have curated a number of horse riding tours in Kyrgyzstan. There are shorter and longer routes. Some are focused on horseback riding, others just add a day or 2 to a more general itinerary.
Keep in mind these are just templates. They can be customised. In the same vein, all but the very toughest trekking tours can easily be transformed into horse riding tours.
On-the-spot horse rental
Planning in advance is generally not necessary if you are looking to ride a horse for a day or 2 in the more popular areas like Song Kol / Kochkor, Karakol or the Pamir-Alay. Ask your hostel, hotel or local tour operators: they should be able to find you a horse and a guide available the next day.
This system is not 100% fool-proof as horses can be in short supply for a variety of reasons (big tour group, shepherd broke his leg, horses moved to a different pasture, …), but it tends to work just fine for backpackers or anyone who isn’t keen on planning too much in advance.
If you are looking to do a more ambitious trek, it is best to plan it in advance, if only for the fact that your chances of having a quality guide will go up considerably.
Buying a horse
Where should you buy a horse in Kyrgyzstan? Karakol, on the south-eastern tip of Issyk-Kul, has many helpful and knowledgeable horsemen. It has the best animal market in Kyrgyzstan on Sundays, and many nice routes start from there. The big markets on the outskirts of Bishkek and Osh are another option.
The spring horse sales start from May, but horses can still be weak after a long winter in this time.
We haven’t heard much about prices recently in Kyrgyzstan. Best to do your own research.