Return of Himalayan Horsemen on Turkish Pride

Lately, the videos of ‘Israeli soldiers’ chasing Palestinians on horsebacks have triggered an argument among Kashmiri youth circles.


Refilling the fuel tank of his TVS gearless scooter, Yasir Mukhtar, 26, has been spending over three thousand rupees every week for the long travels he makes from his home in the uptown area of Srinagar.

Gulmarg and Doadpathir are the two places where his arrival has become obvious in the last two years.

“They recognize me from a distance and keep my favourite ride ready,” says Yasir, whose passion for horse-riding seems to have developed his all-round personality.

To tame his passion of being an adept horse-rider, the diehard fan of Turkish web-series Ertugrul has already come to terms with major skills of developing connections with a horse.

“Al-ward is the name I’ve chosen for my favourite brown horse,” he mentions. “It was the name of one of the horses of Prophet Mohammad [PBUH].”

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Among the skills that the last Prophet of Islam made mandatory for every Muslim kid, he says, included horse riding, apart from swimming and archery.

The horse-riding pictures of Yasir on his social media accounts with quotes and dialogues of his favorite character from Ertugrul series, has earned him the name of the same character.

“Most of my friends and relatives call me Turgut which is one of the companions of Ertugrul,” the wannabe horseman from Hyderpora says.

“The resilience of the character has always motivated me, especially when it was getting difficult for me to develop the trust with the horse I was riding.”

To have developed an inclination for horse-riding since 2019 when in a locked and disconnected valley Yasir managed to get the Turkish series in the hard drive, a couple of his friends have also joined him to learn the riding skills.

“While riding them, one feels no less than a warrior ready to conquer anything on the way,” says Yasir with a smiling face.

Yasir Mukhtar, a wannabe horseman from Hyderpora. / MI Photo by Special Arrangement.

Decades back, the Shar-e-khas of Kashmir had some master riders whose stature was perceived no less than the heroic celebrated characters of Ertugrul.

Maami Kitaas was one such character whose ancestors had migrated to Kashmir some three centuries back.

The white tall horse of the Yarkand breed still flashes in the memory lane of some old-men in the Aali Kadal where Kitaas resided.

“My father was gifted that horse by the travelers riding on the horses all the way from Central Asia to Kashmir for business and trade,” says Ghulam Nabi, son of Kitaas.

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Another iconic old city horseman was Ghulam Qadir Genz aka Sir Qadir. The man enjoyed the reputation of being an exceptional polo player who would join with the team of Maharaja at Srinagar’s Polo ground.

Kashmir’s ace chronicler, Zareef A. Zareef remembers Sir Qadir riding his stallion of a Peshawari race that was considered the second best after Yarkand breed.

The small bridge connecting Dalgate with the Budshah Chowk according to Zareef is named Guerdav kadal, as from that stop “the horses of Maharaja”, before beginning of the Polo game, were made to warm-up.

“The horse could only be afforded by well-off households and same went on when from individual passion horse with a cart surfaced as a means of family transport,” recalls Zareef.

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“A Peshawari horse with an Amritsari cart was a deluxe class combo in and around the city until the partition of the Indian sub-continent.”

When the mode of transport was horse carriage. / Photo Courtesy: Web Archives.

After the bloodcurdling fall of 1947, the Iran-e-Sageer was never to remain the same.

The roads were widened when less of civilian movement was vehicular. Many reckon the widening was to make way to convoys for feeding jackboots to every nook and cranny of the valley.

In the decades that followed the politics and transitions in the status-quo of the newly drawn line of control, many things kept on stripping-off from the Kashmir’s life and culture. Fabled horse-riding with its legacy and legends was no exception.

After the upheaval of 1989, some of the “trained men” drew parallels with the rebel riders of Omer Mukhtar. 

One such dissident who had returned from the frontiers of the north-west province was Hyder whose arrival in the hilltop and hamlets of Budgam was marked by the clumping of the horse hooves he rode.

The phenomenal horse-rider, Hyder would march through the villages and a glance of him would amaze the neighborhoods for days.

The kids would often try to pose like him and others like his horse.

But growing up like Yasir Mukhtar, the kids always were surrounded with the ads of high speed bikes and cars; the choice for the fabled skill is yet an understatement.

Lately, the videos of ‘Israeli soldiers’ chasing Palestinians on horsebacks have triggered an argument among Kashmiri youth circles.

“It is among the skills of our Prophet [PBUH] and our history seeks us to master it but who picked it after we left it,” says Yasir expecting an answer from the time.

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