Waking up, the clouds overcast the skies again but didn’t really stop us! We headed out in the morning to watch the shepherds herd the horses from all around the valleys to drink water. We met up with our guide for the day, a calm and cool guy who grew up in the area and started riding horses since he was young.
For some reason, everyone that’s ever ridden horses during vacation, they always have bad experiences. NOT AT ALL. We rode two purebred Shandan horses that were about 5years old, which is the optimal age for horses as they’ve matured enough to have endurance, and won’t have poor temper. Somehow though, my horse still won’t listen to me very much and would always veer off course… Apparently I was being too gentle with the little guy, and after learning the ropes (literally), things got very exciting!
Riding through grass plains, mountain valleys and rocky roads, we ran into herds of yaks, crossed rivers and even did a bit of fast paced gallop next to the water reservoir. The galloping though, definitely created a lot of bum-to-saddle smashing…. but not as bad as the stories I’ve heard!
When we got back to base camp, we found out the horses were going through a insemination procedure to breed the next generation of horses. I bet some of you guys might’ve seen it on Dirty Jobs, and I can guarantee you it is definitely a dirrrrrty job, but extremely interesting! We were joined by a group of 5th year Vet-students that flew all the way from Guangzhou to learn about the process. Viewers discretion, the following may be a bit graphic.
After watching all this, we went into town for some free-range organic yak milk yogurt! Good stuff!
The shepherds herded a group of 12 or so mares (female horse), with their bums facing everyone. This old guy with a white lab coat comes in, with a towel in the left and this pink plastic glove that covers all the way up to his shoulder…. well, that’s because next he eases his hand into the horses anus, goes shoulder-deep in and pulls up a big pile of poop! He repeats the process, and apparently he’s trying to feel for a small bump to see if the horse is ready already pregnant, ready to receive, or needs a couple more days. After doing all 12 horses, they brought out the guns. The camp had a few seed stallions, and this little guy was led into this room where a mare was already there waiting to ‘seduce’ the stallion (ha ha!). Once the stallion is ‘ready’ and mounted, this guy takes a tube the size of a supersoaker 2000 to collect the ‘seed’. After that is all scientific, we got into a sterilized room with a heater (note: I’ve never even seen a heater the whole time I’ve been here in the northwest) to keep the semen above 18C, and do some tests in terms of concentration, volume and health of little guys. We pretended to be vet students and asked a few questions, learned a bit about horses and breeding them…. Wonder if this would ever come useful in the future.