Thursday, March 15, 2012

"Horse riding?" in Gulmarg

Holding their hands behind the back, men in pheran look at tourists getting down from the small bus. A quick look around brings a smile of happiness... What a peaceful atmosphere! The bright sun of November is shining above our heads. On the left, the green roofs characterise the little town. On the opposite side, slightly blurred by winter fog, stand white mountain tops. All around, eyes can stretch far... far... in the green plain where a few men ride horses. Pigeons cleave through the sky. At winter beginnings, Gulmarg is a place to enjoy calm and nature.

Picture: France Lenne

“Horse riding?” a Kashmiri offers, up on his horse as we walk on the way towards the golf course. A row of horses ridden by Indian tourists later takes us over. “Horse riding?” the guide asks. Then, we take a shortcut through the muddy and watery plain. I curse my shoes, which are not at all appropriate. A green-eyed man on his horse looks down at me, surprised not to see me on a horse like others.

Indeed,  in Gulmarg, it is rare to see a local moving without its horse(s). Horse riding is fully part of Gulmarg and Kashmir life. As a tourist, the landscape can be enjoyed without pain in the legs and dirty shoes! Above all, it is the opportunity to experience the most important mean of transport in Kashmir. Horses are very appropriate for hilly regions such as Kashmir. They are particularly useful in rural areas where road infrastructures are not well developed. These robust animals serve for pulling carts, carrying burdens and transporting people.. They also provide an income for a poor range of the society. According to Fazili and Kirmani (2011), only landless small farmers own horses which they rent (among all) to tourists in famous places such as Gulmarg and Pahalgam [1].

In brief, horses and ponies play a key role in the economy of Jammu and Kashmir. They represent an essential mean of transport for many as well as an important source of income.

So, there is now only one question left to you: "horse riding?!"

[1] Fazili M.R., Kirmani M.A, 2011, Equine: The Ignored Working Animal of Kashmir: Status, Constraints, Research Areas and Ways for Improvement, Asian Journal of Animal Science 5 (2), Online Available at:

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