Riding a horse in Kyrgyzstan

Abhishesh Adhikari | KF19 | Kyrgyzstan

Manas Sculptural Complex in Bishkek

It has now been three weeks since I landed at Bishkek’s Manas International Airport. It’s amazing how many new things I have experienced and learned in such a short amount of time: a completely different culture, new friends, exotic food, interesting Soviet architecture, the Russian language, and many more. I am now glad to add a new item to that list: my first ever horse ride!


Food in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Last week, I made my first trip outside of Bishkek with some Bai Tushum (the Kiva partner MFI that I am working with) staff to visit Kiva borrowers.

Outside a Bai Tushum branch office with some staff members

One of the borrowers I visited was Kalyicha, a fifty-five year old woman from Samansur village located a few hours northeast of Bishkek. She has been running her livestock business since 1980, and generates her income primarily through the sale of milk products. She got a Kiva loan through Bai Tushum in order to expand her business with the purchase of a horse and a mare.

With Kalyicha at her farm

When I first met Kalyicha at her farm, I extended my arm to shake her hand. Instead, she gave me a confused look and a hesitant nod. I was a little confused myself with the seemingly cold reception, and presumed she wasn’t too interested in meeting us.  However, that presumption was soon gone after our conversation started and she opened up with a big smile describing how much the Kiva loan had helped her. I later found out that it is not very common in Kyrgyzstan to shake hands when you are introduced to a woman, especially in remote villages.

Kalyicha’s farm

Kalyicha gave me a tour of her farm, and showed me the new horse she bought with the loan. She told me that she plans to reinvest her profits to further expand her business. I described to her how individual lenders from all over the world contributed to her loan and were really interested in helping her succeed. She was amazed and thankful that strangers from faraway lands knew her story and were willing to give her the loan.

Kalyicha was very hospitable and offered us apples grown in her farm (which were really tasty.) Then, to my surprise, she insisted that I should ride her new horse. Of course, I couldn’t say no to such a great opportunity.

My first ever horse ride!

Riding a horse is fun in itself, but it was extra special since this was my first time. After I climbed up on the horse, I didn’t know how to make it move. Kalyicha’s son suggested me to gently hit the horse with my legs. It felt a bit strange sitting on top of an animal and hitting it, but that weird feeling went away once the horse started moving.

Riding a horse for the first time reminded me of the first time I went canoeing. It is very confusing in the beginning, but you adjust very quickly once you figure out how to get the horse to turn different ways, move, and stop.

Getting the horse to accelerate

Soon, I was getting confident, and I wanted the horse to run faster. Kalyicha’s son offered me the secret word “Tshu”, which apparently gets the horse to accelerate.  I tried repeating that word several times, but the horse didn’t seem to understand me. Soon, everybody watching me ride the horse started shouting that word with increasing intensity, and the horse finally accelerated. It was a frightening yet amazing feeling.

After taking a few more laps around the farm, I felt satisfied with all that I had learned that day. I thanked Kalyicha for the wonderful experience, and ended up saying “Atleechna!” (Awesome!”) and “Spaseeba” (Thank you) quite a few times.

A statue that I saw on my way back to Bishkek

This is one of the best things about exploring a completely new region. You are constantly surprised with awesome new experiences that you never even expected. I am excited to see what comes next!

About the author


Abhi is interested in leveraging technology to empower local communities with financial literacy and economic development. He completed his undergraduate studies from Carleton College with a degree in Physics and Computer Science. After graduating from college, he has been working at an investment management firm in New York, focusing on portfolio risk analysis. Having lived in and experienced completely different cultures of Nepal, rural Midwest, and New York City, he also really appreciates the importance of experiencing new cultures. Having finished his first fellowship in Kyrgyzstan, he is excited to be continue with partners in the Ukraine.