I laughed when he tapped his finger on his horse’s head and said, “Here, GPS.” He seemed to know everything about horses. I was listening intently, trying to understand the story he was telling me with his limited English.
Born home,” he kept saying, over pronouncing the “o” and rolling his tongue a bit—making it sound more like “holm.” “Born home, ten years, back” and as understanding washed over my face, he grinned and proudly patted the horse he was riding. He really did love those horses. They were a major part of life in Mongolia—a historically nomadic country—and I didn’t meet one Mongolian who thought differently. We were talking and riding as Ogie led the way.
“Born home, see horse, happy happy!” He motioned he was sprinkling something into the air around him.
There was a wide river to our left that we were following, with the path further ahead curving to the right, going uphill, then veering left again to meet some small cliffs. Throughout the vast grasslands there were pockets of trees and wooded areas, and I made a mental note to start paying attention once we reached the trees at the top of the hill. My poor little legs were tired as my horse had proven to be more difficult than I ever anticipated. During our rides, Ogie broke a branch off of a tree each day, and instructed me to slap my stubborn horse’s backside. I felt bad at first, I didn’t want to hurt the horse, until it was clear that this specific horse had no intention of keeping a decent pace unless I made him.
To sum up a 30 minute one-man show, he said that the Mongolians thought that the journey of a horse back to his “born home,” usually to “sleep” (die), was a beautiful thing to be celebrated.
Ogie was explaining to me how intelligent Mongolian horses were. They knew the way back to their birthplaces even after 10 years of living in another place, after they had been bought and transported to their new homes, he told me. It was their amazing GPS brains, no doubt. It took me five minutes to understand that particular sentence from him, but I didn’t mind. We were in absolutely no rush. It was mid morning and the only place I needed to be was back in the capital by nightfall—Ulaanbaatar, which was a couple hours away.