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    [See the web pages of the Turkish Thoroughbred Breeders Association s at: http://www.siaysd.org.tr/index3.htm ] x0x GALLOPING THROUGH EQUESTRIAN HISTORY By
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 29, 2003
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      [See the web pages of the Turkish Thoroughbred Breeders Association's at:
      http://www.siaysd.org.tr/index3.htm ]


      By Demet Sunar

      The Turkish Jockey Club opened its museum in 2000 at Istanbul's
      Veliefendi Hippodrome. The museum contains a fascinating collection of
      objects and documents concerning equestrian history, focusing
      particularly on the important role of horses in Turkish culture. The
      sound of thundering hooves from the races taking place just outside is
      fitting accompaniment to the exhibits which tell the story of horses
      over the centuries. When people learnt to ride horses they at first
      used them to seek out suitable pastures, streams and encampment sites,
      and later realised the advantages of riding them into battle. In
      Turkish societies from ancient times up to the present day horses have
      shared the fate of their owners in both war and peace. For centuries
      horses played a vital part in the lives of pre-Islamic Turkish nomadic
      communities wandering the steppes, and the traditional equestrian
      culture of the Turks maintained its vitality into Ottoman times when
      breeding and training horses continued to be of great importance.

      Western style horse racing only gained widespread popularity in Turkey after Ataturk
      organised horse races for the Turkish cavalry in Ankara during the War
      of Independence in the 1920s. Following the establishment of the
      Turkish Republic government-run studs led in the field of horse
      breeding, and in 1926 the Horse Racing and Breeding Council was
      established. Horse races were held regularly in Ankara, Istanbul and
      izmir from then on. In 1936 Ankara City Hippodrome was constructed on
      Ataturk's instructions.

      Saddles, harnesses, stirrups and whips dating from the 19th and 20th
      centuries are displayed in the museum. The collection includes a
      Turcoman saddle cloth from Central Asia, a gold embroidered Ottoman
      horse cloth, a Circassian saddle, and Ottoman saddles of the regular
      and cavalry types. Ottoman saddles retained many of the
      characteristics of those used in Central Asia, and were often
      extremely decorative.

      Some were studded with precious stones and had richly worked fittings
      of bronze, silver and other metals. Harnesses were similarly ornate,
      and the collection contains elegant whips of silver and ivory, silver
      stirrups, and water flasks used by riders. Most dazzling among the
      exhibits are the Turcoman saddle cloth made of red felt with leather
      and silver decoration, an Ottoman saddle cloth made of dark blue
      broadcloth embroidered with gold rumi motifs, an Ottoman saddle richly
      adorned with silver embroidery on red velvet and pailettes, a
      Circassian saddle with gilded reposéan decoration and silver
      embroidery, harnesses with engraved and chased silver ornamentation,
      and silver stirrups. This group of eyecatching equestrian equipment
      reflects what a significant role the horse played in Turkish culture
      in the past.

      The museum collection also includes figures of horses made from
      diverse materials, and publications in both Ottoman and modern Turkish
      concerning horses and horse racing.

      There is a programme or races held at Kagithane in Istanbul in 1863,
      and racing programmes for the republican period dating back to 1927.

      Other ephemera connected with horse racing are tickets and betting
      cards, of which the earliest date from the 1940s. On stands in the
      centre of the hall are equestrian figures made of glass and pottery
      presented at the 11th and 21st Asian Racing Conferences, and vases
      decorated with equestrian designs. In the small room next to the hall
      are displayed the cups, shields and plaques presented to the Turkish
      Jockey Club since 1954, examples of pedigrees, vaccination
      certificates and other documentation for thoroughbred horses. In
      another section devoted to the horses themselves you discover that a
      horse has 252 different bones in its skeleton, and 520 muscles; that
      its brain and heart weigh 500 grams and 3.5-5 kilogrammes
      respectively; that the average lifespan is 20-26 years; and gestation
      period 320-350 days. In the same section we learn that the world's
      longest lived horse was Old Billy, an American horse who lived from
      1758 until 1822.

      On the walls are many photographs from the Jockey Club's archive
      recording notable events in the club's history. They include pictures
      of Sultan Abdulaziz (1861-1876) on horseback, Ataturk caught up in the
      excitement of a race at Ankara Hippodrome, and Queen Elizabeth of the
      United Kingdom visiting Ankara Hippodrome with Turkish President
      Cevdet Sunay in 1971.

      The museum also has a library containing Turkish and foreign books and
      periodicals on horses, horse breeding and racing, including Turkish
      Jockey Club publications.

      * Demet Sunar is a freelance writer
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