In early May, Russian horsemen from the Kremlin Equestrian School will take part in the Royal Windsor Horse Show which is timed to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the coronation of British Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen is expected to be in attendance at the show during which the Russian horsemen will perform amazing horseback stunts.Taking part in the Windsor event will be horsemen from all across the globe.
Held annually for five days in May in Windsor Home Park, the Royal Windsor Horse Show has always enjoyed the enthusiastic support of the Royal Family. The show offers visitors a fantastic mix of Jumping, Showing and Carriage Driving competitions.
As for the Russian horsemen, they are almost certain to steal the show at Windsor, where they will demonstrate their art of wielding swords and acrobatic tricks whilst on horseback - a tradition of the national martial culture of Russian cavalry. Sports instructor Pavel Polyakov says that trick riding was once used as a weapon by the Russian Cossacks, who adopted it from the people of Caucasus and Central Asia and called it dzhigitovka.
Dzhigit is a word of Turkic origin which is used in the Caucasus and Central Asia to describe a skillful and brave equestrian. The derived term dzhigitovka means a special style of trick riding which combines athletic staginess with riders demonstrating their art of wielding swords and acrobatic tricks whilst on horseback, all of which were battle techniques of the Russian Cossacks in the 19th century.
Dzhigitovka was used in the training of cavalry forces in the Russian Empire and the USSR. With the abolition of cavalry troops in the Soviet Army in the mid-1950s, dzhigitovka disappeared only to be revived in 2005 as a type of equestrian sport.
Horsemen from the Kremlin Equestrian School did their best to revive the martial art of dzhigitovka, using archive materials and newsreels. It took them several months to prepare for their 20-minute performance at the 2012 Windsor show.
Among other stunts, the Russian horsemen will demonstrate their art of wielding sabers and spears during the show which will specifically see them hewing various objects installed on a special platform. Sports instructor Yuri Dobotolov proudly shows a cavalry sword which weighs just 800 grams and is made of special steel.
“Only one third of such a sword is sharpened – something that enables a horseman to show his art of wielding the sword whilst on horseback,”Dobotolov explained.
Pavel Polyakov, who staged the Russian show, says, in turn, that when performing dzhigitovka, the riders stand up at full gallop in the saddle, jump to the ground and then back into the saddle.
“A horsemen should be strong enough to use mass inertia in order to jump back into the saddle at full gallop,” Pavel Polyakov said.
Dzhigitovka also includes back drag and complex stunts usually performed by a group of riders who typically form a three-“storey” pyramid at the end of the show.
The horses used are of traditional Russian breeds, normally Don and Budyonny breeds which are widely known for their intellect and devotion.
Riders say that duly looking after the horses is an essential part of preparations for the Windsor show. Each rider as a rule looks after his horse all by himself so that the animal can fully trust him during the performance.