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GALLOPING THROUGH EQUESTRIAN HISTORY
2002 / JANUARY
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 Atatürk
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GALLOPING THROUGH EQUESTRIAN HISTORY
2002 / JANUARY
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 Ýzmir from then on. In 1936 Ankara City Hippodrome was constructed on Atatürk'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.
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GALLOPING THROUGH EQUESTRIAN HISTORY
2002 / JANUARY
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.
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GALLOPING THROUGH EQUESTRIAN HISTORY
2002 / JANUARY

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.

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GALLOPING THROUGH EQUESTRIAN HISTORY
2002 / JANUARY

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 Abdülaziz (1861-1876) on horseback, Atatürk 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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