Horses are a pretty big deal in Hungary, especially out on the great fertile plains (puszta) of southern Hungary. On a side trip from our float down the Danube with Viking River Cruises, we visited this horse farm for a display of traditional training of and uses for horses.
Horses–and cowboys–have been part of Hungarian culture since Central Asian tribes arrived on horseback in the Middle Ages. The horses were trained to lie down in tall grass to hide from battle, and saddles were made to slip off easily so riders could act quickly. We're shown medieval horsemanship games, testing the horses and their riders, demonstrating quick turns, speed, various gaits, and steadiness while soldiers fought with whips or lances. The repeated loud cracking of long whips doesn't even make the horses blink.
Some of the horses from this farm are soon to be movie stars: they're slated to appear in, what else, Game of Thrones. We're hoping they find some bit parts for the impressive Hungarian Gray Cattle, too, or the dark and curly-haired Mongolian Pigs.
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This farm property was returned to private ownership in the 1990s after the fall of the Soviet regime. As is the case with most large plots, there's a major investor here (the horse breeder) as well as a number of family businesses. All together, the stable masters, the farmers, the event center staff, and others make this a productive farm and place of employment.
Viking River Cruises hosted our accommodations aboard the LIF. This specific voyage from Budapest to Bucharest is called “Passage to Eastern Europe.” Ours was the last sailing of the season, but there's availability in both directions in 2016.