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  • It sounds so easy. To anyone who has seen a cow being milked. Passive creatures, huddled together in close quarters, connected to machines, gladly donating their elixir for the goodness of man.

    Imagine however, that they could gallop. Were not quite wild, but not domesticated either. Free to roam in the open. Could buck and kick, and could only carry enough milk that they had to be milked every two hours for any significant benefit. Now you are a little closer to the reality of milking a mare.

    The idea is simple. If you want to milk the mare, catch the foal. Sounds easy.

    The first thing standing in the way is the stallion that leads the herd. Extremely possessive and controlling, a stallion will kill the foal from another herd if allowed to. All the foals from a single herd must be kept together once they are caught. How the Mongolians know which foal belongs to which herd was incomprehensible to me. They do not name their horses, using only colors to describe them. Its a good thing they have over three hundred words to describe the color of horses. (Maybe there is a better out there than the Hex system we have been using to manage color!) If the stallion is subdued the herd can be led into the corral and the foals can be cornered either by lasso or by crowding them.

    If, however, the stallion runs wild, the foals must be captured the hard way - on horseback with a loop at the end of a big stick.

    Once the foals are caught, they are tied to a harness stretched across the ground with a temporary bridle and a very short leash. This serves two purposes. First, the foals stand there with their heads down and tend to quieten themselves and often lie down. Secondly, and more selfishly, it is impossible for them to suckle their mothers, thereby leaving the mares to be milked.

    Nature takes over. The mares give up the run and come stand next to their foals. One at a time, the foals are untied, allowed to drink some milk, and while they are held close to the mare, quickly a pint or two are collected in a bucket. As Tsetsgee milks the mare, she sits on her haunched with a bucket caught between her legs and is done before the mare misses the foal.

    It is magic, this relationship between the Mongolians and their horses.
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