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  • I was traveling overland from mainland China to Tibet, through the eastern foothills of the Himalayas. The area was historically the Tibetan province of Kham, home of feared horsemen and warriors, and known for its rolling hills and meandering rivers. I had heard from other travelers that an annual local horse festival was soon to occur, so I stopped for a few nights in the monastery town of Tagong.

    The day of the celebration started early and consisted of much eating and drinking, races both on foot and horse, feats of acrobatic riding and competitions of strength and archery all in the shadows of prayer flag painted hills. As the afternoon turned to evening I could feel the energy slowly building. The horsemen had previously been riding individually, making runs through a hundred meter gauntlet formed by cheering onlookers, performing various tricks as they passed. Abruptly, the crowding became more intense. On the far side the horsemen were gathering, pacing and trotting in small circles as their horses bristled with nervous energy. I wandered into the open space between the lines for a better view. With no warning the mass of riders broke free and mounted one last glorious charge, laughing and whooping and tossing up handfuls of colored paper emblazoned with Buddhist symbols as they rode. I found myself directly in their path. I snapped a single photo and prayed it was in focus as I dove out of the way.
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