Everyone dresses up in their best outfits, which are spectacular; even the camels get to wear brightly colored rugs. There is a general air of chaos with no clear line between contestants and the watching crowd - sometimes you end up closer to the action than you might like!
A crowd favorite (amongst the women at least) is the 'race between a man and a woman', in which the woman pursues the man, giving him a good whipping as they gallop across the steppe. The tug-of-war with a dead goat involves two riders holding each end of the goat and trying to pull each other out of the saddle as they gallop randomly about - including into the crowd. Brutal certainly, but a true spectacle, and very fiercely contested. It's quite incredible how far out of the saddle a rider can be pulled without actually falling.
For a real test of horsemanship, riders lean down out of the saddle at speed to pick up small targets off the ground. Very useful when you drop your hat. Archery from horse-back is another ancient skill on display, and evidently very difficult. Genghis Khan would not have been impressed! In the Mongolia of today it is not a skill in great demand (luckily for us). When the riotous crowd of people, horses, camels and eagles gets too much, you can always pop into a ger for a cup of tea and khuurshuur (mutton pancake).
Days 1 - 3: As for the Altai Mountains trips above.
Days 4 - 10: Ride into the mountains of Altai Tavan Bogd National Park (7-8 days riding).
Day 11: Drive to Sagsai near Ulgii, visiting family along the way.
Days 12 - 13: Eagle festival.
Day 14: Fly back to Ulaanbaatar.
Day 15: Depart Ulaanbaatar. End of the tour.
Also see tour packages in:
Asia Mongolia Local Culture Festival Tours