Horses are a major part of the Kazakh culture. Breeding horses started in Kazakhstan thousands years ago and continues to this day. For a Kazakh nomad and cattle-breeder a horse was not only a highly valuable asset and measure of wealth, but also a friend, companion and comrade-in-arms. It is therefore quite natural that Kazakhstan has consistently cultivated the art of horse riding gear making at the highest level and is regarded as the very finest craftsmanship.
The traditional horse equipment (er-turman) includes: a saddle (er-tokhym), bridle and bit (zhyugen), breastplate and breast collar (omyldirik), back and hip strap, britchen strap (khuyiskhan), cinch (ayil, tartpah), stirrups (yuzengi), saddle blanket (tokhym, kezhym), and a whip (khamshiy). A saddle (er-tokhym) is made of wood and covered in camel leather (aut), other pieces of horse gear are made in leather from cattle. Today male, female, child’s and ritual saddles and other riding gear are made.
Of the artistic interest is the shape and decoration of saddles—the central element of horse equipment. Saddle consists of four parts: a front arch (khas) that has semicircular or triangle shape or shaped as ram’s horns, goose’s neck (khaz er), or a wedge (khozy khuyrikh er); a rear arch (kersen); two side bars (khaptal), and a seat space (arkhalykh).
The harness and bridle features are made of narrow leather straps, which are stapled with one another with ornamented buttons. The straps are reinforced and decorated with ornamented silver plates / plaques (embossing, stamping). The decorative style of this equipment is characterized by metal elements only partially covering the surface. Stirrups (yuzengi) are cast in iron and bronze.
All the stages of horse riding gear making are performed by a single artisan. An artisan must have required skills, knowledge and experience in metalworking, woodwork, leather processing, jewelry making (niello, inlay, embossing, enamel, etc.), stone cutting (turquoise, carnelian, jade, pearl, and jadeite). The exquisite design and decorations of horse equipment make it a work of art.
Modern horse equipment makers (ershyi) include A. Baratov, Sh. Uskenbayev, K. Nurmakanov, N. Abdymanov, B. Beysbekob, Ye. Askarov, D. Shokparov, А. Moldahanov and B. Alibay.