I had a dream – one day I would own a white stallion and gallop through fields of yellow daisies.
This was of course a high school dream which quickly faded when I realised I preferred fast cars. However the magic of a horse was never far from my thoughts.

I had the opportunity to meet renowned photographer Nuri Çorbacıoğlu, better known as Nuri Hoca who has been a teacher for 15 years at Kayseri University and who evolved into an award winning photographer with more than 100 of his photos being exhibited in more than 10 different countries. Nuri’s photos were displayed in more than 20 exhibitions and in 2010 he held his first independent exhibition of which he donated all the proceeds to education.

His photo tours entitled “ Journey to Anatolia “ opened up new doors, allowing photographers and tourists alike opportunities to share in the beautiful places he has discovered. One of these passions are the Yilki horses found at the foothills of Mount Erciyes, an extinct volcano and one of Turkey’s highest peaks.

Setting out in late December with Nuri and his team I entered the quaint village of Hurmetci in Kayseri province. Our first stop was with Ali Kemer, a third – generation horse breeder who cares for about 350 of this magnificent animals. In good old Turkish tradition we were invited into his house and drank tea ( cay ) huddled around the warm stove on the side of the room. It was a particularly cold day, with snow having fallen the day before. After some deliberation it was decided we would return another day as Ali’s sons were not there to assist with the rounding up the horses.

Our second trip had me really prepared with a warm jacket, thick socks and good boots to walk through the snow. Looking out at the somewhat eery, semi barren landscape one could imagine a fox chasing a hare over the white plains. I stood admiring not only the splendour of the horses but the beautiful countryside that they roamed so freely in.

The name ‘ YILKI “ means to be “ left to the wild “. the most suitable name for these herds of horses that were once working horses on local farms, pulling ploughs and helping to harvest crops. In the winter time they were left to fend for themselves in a sometimes very harsh winter. With the fresh spring air came a revival of energies and they would once again be captured and put to work. Sadly in the 1970’s they were gradually replaced with equipment like tractors , there was no longer much use for them and because times were tough especially in winter the horses were released into the wild for good.

Some villagers even sold their horses to buy farm implements other wondered off into the mountains where they ate dried plants and gum tragacanth they helps animals to not feel the cold. The horses continued to produce off spring and herds starting growing in various Turkish Provinces such as Mus, Karadag, Kayseri and Karaman. The largest is the this herd found in Kayseri, and it may well be the largest untamed herd of horses in the world.

In my own little daydream world the sound of thundering hooves smacking down on the snow suddenly brought me to my senses. The spirited white stallion stood close by neighing for the remainder of his herd, nobody was to be left behind. With their lungs full of fresh air, the horses galloped out onto the vast plain.

Not to be left out of the fun, the local dogs ran alongside the horses barking, but just staying out of reach of any dangerous backlashes with the powerful hooves. The herdsman ( who have a distinctive cowboy appearance complete with cowboys hats ) work together keeping the horses in a herd. I hopped into the saddle of a riders horses and gazing out over the ears of one of Kayseri’s most loved residents i realised what freedom really meant. Its easy to forget the pressure of modern day living and drift off into a by gone era as we appreciate the serenity and silence of this snowy world.

Slowly the weak sun with its halo around it started to set and the sky gradually changed to a soft orange . It was time to let the horses head back into the village where they are fed and given water in the winter months. Prancing off with raised tails the herd content that they had been the centre of attention in the village on a quite Friday afternoon where soon lost from site as we ambled through the snow taking in the last moments of our surrounding beauty.

This is one of my travel experiences that will forever be remembered. It ranks as one of my favourite and has had an impact on my life, reminding me to slow down and appreciate what nature offers us.

Fun Horse Facts

  • Happy horses drop their heads, then flip them high and even make a high and full skyward
    circle with their noses.
  • They can laugh, not like humans of course. They will curl their upper lip , fully exposing their upper front teeth.
  • When you talk to a horse, it replies with a raised head, arched neck and muzzle down.
  • Horses are bit like dogs. They have their own personalities but are not as loyal as dogs. If the rider is thrown from his horse, its unlikely the horse will stick around to protect you. He will probably make a run for it.
  • They are herd animals, so if the horse is not surrounded by other horses he will probably befriend other animals like donkeys, sheep, goats and cows.
  • Horses live to be 25 – 30 years of age
  • Horses can swim, but some are afraid of water
  • They only sleep for 2 hours a day, and only a few minutes at a time. They normally sleep standing up, but on occasion will lie down. This is because they are prey animals so then need to be ready to bolt if danger is lurking.

Little Black Book

www.cappadociaphototours.com To book a photography tour of the horses with Nuri

www.anadoluyayolculuk.com more about the photo tours

www.turkishairlines.com to book a flight into Kayseri

Also Read 

10 Must do’s in Cappadocia ( land of beautiful horses )

Mount Erciyes – World Class Ski Facility

Kayseri the “Anatolian Tigers” – what you should do in thiscity

Kayseri – take 2