At Kapshagai Lake

Back in Kazakhstan this week for a conference, I was able to find some time today for a trip out to the shores of Kapshagai Lake about 100 kms from Almaty to look at horses.

This herd of around 200 horses has spent the summer up in the Ili Alatau mountains on the Assy Plateau, which explains their superb condition. They are kept in the traditional way, with six stallions, each protecting a large groups of mares.

Although Thomas Atkinson never crossed the River Ili from the East, it was fascinating to visit this area with Magzhan and Sasha from Kazgeo. Kapshagai Lake is the result of a dam across the Ili, flooding the original channel at the point it breaks out of the mountains on its course towards Lake Balkhash. The dam was completed in 1970, although it was another 20 years before the lake was completely filled, due to concerns about the amount of water reaching Lake Balkhash.

I couldn’t resist the chance to get into the saddle of one of the herdsman’s horses. This herd will stay here throughout the winter, before returning next spring up into the mountains. The rifle the herdsman is carrying is to protect the horses from wolves and jackals.

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