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Akha Human Rights - Akha University
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Horses and Akha Cowboys
The Akha are expert farmers and capable horsemen. They use their horses for riding in the mountainous jungle, and hauling back loads of rice, corn, firewood, broom grass or other crops on wooden pack frames mounted with two large baskets.
The wooden pack frames for the smallish horses can be bought locally.
The horses are seldom "shod" as with steel in the west, but up in markets like in Keng Tung, Burma, where the ground and weather are dryer, metal shoes can be found and appear to be used more often.
Akha trails to their fields are very steep at best and in the rainy season it is not always advisable to "stay mounted".
The horse above is a rare "palamino" in Chiangrai Province, Thailand.
The Akha trade and buy horses back and forth with the Chinese and Lahu.
At an elaborate Akha funeral up to three water buffalo are killed for feeding all the guests and in the end a horse is brightly dressed in fancy embroideries and set free, to give the dead person the means to ride back to the ancestral grounds and it is forbidden for any Akha to catch or own that horse! Another person of any other tribe may catch it and become the owner after the funeral when it is chased out of the village and down the mountain with ceremony.
Horses are also valuable for hauling rice seed to the fields during planting, and for hauling salt which is mixed in a light mixture of water and sprayed on the leaves of weeds in the heat of the day, in which case it kills them instantly without hurting the rice, offering a strong rice crop.
Copyright 1991 The Akha Heritage Foundation