Running Wild in Cappadocia

When you think of the iconic Cappadocia landscape of Turkey, you most often think about hot air balloons and fairy chimney rock formations. But there’s another magic that should come to mind too. Cappadocia is also known as the land of beautiful horses.

Stretching back centuries, the Anatolia region has been home to a rich horsemanship culture. From the times of the Mongol Empire, farmers kept horses on hand to pull plows through the fields and carts to convey their produce. In the winter, they’d turn the horses loose, leaving them to fend for themselves and survive. When spring came back around, farmers rounded up the horses for the new season.

These wild horses are known as yılkı, which literally translates to “a horse that has been released to nature.” Keeping them through the winter would have been expensive, so turning them loose relieved farmers of their maintenance through the season while simultaneously toughening up the horses. As the years pass and farmers need horses less and less for work in the fields thanks to modern technologies and an evolving world, more and more yılkı can be found in the wild.

Yılkı run wild throughout Turkey, not just in Cappadocia. They can be found in the Samsun, Usak, Afyonkarahisar, and Karaman regions, as well as other cities. And they aren’t just one breed. From Roman barbs to Turkish Akhal-Tekes to Persian Asil horses, these wild yılkı tell a story of the many cultural influences that have shaped Turkey’s history and geography. This mix of breeds has created new variations in the yılkı to bring forth horses of many different sizes, colors and defining characteristics.

While the horses run wild, they do have owners. Many families who have lived in the regions for generations still claim ownership of many of the yılkı, even if they don’t use them for farming. These families take care of the horses as needed, but they never tame the yılkı.

Many photographers, both professional and hobbyist, come to Cappadocia to capture the magnificence of the wild horses. Every season brings its own majestic environment to photograph these beautiful horses. Summer brings with it the opportunity to take pictures at sunset as the horses’ running raises dust that creates a mesmerizing haze across the landscape.

To achieve the perfect shot of hundreds of yılkı running in the field, use a wide-angle lens to make sure all horses are in the frame. A fast shutter speed helps freeze the horses in the moment or for a more artistic spin, use a slower shutter speed to create a dramatic blur. Sunset offers the chance to take some silhouette shots, which are especially enticing when the horses rear and jump.

Experience the enchantment of Cappadocia on one of our luxe-adventure voyages to The Holy Land.

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