Tatarstan residents have long loved to argue about who has the fastest and most agile horse.
The most spectacular horse races in Kazan take place during the Tatar celebration Sabantui, which marks the end of the spring planting season. This tradition continues even in the present day. Every spring, the best horse racers from all over the Republic of Tatarstan compete during the Sabantui festival.
The first horse competitions in Kazan took place during the reign of Peter the Great. These competitions helped to determine the best horses for Peter’s army. In 1868, horse races became a regular part of city life. Races were held in the winter on the ice of Lake Kaban and in the summer on nearby tracks, which began hosting regular competitions.
The first Kazan stud farms began to appear in the 18th century. Soon the merchant Gabdrakhman-bai Ishmuratov and the nobleman Konstantin Molostov became the most famous and successful horse breeders.
By the end of the 19th century, many Russian breeders began crossing the breeds of two horses, the domestic Orlov Trotter and American Thoroughbreds. Notably, horse breeders in the Kazan province remained loyal to the Russian horse and only bred the Orlov Trotter.
With great effort, Kazan equestrians managed to preserve their stock and the breed standard even after the Bolshevik Revolution. Later, after the Great Patriotic War, Tatarstan began hosting regional equestrian competitions.
Over time, the popularity of equestrian sports increased so much that, in 1995, the old racetrack on Pavliukhin Street was renovated. Equestrian schools and horse riding clubs opened in all the major cities of the Republic of Tatarstan.
In 2005, a brand new racetrack opened in Kazan on Kamaleev Prospect. The Kazan International Equestrian Sports Complex is the largest in Russia and one of the largest in Europe. An airport was previously located on the site of the complex, with one symbol of speed giving way to another.
The Kazan hippodrome covers 91.1 hectares. The impressive structure is easiest seen by car – or by horse. The complex features a covered, 4,000-seat grandstand and an uncovered, 2,000-seat grandstand. The field of the hippodrome has a 1,800-meter racetrack and a 1,600-meter jogging track with turns. The complex also boasts a training area, competition area, two dressage fields, and a veterinary clinic. Both trotting and pacing competitions can take place at the arena.
In spite of its modern equipment, the Kazan hippodrome still serves as a reminder that people once lived here alone with nature. Ever since that time, locals have retained amazing mental swiftness.