Born in the Saddle

A Mongol without a horse is like a Bird without the wings
— Traditional Mongolian saying

A culture so thoroughly in love with horses, they may as well be centaurs. They fight on horseback, they travel on horseback, they eat on horseback, they sleep on horseback. They probably aren't literally born there, but they'll certainly start learning to ride before they can walk.

Expect a lot of jokes about just how much they love their horses.

Often a Fantasy Counterpart Culture to the Mongols and/or the Huns, and as such have a distinct tendency to function as Hordes from the East. However, as the Lord of the Rings example of the Rohirrim demonstrates, they can just as well be a more civilised, chivalric culture. Don't be surprised — "chivalry" derives from the French word "chevalier," a horseback rider or knight. Whether or not they're the bad guys, they're sure to be a Proud Warrior Race (you can't get much studying done at a canter, after all).

Usually expert Horse Archers, though tend to be just as good with a sword.

Sometimes the steed of choice will be a Horse of a Different Color, but actual Equus f. caballus seem to be favoured for some reason.

Examples:

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     Film  

     Literature  
  • The nation and warriors of Rohan in Lord of the Rings.
  • The Dothraki in A Song of Ice and Fire don't let you forget about it. They worship horse-gods, and talk about practically everything in terms of equine metaphors. And changing the word from Khan to Khal isn't fooling anyone, either. They even refer to what we call "doggy-style" as "horse-fashion," and most will have sex in no other way.
  • Desnairans of Safehold wear it proudly as their hat, although how much of it is true is debatable. The commander of force "allied" with them loves to mock it. Of course Desnairan will ride a horse like he's born in it, of course he'll launch grand charges, of course he's the "most best" horse rider in the world... Only it doesn't help much when the enemy is armed with muzzle-loaded rifles.
  • The Horse Tribes in The Light Fantastic. They aren't very sentimental about their steeds, though; when your entire culture is based on horses, that includes your diet.
    Cohen explained that the Horse Tribes of the Hubland steppes were born in the saddle, which Rincewind considered was a gynaecological impossibility
    • Averted in one of the ancestors of the Queen of Sto Lat, who settled down with a speech to the effect of "Just because you're born in the saddle doesn't mean you have to die in it".
  • The Anglo-Saxon Cossacks of The Tough Guide To Fantasy Land. Since the Fantasyland horse is actually a vegetable, the Anglo-Saxon Cossacks are the only people who know the secret of its cultivation.
  • The Algar from The Belgariad. On rare occasion, they actually have members born to the tribe who can talk to horses. They're also cattlemen; when Hettar mentions his dream of domesticating and/or crossbreeding a type of flesh-eating wild horse, Garion (after noting Hettar can't stand the idea of something equine that he can't ride) points out that it's a bad idea to have horses that see cattle as food when your economy revolves around cattle.
  • David Eddings' other pair of series, The Elenium and The Tamuli, feature the Peloi. The men of these nomadic plains tribes learn to master their horses early (one neat trick is they can make their horses kneel somehow) and are consummate light cavalrymen known for slicing up enemy flanks while their horses practically fly past. Kring, the leader of the Peloi of Pelosia, is noted to be bowlegged due to his constant riding.
  • The MacAhern clan from the The Witches Of Eileanan, who aren't called "The Horse Lairds" for nothing. They ride winged horses; supposedly, you have to stay on one for an entire year, day and night, doing everything in the saddle before the horse will accept you.
  • On Gor the Wagon Peoples, natives of the Tahari region, and Red Savages are all described like this at one point.
  • In Helm, the Rootless clans.
  • The Shin'a'in in the Heralds of Valdemar series, and the Heralds themselves after rigorous training (though their mounts are intelligent spirits in horse-like physical bodies). When Talia is brought to the Heralds' Collegium, her equestrian instructor Keren informs the girl that "by the time I'm done with you, anything you can do afoot, you'll be able to do from the back of your Companion." Later in the trilogy, that same instructor manages to slingshot into a dive from the back of her Companion in full gallop. Said one of the other Heralds, "I didn't know you could do that!"
  • In The Wheel of Time, this is the Saldaeans' hat. At one point a legion of them parade across a plain doing tricks—riding two horses at once with one foot on either saddle, slapping the ground in passing while dangling precariously from the saddle, or climbing underneath the horse and up the other side, all while at a full gallop.
  • Joy Chant's world of Vandarei, which she's been developing since she was a toddler, has the Khentorei. They call their mounts horses, but they're what we would call unicorns. Huge, massive, shaggy ones.

     Music  

     Radio  

  • Our Miss Brooks: Tex Barton, teenaged cowboy, in a couple of radio episodes.

     Tabletop Games  

  • Basic Dungeons & Dragons, Gazetteer 12 The Golden Khan of Ethengar. The Ethengar tribesmen (who are based on the Real Life Mongol hordes of Genghis Khan) are described this way. Children start riding at the age of three.
  • The Valenar elves of Eberron. The Halflings of the Talenta Plains also, though they use dinosaurs for mounts.
  • The people of Nova Vaasa, in the Ravenloft setting, track their origins to nomads Born in the Saddle, and are still renowned as the Core's best horsemen and horse-breeders. Actually an aversion, as this is "false history"; like most Core realms, Nova Vaasa was created out of whole cloth, backstory included, by the Dark Powers.
  • Warhammer has several variations on this:
    • The nomadic Kurgan and Hung of the Northern Wastes, who are widely considered the greatest horsemen in the world. (That's right, the Hung like horses.)
    • The Ungols of Kislev, although not quite as formidable as their Kurgan cousins.
    • The people of the duchy of Couronne in Bretonnia. All Bretonnian nobles love horses, but these guys take it to extremes. Couronne is also the only place in Bretonnia where non-nobles are allowed to ride.
    • Hobgoblins in the East, although in their case it's wolves.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, the barbaric Atillan Rough Riders supply some of the most celebrated cavalry regiments of the Imperial Guard (Mogul Kamir even has a literal Automaton Horse). The denizens of the planet Chogoris have a similar mounted culture, though if they're found worthy of joining the White Scars space marine chapter they'll exchange their horse for an armored motorcycle.
  • The Marukan Alliance consists of this, with a bit of cowboy thrown in for good measure. They worship a horse god (who sires some of their steeds), their national militia doubles up as a postal service, and they often serve as elite cavalry for the nearby city-state of Lookshy.

     Video Games  

     Web Original  

  • In The Gamers Alliance, the Khitans from the Khitan Khanate in Maar Sul are expert riders who are skilled in the use of both the bow and the sword. They bond with their horses at an early age and see them as their brothers and sisters.

     Real Life  

  • It is said that Mongolian man wasn't much of a man if he didn't have a horse.
  • Juan-Juan, Xiongnu, Jurchen, Khitans, basically anyone living north/northwest of the Chinese Empire were almost predominantly proud horse people. Their raids proved destructive for much of Chinese history, giving rise to a massive linked system of forts and walls that eventually became the Great Wall.
  • Turks and Turkic people. Part of the reason why Greeks used to be so angry with the Turkish people (apart from invading Greece) was the fact that the Eastern Roman/Byzantine Empire (which was predominantly Greek) fell to a people that initially were horse nomads.
  • The Cossacks of Ukraine and Southern Russia could allegedly ride a horse at the age of 3.
    • Historically, Georgians as well, particularly those from the mountains. Still survives in many areas, though war, migration to cities, and economic hardship has made horsemanship less universal.
  • The Scythian people, whose reputation saw huge numbers of them serving as cavalrymen to many Greek and Persian kingdoms during the classical era.
  • Rivals of the Scythians in the plains of Eurasia, the Sauromatae/Sarmatian people also have quite a reputation as horsemen, that Romans employed boatloads of them for their cavalry, promising Roman citizenship in return for their services.
    • Some historians think that the original King Arthur was a Roman-Sarmatian cavalry officer. The nobility of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (themselves renowned for the quality of their cavalry, but not quite to the extent of this trope) also believed themselves to be descended from the Sarmatians, and this view had a major influence on their culture.
  • The Sioux, Cheyenne, Crow, Kiowa, and many other Native American nations of the Great Plains. Compared to the Eurasian horse nomads they spent much of history not having any horses until the 1600s when the Apaches became the first to learn how to ride Iberian mustangs stolen from the Spaniards. Herds of horses dispersed and multiplied throughout the plains, spreading to other tribes which became great hunters and cavalrymen in their own right.
    • The Comanches, for their part, put every other Plains horse tribe to shame. They and the Kiowas were actually the only tribes to learn how to fight fully mounted during the adaptation of horse culture, as the others would ride into battle and dismount for the actual fighting and mostly used horses as a means of transportation and source of food. Crucially, they were also the only tribe to master horse breeding, and also became expert at both stealing horses and capturing them in the wild. They possessed huge numbers of horses and a Comanche warrior might have 100-200 mounts. Children were given their own horses at four or five, and expected to learn tricks that would eventually translate into battle, as well as using the bow, lance, shield, and musket from horseback. They were so dangerous in plains warfare that by about 1870 they were more responsible than any other tribe for holding up the settlement of the American West.
  • The Huns. Attila the Hun is said to have learnt to ride before he could walk.
  • Though not much of a national/ethnic entity, cowboys would often love to think they are this trope.