Székely Gallop: celebration of Hungarian horseback riding

The National Gallop (Nemzeti Vágta in Hungarian) is a celebration of Hungarian traditions and the countryside, including traditional Hungarian horseback riding and hussar traditions. The main attraction of the event is the horse race which any Hungarian citizen aged 18 and older can enter, male or female, without weight restrictions. Each year, around 100 settlements from all over the Carpathian basin nominate for the Vágta, from which riders are chosen through regional qualifying races. The Székely regional contest took place last weekend near Sepsiszentgyörgy/Sfântu Gheorghe.

Hungarian Székely Gallop
The Finals of the 9th Székely Gallop (Photo: Réka Tompa/Székely Vágta Facebook)

The first National Gallop was organized in 2008, and since then each year its finals have taken place in Budapest in the majestic Heroes’ Square, which transforms into a racetrack for a weekend with sand on the ground and grandstands in front of the two museums that flank the square. Riders participate in regional qualifying races, from which the first three crossing the finish line, plus one representing the host settlement of the regional contest, become eligible for the finals.

Heroes Square, Budapest
The 12. National Gallop will take place at the Heroes Square, Budapest on 19-20 October 2019. (Photo: www.vagta.hu)

The Székely Gallop, as one of the regional qualifiers for the National Gallop, was held for the ninth time last weekend in Székelyland at Óriáspince-tető/Dealul Pivnițele Mari, 13 km from Sepsiszentgyörgy, in Kovászna/Covasna County. Besides the main attraction – the horse races – organizers also prepared a variety of other programs, such as horseback archery and Hussar demonstrations. Kids could also participate on horseback riding courses, and people could admire equestrian martial arts demonstrations, as well.

Hussar demonstration
Hussar demonstration and battle scenes by the Székely Sabre Fencing School (Photo: Botond Condra/Székely Vágta Facebook)

Eighteen Székely settlements sent their riders for the horse race this year, and for most of them this was their first Vágta, which made it quite hard to predict who would win the four qualifying heats on Saturday. But at the end it turned out that the routine prevailed, and the more experienced horsemen succeeded and qualified for the finals, representing Farkaslaka/Lupeni, Előpatak/Vâlcele, Csíkdelne/Delnița, and Kovászna/Covasna.

Székely and Székely Gallop flags
Székely and Székely Gallop flags (Photo: István Sánta/Székely Vágta Facebook)

On Sunday about ten thousand spectators watched the race between the four riders in the finals, where the twenty-five-year-old János Alpár Fazakas representing Kovászna took a start-to-finish victory with his horse named Pillangó (Butterfly in English).

Shagya Horse Club
Shagya Horse Club Association (Photo: Réka Tompa/Székely Vágta Facebook)

The winner, who had already finished twice in second place in previous years, told szekelyhon.ro, that he was hoping to win this time, and he was not discouraged even when he got bucked off by his horse just before the start. He immediately dropped back in the saddle, and right after the start Pillangó took the lead and confidently kept her position until the end. Fazakas, who has been riding since his childhood, had already started preparing for the National Gallop on Monday, the day after his victory at the Székely Gallop.

Award ceremony
Award ceremony (Photo: István Sánta/Székely Vágta Facebook)

Results of the 9. Székely Gallop:

1. János Alpár Fazakas with Pillangó, representing Kovászna

2. Csaba Tamás with Fiber, representing Farkaslaka

3. Ferenc Bartha with Pasadena, representing Előpatak

The first three, plus the rider from Sepsiiszentgyörgy, the organizing settlement, Csongor Nagy with Bizant, will represent Székelyland in Budapest in October at the National Gallop.

Title image: Székely Gallop on 30. June 2019. (Photo: István Sánta/Székely Vágta Facebook)

Author: Attila Szoó