This is the second post in The King’s Daughters theme series. And as indicated by the title, this one is about troikas: the Russian carriage, or sleigh in winter, drawn by a team of three horses abreast. (By the way, the meaning of the Russian word troika is threesome.)
The traditional cold weather transportation, the troika is, in my opinion, the quintessential Russian symbol. As such, it is widely employed in folkloric scenes, in paintings, movies (Doctor Zhivago), literature etcetera. But regardless of the medium used, it always spells romance to me—it’s probably why I absolutely wanted to have troikas in the book.
The troikas are always depicted as heavily decorated sleighs, and the horses as powerful and spirited animals
Once a national pastime, troika racing almost disappeared after the communism collapsed in 1990. But thanks to a few diehard enthusiasts led by Alla Polzunova, the greatest female troika racer of the Soviet era, the sport is now making a small comeback…and may have a future. Some speculated that it is mainly because Vladimir Putin has demonstrated some interest in the sport.
A notoriously difficult sport, experts in the field estimate that it takes five years of daily practice to acquire the skills to control a troika — an art that revolves around keeping the middle horse trotting, acting as a locomotive against its better instincts, while its flanking companions maintain a brisk gallop.
The Orlov Trotter, a breed developed in Russia, is considered the supreme troika horse because of its sturdy conformation, long stride and speedy trot.