The Mongolian Derby is 1000 km (621 miles) across the Palearctic grasslands of the Mongolian Steppe. The annual race recreates the postal relay route developed in 1223 by Genghis Khaan. The race is sponsored by The Adventurists, an organization that raises money for charities while “fighting to make the world less boring.”
Billed as the World’s longest, toughest horse race, there are no qualifications, anyone can race in the Derby, simply register, pay the fee and you’re in! Competitors are guided by one rule; you are on your own. The race is a test of horsemanship and survival skills. For 10 days, riders endure the elements, semi-wild horses and rugged, isolated terrain.
This year 40 riders participated. Horses are provided (and a GPS so organizers can find you if you get lost on the Steppe). Your rides are native Mongolian horses revered by local culture, diminutive, sturdy, fearless and tough. Months prior to the race locals collect several hundred wild horses. The horses undergo only the most basic training in preparation for the race. Derby riders are assigned 25-27 horses, staged along the route and managed by local herdsmen. Riders are limited to 11 pounds of equipment including sleeping gear and medical supplies.
The race is governed much like an FEI endurance event. Riders stop for a horse exchange at relay stations every few miles where veterinarians are on hand to monitor the heart rates and overall condition of the horses. Only when a horse’s heart rate has returned to an optimal level may the rider continue. Stiff time penalties are imposed if the horses are pushed too hard.
In August, three winners crossed the finish line together. Holding hands as a sign of unity William Comiskey, 28 (Australia) and WARHorses Heidi Telstad, 43 (Canada) and Marcia Hefker-Miles, 45 (United States) were exhilarated from the experience.
“It seems kind of unbelievable, it seems like a dream. It was so much fun, such awesome horses,” Telstad exclaimed.
“Endurance horseback riders are, by nature, “a little crazy,” Hefker-Miles said. “You almost have to be.”
Intrigued? You should know that less than half who start will reach the finish line. Still interested? Good news, applications are open for next year’s race!
Edited from the Following Resources:
2014 Mongolian Derby racer, Heather Russell introduces her most memorable Mongolian horses!