This weekend 35 riders from around the world, mounted on semi-wild horses, will embark upon a 621-mile race across the Mongolian steppe.
This annual race, called the Mongol Derby, is inspired by Chinggis Khaan’s legendary postal system. Using a massive network of horse stations, the Khaan’s hardy messengers could gallop from Kharkhorin to the Caspian sea in a number of days.
In the Mongol Derby this extinct postal system is recreated. Riders must navigate the Mongolian wilderness from station to station, changing horses at each one, racing against the clock and one another to complete the course in 10 days or less.
From the website:
Over 1,000 Mongolian horses–a diminutive, fearless, tough breed of wild horse native to the region–are selected for the journey. In the months prior to the race, they are prepared in a Derby training program of regular ridden work. Still, the race application warns that the horses are totally different from anything you may be used to:
They don’t come when you call, they don’t understand anthropomorphic ‘petting’, and if you rustle a raincoat from the saddle, they’ll put you straight on the floor. By taking part in this race you are greatly increasing your risk of severe physical damage or death… Riders on the Mongol Derby have suffered broken bones, torn ligaments and severe soft tissue injuries, and almost every rider has fallen off at least once.”
Of course, there are plenty of other dangers as well: dehydration, hunger, sub-freezing temperatures… and all that other stuff that goes hand-in-hand with being completely alone with few resources in the middle of nowhere.
Are you insane enough to feel intrigued right now? The race is now taking rider applications for 2014.If selected, all Mongol Derby riders are asked to raise a minimum of £1000 for charity, at least £500 of which goes to the official charity Cool Earth.
Alternately, tag along vicariously via these rider blogs.
The 2013 event begins today with three days of pre-race training and an official start on Sunday, Aug. 4.
Good luck to this year’s competitors. Go Riding!