Eight Things You Need to Know Before you Enter the Mongol Derby

Elise Stables Arrives at HS18
  • Age is irrelevant. The  Long from the USA; the 2013 Mongol Derby was won by 19-year-old Lara Prior-Palmer from the UK.


  • It doesn’t matter where you’re from or what you do for a living; we’ve had competitors from nearly everywhere you can think of, and they range from tech geeks to businesswomen to former jockeys.


  • You do need to be able to ride. You won’t have to jump a five-barred gate or do a canter pirouette, but you must be able to cope with seriously long days in the saddle – it is a 1,000km race, after all – across very challenging terrain (the Mongolian steppe bears no relation to a riding school ménage) at speed. For those reasons, you need to be fit, light and balanced.


  • What you wear needs serious consideration. You need to be as light as possible and as comfortable as you can be (that’s kind of a joke, you won’t be comfortable). The weather will be crazy; it can and does switch from torrential rain to sharp frosts to blazing sun. It’s nearly never the weather you’d choose to ride in if you could. Most Mongol Derby riders opt for pretty hi-tech stuff – but then there’s Texan Frank Winters, who has just completed the 2019 race in fine style wearing his Wranglers. Seriously, we know he is a real-life cowboy, but those jeans can now stand up unaided.


  • Fussy eaters need not apply. This is the Mongolian steppe. There will be goat, and you’ll like it. There will also be mares’ milk. There may also be the lightest touch of diarrhoea and vomiting; bring spare underwear and man up.


  • If you rely on Sat Nav to get you to your local supermarket, the Mongol Derby probably isn’t for you. Navigational skills are crucial. You need to be able to read a map and read the terrain around you. It’s hard, especially when you’re exhausted and all your brain can think about is your bed back home.


  • You need proper resilience. You need to be able to laugh at the utterly absurd position you find yourself in (after you’ve had a quick cry, which is ok). The semi-wild, fabulously tough and highly independent Mongolian horses will make a total fool of you – probably every day. They will buck you off, and they may well disappear, with your kit on board, into the blue yonder. But get them on your side and going and they will do what they have been bred to do for hundreds of years – carry you, at speed, quite brilliantly across this most incredible, most beautiful country.


  • The Mongolians know more about horses that you will ever do. Their culture is utterly symbiotic with the horse; they are horsemen of genius and you will need their help and advice.


If you love horses, love wilderness, want to test yourself to the limit, physically and mentally, and know you are at least 15% nutcase, click here to find out more about the 2020 Mongol Derby: https://www.theadventurists.com/adventures/mongol-derby/#3

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