10 July 2012
the mongol derby
25-year old Aucklander Sam Wyborn attempts the toughest horse race on our planet, the Mongol Derby.
Billed as the “biggest, baddest equine affair on the planet”, the Mongol Derby is a 1000 kilometre multi-horse race across the rugged terrain of the Mongolian steppe – where a mammoth network of horse stations recreate Genghis Khan’s legendary empire-building postal system. In short, it’s a massive logistical challenge that is not for anyone possessing even a remotely faint heart.
The race, organised by The Adventurists sees competitors hurtling through swamps, over mountains and across grassland on semi-wild Mongolian horses as they attempt to finish the race, which is a difficult thing in itself. Finishing this race is much more of a concern than actually winning. With no marked course, riders are left alone in the vast Mongolian wilderness, with only their horse, a map and a GPS loaded with the coordinates for each horse station, otherwise known as a urtuu.
Strict rules are also in place for the race. Riders are only allowed to ride between the hours of 7am and 8pm and the horses are changed at each station. The horses must arrive in good condition, with a heart rate under 64 beats per minute or riders risk receiving a time penalty. Riders must also weigh in at under 85kg (to save the poor ponies from any heavy loads) and are each permitted to only 5 kilograms of essential gear. No exaggeration or hype is needed to accompany this event as with injury likely and death a possibility, riders face all sorts of perils. From runaway horses, extreme sleep deprivation and sub zero temperatures to the backbreaking distances completed each day, any competitor taking part in the Mongol Derby is looking for a challenge and, as is common with this event, to raise money for charity.
Sam Wyborn is one New Zealander taking part in this epic race, attempting to complete the challenge for his charity of choice, The Fred Hollows Foundation, an international organisation that restores sight to people in more than thirty developing countries. Spurned on by a love of the great outdoors and with a penchant for testing himself both mentally and physically, Sam will attempt to navigate his horses through a thousand kilometers of Mongolian wilderness, sleeping in gers (canvas and felt tents set up in nomadic camps), sipping on airag (mare’s milk) and snatching a few hours sleep when he can. With the race beginning on August 10th, Sam is now in his final stages of preparation, and it’s sufficed to say that we are impressed.
To see the footage of last year’s race watch the video below:
To follow Sam’s progress once the race begins on August 10th, click here to follow the race live on google maps.
If you would like to support Sam and make a donation to his charity The Fred Hollows Foundation, click here.
Mongol Derby 2012www.mongolderby2012.com