Mongol Derby: World’s Longest Horse Race Underway

Last Friday the 2012 edition of the Mongol Derby got underway on the wide open expanse of the steppes of Mongolia. Billed as the “World’s Longest Horse Race,” the Derby pits 34 riders from 14 countries against one another on a 1000km (621 mile) ride through one of the most remote places on the planet.

I wrote about this amazing event back in June, remarking at the time about my uneasy relationship with the equine species. Seems I’m not that only one as two of the riders were eliminated in the first day of the race when they were thrown from their steeds. Brit Paul de Rivaz broke a collerbone when his horse stumbled on a marmot hole, while Norwegian rider Linda Sandvik was tossed off her mount, puncturing a lung and breaking her pelvis in the process. These incidents only underscore the dangers of this type of event, which is organized by the crack team from The Adventurists, which means that medical support and plenty of assistance was on hand to help the injured.

The rest of the riders are faring much better on their adventures, which allows them to navigate as they see fit across the Mongolian plains. The riders do need to locate a series of horse stations along the way, where they are required to change horses, but how they locate those various checkpoints is completely up to them. At the moment, the six leading riders are through station 14 having covered nearly 560km (348 miles) in four days. Amongst those leaders are professional riders Richard Killoran and Dony Fahy as well as returning racers Barry Armitage and Joe Dawson.

While the Mongol Derby is indeed a horse race, organizers of the event have taken great care to ensure that the animals are well cared for. A staff of veterinarians, both local and international, are on hand to thoroughly check the animals before, during and after the race. The riders are required to not only change horses regularly but also take good care of their mounts at all times. Delivering them back to a station in anything but good health results in severe penalties for the person responsible for the horse.

Obviously the race is going at a quick pace with the front runners more than half-way home in just a few days time. You can follow the event live on the official website, where you’ll find rider updates, race reports, video, photos and more.

What an amazing adventure. Good luck to the all the riders. Enjoy the Derby to the fullest.