Imagine yourself thundering deep into the wilds of Patagonia on horseback. You’ve got your steed and you’re navigating across some of the wildest terrain on earth attempting to win one of the toughest and most unusual equine challenges in history.
After running the Mongol Derby for over a decade we knew it was time to grow the new sport of ultra-endurance horse racing we had created so we went in search of the next world beating adventure. We’ve not replicated The Mongol Derby with new scenery but designed a new race from the ground up – based on the landscape, culture, history and horses of Patagonia and the Gauchos. This is the greatest test of horsemanship and wilderness skills on earth. This is the Gaucho Derby.
Every year we review the racecourse for changes and improvements; riders will find out the exact race course nearer to the start date. You can find the exact dates on the "Apply to race" page of the Gaucho Derby website.
Arrive in El Calafate
All riders need to arrive by the evening in time for the compulsory start of pre-race training the following morning.
PRE-RACE TRAINING DAY 1
A full day of training at our base in El Calafate completing any final race admin, distributing race packs, conducting rider weigh in and tech/comms training.
PRE-RACE TRAINING DAY 2
Travel to start camp (6 - 8 hour journey); settle into camp; more briefings.
PRE-RACE TRAINING DAY 3
Navigation briefing, course briefing, receive your tack, meet the horses, do your first practice navigation rides and test out all of your kit including the tech and comms units we’ve given you. Wilderness survival and veterinary briefings followed by additional navigation rides with vet checks along the way. Further kit and equipment testing and set up.
PRE-RACE TRAINING DAY 4
Wilderness survival and final navigation rides with vet checks along the way. Final kit and equipment testing and set up. Medical and Rider Welfare Briefing.
Final kit check and it's off into the Patagonian wilderness!
RACE FINISH, CEREMONY & PARTY
Final race day and closing ceremonies at our remote finish camp in El Chalten and the party of all parties to celebrate your brilliance in taking on the gauntlet of the Gaucho Derby.
RETURN TO EL CALAFATE
Buses will depart in the morning from Finish Camp back to El Calafate.
Hit ‘Apply to Race’ on the website and answer the preliminary questions. We assess all applications on a range of criteria. If you’re selected for interview you’ll be contacted by one of our crack team of Derby veterans who will arrange a time to call you. We may ask for more information or evidence such as photos of you riding or further references.
This interview is also a great opportunity to ask a Derby veteran rider any questions you may have.
Horse welfare comes first on every agenda at Derby HQ so we’re looking for riders with a proven ability to manage themselves and their horse while racing. Where you don’t have specific experience to make sure you’re Derby-ready at the start line you’ll need to demonstrate the commitment and practical access to the training and time in the saddle you need before you head to Patagonia.
The upper weight is 85kg dressed to ride and this rule is non-negotiable. You’re also allowed 10kg of kit in your saddle bag and a limited number of resupply bags (see Race Rules below for more).
The Derby is a genuinely tough race. You need to be confident in your ability to take on one of the toughest horse races on the planet for your own safety and for the wellbeing of the horses
you’ll ride. We’ll need to know you have the means and determination to do the training and arrive Derby ready.
SURVIVAL AND CAMPING EXPERIENCE
We’ll want to know you can handle - and enjoy - the Patagonian wilderness. The race is created with a network of estancias through some of the remotest parts of Patagonia so we’ll be looking for experience of travelling to remote areas, camping and general previous adventuring to demonstrate an understanding of day to day living conditions during the race.
SPIRIT OF THE RACE
The Gaucho Derby is adventure on a massive scale and demands a quiver of characteristics from the very top drawer encompassing sportsmanship, determination and the ability to laugh in the face of severe hardship.
The Derby is a true gnarly-assed adventure. Riders self-support as much as possible and navigate their own way between estancias and horse stations along the racecourse of one of the planet's toughest horse races. If something goes wrong riders can activate their emergency SOS beacon and the Operations Room team will dispatch the nearest responders made up of race crew, medics, vets, and local support depending on the situation. There are several teams and types of support, backup and logistics that enable the network of horse stations and the safety net needed to stage the Gaucho Derby:
A highly experienced team of equine veterinarians provide the inspections at every vet station, ensuring that horse welfare is maintained throughout the race. The vets have the power to impose penalties on riders who fail the vet inspections.
An international team of highly experienced medics are dispersed along the racecourse, on call to respond to emergencies and rider injuries.
RACE MANAGEMENT CREW
Race managers, drivers and more combine to oversee the course and manage the delivery of the overall event.
ESTANCIA OWNERS AND HORSE PROVIDERS
A network of owners provide and deliver hundreds of horses for the race and keep them grazed and watered throughout.
OPERATIONS ROOM AND DERBY HQ
The entire race operations is overseen by HQ in El Calafate and El Chalten, which is staffed with the race director, deputy race director, translator and PR operative. All crew and rider movements and communications, including requests for assistance, penalty adjudication, race holds etc. are handled in HQ. Most of each Derby’s PR including social media and web updates originate in HQ.
The Derby is an adventure first and a race second: come and enjoy the spectacular ride and compete for the podium places but always remember the welfare of the horses comes first.
Racing hours are set to ensure everyone’s safety and the smooth running of the complex systems behind the race. In 2022 riding hours were 08:00 to 18:00.
At each vet station the veterinary team will scrutinise every horse ridden in and have the power to impose time penalties for any infringements or if the horse has been mistreated. The horse should be a) sound, b) reasonably hydrated, and c) return to a resting heart rate no higher than 56bpm within half an hour of coming in. Vets and race managers also have the power to impose penalties between horse stations.
Riders must be no more than 85kg dressed to ride. Each rider is allowed to carry up to 10kg of luggage. The weight limits are in place to protect the wellbeing of the horses. Each rider may provide up to 4 resupply bags (which will be transported forward to the estancias) of no more than 2kg per bag.
WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED IN THE 85KG OR 10KG?
The horse’s saddle and bridle, hobbles and your stirrups or fenders are not included. Your water is not included. Riders must weigh out on Pre-Race Training Day 1, in El Calafate,
and the 10kg luggage weigh out occurs an hour before the launch.
WHAT’S INCLUDED IN YOUR 85KG
“All riding wear” - riders must elect how much to wear on the scales based on their weight and preferences. Helmets, pants/leggings and boots are non-negotiable.
WHAT IS INCLUDED IN YOUR 10KGS
The weight of your saddle bag and its contents, and any other containers you are carrying - pockets, bumbags, camera bags etc. Your tech equipment and hydration pack if you didn’t
elect to include it in your rider weight by having it on your person during rider weigh out.
More of an ethos than a rule. The spirit of the Gaucho Derby is grounded in old fashioned adventure alongside pushing yourself to your physical and mental limits within the bounds of healthy sportsmanship and ensuring horse welfare. The Derby attracts incredible riders from all over the world and sportsmanship and camaraderie are in the very fabric of the race.
You can pay by debit or credit either in one go or in a monthly instalments. If you choose to pay by instalments then you will be charged for the first bit on securing your spot. The next payment will come out of your bank automatically around 28 days later. Following payments will come out on the same day each month until the full amount is paid.
What's included in the entry fee?
One of the world's toughest equestrian events on the planet in one of the most spectacular places on earth.
A DEDICATED YEAR-ROUND TEAM
Our team at HQ work tirelessly to make sure you have what you need as you approach the Gaucho Derby. Whether you signed up 18 months ahead or 2 months ahead, we want to make sure you have the resources to help you raise sponsorship, fundraise, train and understand the adventure you have taken on.
We feature regular webinars with founder and Race Director Tom, to help guide your training and answer your questions. Each month, we run a different theme with guest speakers from our crew, or from past Derbies, who can be a huge help to you as you prepare to ride the race.
Four days of on the ground briefings - medical, veterinary and technical - plus riding, wilderness survival and navigation practice both in the classroom and out in the Patagonian foothills.
All the horses you need to complete the course. Trained, vaccinated (a requirement of moving horses in Patagonia) vetted by one of our excellent vets and transported to the horse changeover stations with plenty of food and time for rest.
A team of world class vets to care for your horses. Our vets hail from all over the globe and are picked both for their experience and their resilience in the face of high pressure. They are hardy, riding out ahead of riders to make camp at the designated vet checks, and being on call for any horse related emergencies they may need to attend to.
A team of medics to care for you, should you need it. We are working with our remote medical partners Intrepid Medics.
RACE CREW AND SUPPORT
A race crew to ensure the race is run fairly and smoothly. Our team at Race HQ, based locally to the race course, oversees a huge cast of event managers, gauchos, trouble shooters, operations managers, drivers, interpreters, photographers, media, horse owners, land owners and cooks.
This team work day and night to enable the Gaucho Derby to happen.
A mapped out and pre-recce'd course with horse stations, vet checks and knowledge of the terrain marked for you. A start line camp for training, a party and launch ceremony.
A finish line for the dramatic conclusion and necessary back-slapping.
TECH AND EXPERTISE
Use of a tracking device so your followers back home and the race crew know where you are and an online blog where you can shout about what you are doing. Expertise from Derby HQ and our endurance riding experts in the lead up to the Derby.
Logos on your clothing.
Brand logos on your website, pages within the adventure site and also an external site if you have one.
Posts on your social media accounts.
Photos and short videos to share on their own channels (company websites and their own social media channels).
Branding and hosting opportunities at your fundraising events.
Regional/National media coverage you secure for yourself (Radio, press and TV).
Written content (e.g. blogs, articles, updates for newsletters etc.)
Stuff you need to check on with us first
Product testing: if you do have a company interested in this kind of sponsorship, it is vital that you contact us. We need to make sure it doesn't conflict with any overall event sponsorships. Where it’s possible, we will work with you to make it work, and we can also potentially support you with extra coverage.
What you can't offer your sponsors
Photography and video footage for use in serious commercial marketing or advertising campaigns needs to be cleared by HQ first. (Sponsors shouting about your race and their sponsorship of you is great on their own channels, as long as it’s not a fully fledged campaign. Give us a shout if that is confusing. We try to accommodate everyone where we can.)
We will give you technical and pre-race training prior to the race but this will not be enough to get you to the level of fitness and mental tenacity you will need to complete the race. You’ll need to work on these in the months before your arrival in Patagonia. We provide an extensive Riders' Handbook with a wealth of information to get you started, and have veteran riders and endurance riding experts to help guide you as you prepare.
Here’s a few things to consider:
Even if you ride on a regular basis, you’ll likely need to work on your physical fitness. On the Derby you will be riding long days in extremely challenging terrain every day for 500km. Do not assume that because you are being carried by the horse this won’t be extremely physically demanding. The less fit you are the sooner you will tire and the greater danger you pose to yourself and your horse.
500km across an unknown landscape upon unfamiliar horses will throw up more than a fair share of mental obstacles at you. While it’s not possible to prepare for many of the unknown elements of the Derby, riders more used to adventure holidays or riders with survival and outdoor skills usually fare much better in Patagonia.
There is no luxury of any kind to be had on the adventure, and your entry fee is proportionate to the scale of the logistical operation and the ambition of the event, not the degree of nannying you will get from the Equestrianists.
Riders are responsible for getting to El Calafate and obtaining a visa where necessary. We’ll meet the riders in El Calafate and get you out to the start camp, from whence you will be in our care until you finish the Derby. You will get a full list of dates, meeting times and pre-race training curriculum in good time before the start of the Derby. You need to supply all your survival equipment and riding kit with the exception of the horses’ tack which includes saddle, bridle, saddle pad, girth and hobbles.
We supply riders with a personal satellite tracker so our crew (and your followers back home) can pinpoint your location; it also has a function where a help team can be alerted. Full training on this piece of kit is provided at the start line and the race crew will check your device is still tracking correctly at the horse stations.
We'll also supply you with a GPS unit. We upload the horse and vet stations and waypoints to these so they are ready to use. Training on these devices will be provided at the start line, but if you’ve not used one before we recommend you familiarise yourself with them before the Derby.
Not only is the Gaucho Derby an industrial dose of adventure, it’s also about Saving the World. We ask every rider to make their best efforts to raise a minimum of £500 for the official charity (details to be released shortly). Anything above this can be raised for any other registered charity of your choice. Over the years riders have raised staggering amounts of cash for a huge range of amazing causes.
We only store and share the data we need to in order to stage the race you are coming on or use the service you wanted to use for as long as you want to make use of it. We’ll delete anything you want us to. Let us know.