The Mongol Derby

The Mongol Derby More info

The Mongol Derby is the longest and toughest horse race in the world. We don’t say that lightly. A decade after launching the race that title is still being backed up by riders year after year.

In 1224 man of the millennium Chinggis Khaan set up the world’s first long-distance postal transmission system. Using a massive network of horse stations – ‘morin urtuus’ in Mongolian – his hardy messengers could gallop from Kharkhorin to the Caspian sea in a number of days.

For ten days each August, the Mongol Derby recreates this legendary system, building a network of urtuus at 35km intervals along the entire thousand kilometre course.

1. Thoughts from a couple of previous riders

“It’s a diffcult one to sum up in anything other than a short novel. It’s been been quite staggering, that it’s quite hard to talk about. It’s been one of the most powerful and inspiring and equally the most draining experience of my life. The scenery is so breathtaking, one minute you’re galloping past the herder camels, past a yak and then a golden eagle flies up in front of you.”
- David Redvers, 2016
“My experience was so fulflling. I was so lucky, I’m so thankful to the crew, to all the Mongolian herders, and of course the horses. I don’t know how anything else could compare to it.”
- Marcia Hefker-Miles, 2016 winner
“It was absolutely incredible. I can’t believe it. I don’t even know where to start. the concept is great, the locals all get behind and enjoy it. They give us their horses to ride, these absolutely fantastic horses, so tough. The country just doesn’t even phase them. I absolutely love them.”
- Will Comiskey, 2016 Winner

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2. Where and when

Every year we review the racecourse and improvements and changes are often made so riders will find out the exact racecourse nearer the time. Below is the provisional Race Schedule. You can find the exact dates on the 'Key Details' page of the Mongol Derby website.
  • Day 0


    All riders need to arrive by the evening, in time for the compulsory start of pre-race training the following morning.

  • Day 1


    Half day classroom session in Ulaanbaatar covering the technical kit, rider satellite tracking, race rules & management, communication protocols, support systems
    and more.

    In the afternoon we’ll travel to the start camp on the steppe followed by a hefty Mongolian banquet in the evening.

  • Day 2


    The first day on the steppe is all about meeting the horses. Specific training sessions will include veterinary briefings and comms protocol testing. The main event is an afternoon ride.

  • Day 3


    The final day of pre-race training includes the medical briefing and race back up systems and the main event is the navigation ride in full kit using your satellite trackers and GPS. Essentially a dress rehearsal.

  • Day 4


    The big day starts with your final weigh out to check your kit. You’ll warm up your horse for a racing start to the world’s longest and toughest horse race.

  • Day 13


    The final day of racing followed by the awards ceremony and legendary finish camp party.

  • Day 14


    After breakfast at the finish camp we’ll transfer you back to Ulaanbaatar.

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3. Entry Criteria


Hit ‘Join the Race’ on the website at mongolderby.com 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 Mongolia.


The upper weight is 85kg dressed to ride and this rule is non-negotiable. You’re also allowed 5kg of kit in your saddle bag (see Race Rules for more).


The Derby is a genuinely tough race. You need to be confident in your ability to take on the World’s longest & toughest horse race 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.


We’ll want to know you can handle - and enjoy - life on the steppe. The race is created with a network of horse stations across the Mongolian countryside 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.


The Mongol 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 chafing.

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4. The Horses

Mongolian horses might only be 12-14 hands but they pack a punch. Anyone who mistakenly calls them ‘ponies’ will rescind the judgement after riding these diminutive powerhouses. These are the same hardy beasts that carried the Mongol warriors over half the world. You should think of them as equine gladiators: grass fuelled, air cooled, saddled and bridled after some serious negotiation. They don’t come when you whistle and they won’t appreciate a pat on the neck or a kiss on the nose.
The controls can be rudimentary but they are the toughest and most fit-for-purpose partners imaginable for the Mongol Derby. Impervious to heat, cold, hunger, thirst, flies, floods, deserts, and really anything else that Mongolian mother nature can throw, they can cross terrain that would make a thoroughbred weep and maintain speeds that would put them in contention in many a tough endurance ride.
Horse racing is one of the three iconic sports in the traditional Mongolian Naadam, and is taken very seriously, with horses running up to 30kms across country. Many families involved with the Derby graciously lend us their finest racehorses, though the vast majority of the horses you will ride will be the ordinary working horses of the steppe, used for herding, transport etc. Not every horse will be a celebrated athlete, but every horse will have been carefully selected by our vet team and trained in the run-up to the event. They will be fit, healthy, older than 5, and tough as a titanium spork.

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5. Backup and Support

The Derby is a true old school adventure. Riders self-support as much as possible and navigate their own way between horse stations along the racecourse of the world’s longest horse race. If something goes wrong each rider can activate their emergency SOS beacon and the Operations Room team will despatch the nearest responders made up of race crew, medics, and vets depending on the situation. There are several teams and types of support, backup and logistics that enable the network of horse stations across the steppe and the safety net needed to stage the Mongol Derby:


A highly experienced team of international and Mongolian equine veterinarians provide the inspections at every horse station and response capabilities on the course. They ensure that horse welfare is maintained throughout the race and 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 managers, referees, drivers, interpreters and more combine to oversee the course out on the steppe and manage the delivery of the overall event.


A network of herders provide and deliver hundreds of horses for the race and keep them grazed and watered throughout.


Urtuu is the Mongolian name for the horse stations. The families who host the stations provide food, accommodation, local knowledge plus emotional support when the going gets tough.

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6. Race Rules

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 2019 riding hours were 06:30 to 20:00.


At each horse 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, 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 5kg of luggage. The weight limits are in place to protect the wellbeing of the horses.


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 Ulaanbaatar, and the 5kgs luggage weigh out occurs an hour before the launch.


“All riding wear” - riders must elect how much to wear on the scales based on their weight and preferences. Helmets, jods and boots are non-negotiable.


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 Mongol 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.

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7. The Entry Fee - What's Included

The world’s longest and toughest horse race is staged by recreating a vast network of horse stations, based on the system used by Genghis Khan himself to carry messages across an empire. Even though we say so ourselves it’s no mean feat. The entry fee is charged in GBP as we (organisers the Equestrianists) are a UK based company.


$14,500 (USD)


Payment is by debit or credit in GBP with a monthly instalment plan available. The full balance is due 3 months before the race, monthly amount due is calculated by the number of months left between registration and the end of May.
If you have chosen to pay by instalments then you would have been charged for the first bit immediately. 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?


The world’s longest horse race and the toughest equestrian event on the planet.


25 race horses, three training horses and a number of spares in case of the unexpected.


Around 250 Mongolian herders to prepare and deliver the above horses, herd them in to order, and keep them grazed and watered during the race.


29 Mongolian families to feed you, water you, and protect you from the cold at night. They are also rather good at impromptu tack, equipment and bodily repairs.


A specialist medical response team on call for emergencies.


International & local equine vets to ensure the welfare of the horses and administer the vet inspections at each horse station.


Race management crew to ensure the smooth running of the race for all riders including the Ulaanbaatar operations room and UK team at the Equestrianists HQ in the UK.


One day of technical training and rule explanation in Ulaanbaatar and two days of horsemanship & navigation training on the steppe, with invaluable advice from our medics, vets and race crew.


A team of drivers and their vehicles to transport you from Ulaanbaatar to the start line and from the finish line back to UB plus many more to facilitate the race logistics.


The use of a custom made saddle, specially commissioned and designed for the Derby to be short enough, lightweight enough, stable enough, and tough enough to last 1000km. It’s design is perfectly complemented by the saddle bag which each of you will get in the post in advance of the race.


A purpose built private start line camp for pre-race training, the launch party and ceremony befitting of the hardy souls about to take on the world’s toughest horse race.


A finish line camp to accommodate early finishers and to act as a base for the closing stages of the race plus the awards ceremony and finish party.


Our press team back in the UK working to share your story with the world’s media; a daily race report & commentary sent from the field together with images from the official race photographer dispatched daily from the racecourse.


Your own web page to shout about your campaign, sponsors and training before the event as well as a tracking map linked to your satellite tracker so you can be tracked live throughout the race.


Once you leave the city your food and drinks are included until you arrive back in Ulaanbaatar.

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8. Costs and Sponsorship


Many riders over the years have successfully brought on sponsors to help with access to training, equipment and race costs. You can offer your potential sponsors personal sponsorship packages but major commercial projects and TV shows are restricted - give us a shout if you have plans for these we will always try and work with you to make it happen.

FLIGHTS: £500 - £1000

The price of fights does obviously depend somewhat on where you are starting from and if you insist on flying everywhere first class. We recommend booking early as fights to Mongolia can get pricey at short notice.


We will recommend insurance providers who have given riders excellent service in the past.

VISA: UP TO £100

You might be lucky enough to come from a country with a visa free agreement with Mongolia (like USA for example), otherwise it will cost you about £100 depending on what nationality you are, how you buy it, and when you apply for it. We have a UK based visa partner The Visa Machine who are a good place to get visa advice and apply for visas on your behalf.


You need to sort out your accommodation for the duration of your stay in Ulaanbaatar. This is usually 1-2 nights preceding the derby and 1-2 afterwards, and we can recommend accommodation according to taste or budget. Your accommodation for the duration of the race is covered as you will be staying with Urtuu families or sleeping under the stars.


You will only need to buy yourself food in Ulaanbaatar. The city has a broad range of culinary delights which can meet the expectation of any budget or dietary requirements.

EQUIPMENT: £0 TO £1000

You will probably want a torch, multi-tool, sleeping bag and a light waterproof coat. Some of this stuff you might already have, some you might want to borrow, some you can persuade sponsors to give you, or you could go out and spend some cash. We have more information on recommended kit once you sign up.

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9. Preparation and Training

The Derby includes a day of technical training in Ulaanbaatar and a further two days of pre-race training on the steppe 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 Mongolia. 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 12 hours a day, every day for 1000km. 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.


1000 kilometres 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 & outdoor skills usually fare much better on the steppe. 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 Ulaanbaatar and obtaining a visa where necessary. You are responsible for where you stay in UB, though we’ll recommend places based on your taste and budget. We’ll meet the riders in Ulaanbaatar 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 Mongol 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 of 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 urtuus, waypoints and sources of water and background maps 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.

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10. Saving the World

Not only is the Mongol 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.

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11. Warning

These are genuinely dangerous things to do. The website is written in a light-hearted fashion but you cannot overestimate the risks involved in taking part in this adventure.

Your chances of being seriously injured or dying as a result of taking part are high. Individuals who have taken part in past adventures have been permanently disfigured, seriously disabled and even lost their life.

This is not a glorified holiday, it's an unsupported adventure and so by its very nature extremely risky. You really are on your own and you really are putting both your health and life at risk. This is what makes them adventures.

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