On The Ground in Mongolia
We thought it would be a great opportunity to explore the background of this spectacular race, and highlight the cultural fabric that underpins this event.Read more
Derby Diary #12
We knew that we couldn’t cross the river ahead so our route would be an indirect one and would take us a little longer….Read more
Derby Diary #11
We got bucked off, got lost, suffered sunburn and heat stroke one day and hypothermia another…Read more
Derby Diary #10
Day five began with me in extreme pain. I saddled up, keen to ignore it…Read more
The Mongol Derby
It was the nerve system of the largest empire in human history, and at its height, Genghis Khan’s mighty horse messenger system connected half the planet. For a decade we’ve been rebuilding this ancient network to stage the world’s greatest equine adventure race.
You square up to 1000km of Mongolian steppe on semi-wild horses, changing steeds every 40km. You navigate and survive on your own wits and skill, living among the herders. It’s you and your horse vs. the wild.
This is the longest and toughest horse race on earth. This is the Mongol Derby.
1500 Mongolian Horses
Every year we vet and train 1,500 Mongolian horses for the Mongol Derby. Each horse is catalogued and checked thoroughly by our professional vet team before being allowed to join the race. They’re then vetted before the riders take them on their less-than-40km run and they are scrutinised again after completing the leg. Riders are not allowed to continue until the horse is given the all clear.
These horses may be smaller than some are used to riding, but by God are they incredible. Mongolian horses were the intercontinental ballistic missiles of the thirteenth century, and carried the all-conquering Mongol armoured warriors across half the world. Diminutive, sturdy, fearless, wild and unbelievably tough, they have changed very little over the centuries.
Of the three million horses inhabiting the steppe, the great majority of them live in large semi-feral herds, surviving temperature extremes from -40°C in winter to +30°C in summer. They mostly eat steppe grass, drink water as they find it, and are rarely given any extra nutrition by their herders.
This is no pony trek or guided tour. There’s no marked course, no packed lunches, no beds to sleep in. That’s the whole point. It’s just you, your team of horses, and a thousand kilometres of Mongolian wilderness. The course consists of 25 horse stations (morin urtuu in Mongolian) at 40km intervals where you swap your horse and refuel. You change horses at every station and deliver your mounts to the next in great health. How you navigate between them is where your adventure begins.
We spend many months designing and testing the Mongol Derby route, making sure it’s right for the horses and that it will deliver the greatest equine adventure in the world: high passes, huge valleys, wooded hills, river crossings, wetland, dunes and of course open steppe.
The Mongol Derby is an adventure so we want you to be on your own. If all goes well, you’ll be oblivious to the miracle of emergency support going on around you: 4×4’s flying across the steppe, the 24 hour HQ support team keeping eyes on the field and following your every move via satellite trackers strapped to you, herders corralling horses – all working to keep the Derby rolling.
We bring on a large team of incredibly experienced international and Mongolian vets who check each horse before and after your ride to ensure the horse has been well treated.
We have a phenomenal team of medics hiding in the wings ready to swoop in and stick you back together.
The Mongol Derby is no small undertaking, with over 500 people coming together to build an unforgettable race.
“It is easy to conquer the world from the back of a horse” – Genghis Khan
In 1224, Man of the Millennium Ghenghis Khan set up the world’s first long-distance postal transmission system. Using a massive network of horse stations, his messengers could gallop from his capital Kharkhorin to the Caspian sea in a few days. It’s thought the speed of this communication provided a great tactical advantage for the Mongol warriors.
Riders carrying messages directly from the Khan would ride non-stop wearing a gergel (metal plate showing the authenticity of the message) on their belts. Messengers would leap onto their new ride at each urtuu at full tilt. Not even the call of nature or hunger would stop them. The remnants of this horse-wide-web carried on delivering post and messages right into the 1950’s. And now it’s back. Delivering you.