Day 2: Are we there yet?
Day 2 is when the reality of this race tends to sink in. The adrenaline has worn down a bit and the nerves have settled, but there are still a lot of miles to go. These riders are tough bunch though, and to even make it to the start line takes immense preparation and skill, not to mention a bit of bravado and disregard for comfort.
Day 2 saw a lot of unscheduled dismounts, a few lost horses, some more epic camping tales, and the field beginning to separate between the hard core racers vs the adventure seekers.
You have to be resourceful out here in the wilds of Mongolia and Phoebe PRA is no stranger to a bit of hustle. This is her second go at the Derby, having competed in 2022, and she clearly came to the steppe fully prepared to improvise when needed. After drawing a somewhat trim horse she discovered her girth straps didn’t have enough holes to allow her girth to be tightened appropriately. Not to worry though, she teamed up with a herder who punched new holes for her with a sharpened gazelle antler. There’s nothing like good old fashioned steppe creativity.
Speaking of resilience, Holly HCO the reigning joint winner of the 2022 Gaucho Derby, displayed her trademark grit after a tumble with her horse at HS5. Although presented with the option to redraw her horse, she opted to keep him, remounted and blasted out of the station. At close of business on Day 2 she was with the lead pack at HS6 albeit with a late riding penalty that will see her a bit late out of HS6 in the morning.
There are a few spicy horses out on the course which challenge even the most talented riders. Rollo RDJ parted ways with his between HS4 and HS5 but it was quick-thinking EM Maggie and Tsedenbaljir to the rescue. Tsedenbaljir’s family is one of the incredible host families out here on the steppe and with the assistance of their talented driver, his Lexus and a lasso pole out the window, the horse’s romp-about came to an abrupt end. Since the horse politely declined to be mounted once again, RDJ was temporarily promoted to Maggie’s assistant as she made the rounds checking on campers, and hitched a ride to the next horse station where he’ll ride out again in the morning.
Speaking of herding families, Ganzorig.L is the herding family at HS and Tsedenbaljir.M has been providing horses for the Mongol Derby for three years running. He is known for his fast and feisty horses who call these grassy sand dunes home. His sons are champion horse catchers, being highly skilled with a lasso pole. (But can they catch a horse from a Lexus like their dad? We’ll try to find out.) He treated all the riders who stay at his station last night with airag (fermented mare’s milk). Enjoying airag with a herder family is as close to a Derby rite of passage as you can get.
The thrill of camping between horse stations has not yet worn off, with a good half of the field once again parking up wherever they were on the steppe at the close of riding hours.
Sid SPY and Jock JRA happened upon a luxury ger camp to stay the night but found themselves with a rather unlikely roommate in the form of a massive Bankhar guard dog who decided the bed was his and that they could just suck it. The dog apparently didn’t budge the entire night.
Olivia OGA, Bianca BFA, and Lexi LPE not only hosted by an amazing herder family, but found themselves under a breathtaking rainbow. Not sure they found the pot of gold but the rewards of the day were perhaps enough.
Meanwhile, Hilaire HBL made some fast friends with her lovely herding family and their children. “This is one of my favourite parts about the Derby so far” she said. Most of these riders have come here to ride and while they certainly get that in spades, they also find that the cultural experience and new friendships forged are some of the things that they will treasure the most.
There are many strategies in the Derby and while some people choose to ride the race solo, we also see amazing examples of teamwork as riders look after each other.
This is a race and naturally we all look to the excitement of the front of the field: it’s fast, it’s furious, it’s fun to try to pick the winner. However, there are those whose adventure comes with a few more bumps and bruises which sometimes lands them in adventure class. This means that they may have received a carry-forward and while this puts them out of having an official placing, does not mean at all that they have ridden any less of a race than anyone else. In fact, it’s often the adventure class or people at the back of the pack that have weathered more storms than anyone thought possible.
Izzy IDS and Elizabeth EBA found themselves in just this situation after a carry-forward part way through Day 2. They will still ride on regardless and hoist that celebratory cold Mongolian beer at the finish line just as they should.
And sadly we’ve had our first retirement of the race after Rebecca RHE suffered a hard fall. She was assessed at the SOS clinic in UB as a precaution and is taking it easy under medical orders. She is determined to come back someday and finish what she started, just like the excellent horsewoman that she is. We all wish her a speedy recovery.
At the end of the day the riders were placed as follows:
Between HS5 – HS6:
Between HS4 – HS5:
In Adventure Class: IDS, EBA
We’ll be back tomorrow with more action from the steppe. In the meantime check out our social feeds for up-to-the-minute race news.