Day 5 and the action heats up

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Day 5 and the action heats up

Tom Morgan

Gaucho Derby

The Race Heats Up

As the race enters Day 5, the competition at the front has heated up. Gaucho Derby veteran Daniel Van Eden, Endurance Athlete Holly Masson and Mongol Derby veteran Rendel Rieckmann have managed to secure the lead so far.  Their excellent horsemanship, careful navigation and teamwork across the course has allowed them to pull in front. However, at day’s end Holly and Rendel were 30 minutes faster into the final horse station of the day, leaving Daniel to ride in solo after a long but successful slog over the meseta.

Just behind them, Gaucho Derby Academy alum Morgan Williams is literally hot on their heels, her quiet determination and tenacity for tackling this terrain making her a serious contender for the win. Overnighting at a scenic puesto just shy of the horse station, she will make her break for her next horse change first thing in the morning.

From high mountains to grassy valleys and expansive plateaus, the riders have navigated some of the most challenging terrain on the planet. Steep hillsides and muddy bogs pose formidable obstacles, with riders experiencing firsthand the unpredictability of Patagonia.

Rider Izzy Fitzalan Howard on the famous bogs and finding them first hand: “There I was, trying to find a way around the lake; it was all going very well until boom, in we went into a muddy bog! My horse was able to scramble to the other side, and we made it out just fine. These horses are seriously incredible!”

Josephine Jammaers, riding solo for most of this race, found herself searching for the elusive “big boulder” landmark enroute across the meseta and had an encounter a rocky bog. She was able to extricate herself and her indomitable horse and find a suitable campsite before close of riding hours.

Further back in the field, a sizeable chasing pack has formed with 17 riders making their way across the meseta, searching for that first glimpse of the breathtaking Lago San Martin. They will all make their way down to lower elevation in the morning to ride out to some flatter, but no less scenic, surroundings.

Also riding steadily up the field were Fiona Castle and Courtney Farmer who have formed a handy partnership that saw them rocking up the field to overnight at VC10, a rustic puesto with medic Andrei, vet Chris, and horse manager Fermin as company.

Weathering the Elements

Patagonia’s weather is notoriously capricious, throwing everything from blazing heat and extreme winds to freezing cold at the participants. Each day is a test of resilience, both for the riders and their steadfast equine companions. The rugged landscapes and unpredictable climates make this adventure horse race a true test of skill and endurance.

Navigational Challenges

Navigating through this vast, untamed wilderness is no easy feat. Difficult navigations add an extra layer of complexity to the race, testing the riders’ ability to find their way through challenging terrain and massive farms.  Rider Warwick Schiller on finding the notorious gates, a nerve-wracking experience as the race neared its cut-off time: “It was getting close to race cut-off time, and Kansas Carradine & I were desperately trying to find the gate before the race cut-off time. There we were running up and down the fence line, and the Horse Station was literally just on the other side. Eventually, we found it and made it. Finding these gates has to be one of the hardest parts of the race.”

Local Horses: The True Champions

Participants in the Gaucho Derby ride on a variety of strong local horses. From draft cross mixes, to the legendary Criollos, choosing their next partner (by random draw from a hat might we add), is definitely an exciting experience. While the riders may be strangers to this environment and its challenges, their horses are not. These local equine companions are the epitome of natural selection, showcasing the strength and adaptability required to thrive in Patagonia’s harsh conditions.

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Tom Morgan

Gaucho Derby