February 29, 2020

Category: Gaucho Derby

The Gaucho Derby and the Mongol Derby share many similarities. Both adventures test the riders’ suffer-ability, resilience, and talent for MacGyvering tack out of roadside refuse; they both celebrate distinct and venerable cultures; and they both have horses (clearly). But they differ in significant ways, not the least of which is the geographic setting and inherent differences in the race structures.

LESSON TWO: This Ain’t Mongolia, Fool

First, it’s all about the horses. We all know that Mongolia’s horses are fast and fiery, but what about the Patagonian steeds? What can the Gaucho Derby Pioneers expect when they hit training camp on March 3? Our trusty Gaucho Derby vet Sarah happily traipsed around the Patagonian countryside earlier this year helping select 200+ horses who will star in Gaucho Derby 2020. Similar to the Mongol Derby criteria, the Gaucho Derby only accepts horses over five years old. These Patagonian beauties are sturdy, mountain-savvy, and sure-footed. They’ll get you where you’re going, especially if you happen to be crossing numerous mountain passes enroute to the finish line.

Unlike the Mongol Derby, the Gaucho Derby will require the riders to occasionally handle a pack horse in addition to their main mount. A second horse will provide – surprise – fresh horses when the riders get to those truly remote sections, and will carry feed for the horses for sections where grazing is limited.

Second, it’s about the camping. The Mongol Derby has on average between 26 and 28 horse stations over 1000 km where the riders stop, change horses, get nourishment, and stay at the end of the day if they are not riding on and camping mid-point. The Gaucho Derby will have much fewer horse stations (five) and 11 vet checks over 500 km which means that the riders will be expected to be self-supporting for a number of nights while on the race. Brilliant. To facilitate this, the riders are allowed 10kg of pack weight instead of the 5kg allowed in the Mongol Derby (the Patagonian horses generally have a much bigger build and can easily handle this extra 5kg) – this means the riders can pack those super delicious Dehydrated Mystery Meals or a week’s worth of Insta-Noodles along with their 5 oz bivvie bag.

Third, it’s about the terrain. Did we mention this adventure winds its way through mountains and valleys, crosses rivers and plains, and in many cases goes where no man (in a vehicle) has gone before? Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads… The Gaucho Derby will see some truly remote territory. The Mongol Derby, although set in its own spectacular, largely uninhabited part of the world, still butts up against civilization in the form of the odd village when you least expect it, or a herder’s camp tucked away beside a pristine river.


We’ll have none of that urban-crowding nonsense in the Gaucho Derby. By the time the Pioneers cross the finish line, they’ll be so socially-awkward from lack of human influence they’ll need some serious Malbec therapy.

By the time you read this, the Pioneers will be arriving in El Calafate, eyeballs popping from the plethora of scenery, fingers itching to grab those reins and get this show on the road. Don’t forget to follow the action at #gauchoderby