The Mongol Derby is the longest, toughest horse race in the world. The 1000km course recreates Chinggis Khaan's legendary empire-busting postal system, with riders changing horse every 40km, and living with herders or camping under the stars.
Each year around 30 professional, semi-professional and enthusiastic amateur riders compete against each other for the derby crown. To stand a chance of finishing riders must balance survival skills and horsemanship and to stand a chance of winning an extra level of determination and no small amount of luck is required.
Enduring the elements, semi-wild horses as well as unfamiliar food and terrain, completing the derby is an achievement few can boast.
You can relive the drama of the 2013 Derby on the Mongol Derby Blog
As a rider on the Mongol Derby we ask you to raise a minimum of £1000 for charity, at least £500 of which goes to the official charity: Cool Earth. Along with the teams on the other adventures, you'll be saving the world one rainforest at a time. Not because we’re tree hugging sandal weavers, but because the world would be shit without them. Read More
This is no guided tour, or pony trek. There is no marked course, no packed lunches, no shower block, no stabling. That’s the whole point. It's just you, your team of horses and a thousand kilometres of Mongolian wilderness. And possibly a GPS. The course consists of 25 Urtuus, or horse-stations where you swap horse and refuel. You must change horses at every station and deliver your mounts to their destination in mint condition. But how you navigate between them is where your adventure begins.
We spend many months designing and testing the Mongol Derby un-route, making sure there is enough water available for the horses, enough goosebumps for the riders, and that it will deliver the greatest equine adventure in the world.
While the exact course changes each year, it is likely to encompass the following variety of terrain; High passes, green open valleys, wooded hills, river crossings, wetland and floodplains, sandy semi-arid dunes, rolling hills, dry riverbeds and of course open steppe.
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 40km intervals along the entire thousand kilometre course.
Each urtuu will consist of a small collection of gers (canvas and felt tents which the herders live in), a supply of fresh horses, a vet team and a few herders. While you don't by any means have to stay at the urtuus each night, this is a chance, should you want to take it, to get some rest, hang out with the herders, imbibe some airag (mare's milk) and eat an awful lot of mutton.
If you want to streak ahead and sleep wherever you find yourself at moonrise, then the steppe is your oyster and you and your horse can enjoy a romantic night out under the diamond-studded vault.
Mongolian horses were the Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles of the thirteenth century. These indefatigable steeds once carried the all-conquering Mongol warriors across half the world. Diminutive, sturdy, fearless, wild and unbelievably tough, they're rightly revered in Mongolian culture, and have changed very little over the centuries, free as they are from human interference.
These are small horses, so you’ll need to travel light - just 5 kgs of essential survival kit. And we won’t accept anyone who weighs more than 85 kgs dressed to ride.
In the months prior to the event we select around 1000 of these feisty little beasts, and they all undergo a Derby training program of regular ridden work to prepare for their Derby dash. They belong to local nomadic herding families and breeders along the 1000 km route. Horse welfare is our primary concern and all of the rules we have put in place are designed with the horses in mind.
All being well, you really are on your own, and you’ll be oblivious to the miracle of back-up and logistical support going on around you.
What you will be aware of however, is the Derby's sophisticated web of veterinary support. You'll carry a vet card and every single horse that takes part is rigorously checked before and after they take part. Any riders deemed not to be taking proper care of their horses will be penalised.
We give you a satellite tracker and emergency beacon which allows Derby HQ to see where you are at all times and to dispatch veterinary assistance if required. It also means we can keep our vet support at the optimum distance to all our riders and horses to ensure a rapid response.
Our fabulous team of Mongolian and international vets has been led in 2012 and 2013 by Harry McKercher MRCVS. Harry has run a veterinary practice for 35 years and has been qualified for over 40 years.
Since this is a very dangerous event the Mongol Derby does have a degree of medical back-up. This is provided by the marvelous people at Prometheus Medical who are ready to deal with all manner of medical mishap. Their two mobile medical units are not just packed to the rafters with medical gubbins and supremely qualified medics, they also have satellite phones and trackers galore so we can get them in the right place as fast as the steppe will allow.
As a rider you'll get a satellite tracking device and emergency beacon which shows us where you are at all times even if you haven't got a clue. The data from the trackers is monitored by Derby HQ so we can keep the emergency support vehicles in the right area. Should you find yourself in a medical emergency you press a button on the tracker and the nearest team will be sent to your aid.
Because this is all about having a real adventure, the emergency back-up won't be visible unless you need it.
The 2014 Derby costs £7795; for that you get:
25 horses, plus 3 for training along with the 150 herders needed to get them where they should be when you need them, including the use of a custom built saddle designed to carry you 1000km.
A team of vets to care for your horses, a team of medics to care for you, should you need it and a race crew to ensure the race is run fairly and smoothly. Behind all this a massive cast of drivers & interpreters and the piles of technology, medicine and vehicles they need to do their jobs.
Three days of medical briefing, veterinary briefing, technical training, and riding practice, both on the steppe and in the classroom.
A 1000km mapped out course with 24 horse stations to feed you and provide you with shelter. A start line camp for training, a party and launch ceremony. A finish line for the dramatic conclusion and necessary back-slapping.
Tech & Expertise
Use of a tracking device so your followers back home and the race crew know where you are and an online blog where you can shout about what you are doing. Expertise from derby HQ and our endurance riding experts in the lead up to the Derby.
The 2014 Derby will run from 3rd - 16th August
3rd - 5th August: Pre-race training
6th August: Start gun of the 2014 Mongol Derby
15th August: Final riders expected to finish
16th August: Riders back to Ulaanbaatar
We've even got a nice shiny sign-up button you can click to bag your spot. Look there it is; just there, to the right. If you need more info there is an equally shiny button below it, or if you've got specific questions you can use the form right at the bottom, or give us a call.
You probably want to sign up after all that right? If you pass our interviews and get an offer, for 'just' 1000 of your English pounds you can reserve yourself a spot on the Derby and pay the rest in installments a bit later.
To protect the splendid horses of the Derby we need to make sure riders are experienced in the saddle and under 85kg clothed to ride. We interview everyone before signup and weigh them at pre-race training.