The Mongol Derby
It was the nerve system of the largest empire in human history. Genghis Khan’s mighty horse messenger system connected ½ 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 steed 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.
1,500 Mongolian Horses
Every year we vet and train one and a half thousand Mongolian horses for the Mongol Derby. Each horse is catalogued and checked thoroughly before being allowed to join the race. They’re 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 horse 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. They carried the all-conquering Mongol 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 the 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 at 40km intervals (morin urtuu in Mongolian) where you swap 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 un-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. All going well, you’ll be oblivious to the miracle of emergency support going on around you. 4×4’s flying across the steppe, the 24hr HQ support team keeping eyes on the field, satellite trackers strapped to you so we can follow your every move, 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 you ride to ensure it has been well treated.
We have an incredible team of medics hiding in the wings ready to swoop in and stick you back together.
The Mongol Derby is no small undertaking with the best part of 500 people coming together to build the race for just 40 riders.
“It is easy to conquer the world from the back of a horse” – Genghis Khan.
In 1224, Man of the Millennium Genghis 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 communications was one of the great tactical advantages of the Mongol warriors.
Riders carrying messages directly from the Khan would ride non-stop wearing a gergel (metal plates 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-wise-web carried on delivering post and messages right into the 1950’s. And now it’s back. Delivering you.
The Mongol Derby Academy is designed to give you the skills you need to compete in and complete the Mongol Derby. It takes a two forms.
The first is an intensive 5 day training camp in Mongolia where you get to take on legs of the Derby while under constant supervision. It’s designed primarily for those looking to find out more about the Derby and to hone their skills ready to take part.
The second is our growing network of approved trainers. All ex-Mongol Derby riders with a wealth of experience to draw from. They all offer different types of training from personalise training programs to weekend Derby simulations to help prep you for the start.