The Mongol Derby
The longest and toughest horse race in the world
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.
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.
To the nomadic Mongolians living on the steppe, these horses are an integral part of their social culture.
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. You’ll get a satellite tracker with an emergency button. This shows us at HQ where you are – even if you haven’t got a clue.
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 an stick you back together provided by the marvellous people at Intrepid.
The Mongol Derby is no small undertaking with the best part of 200 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.