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Day 4 – 2019 Mongol Derby

August 10, 2019

Day Four – what a day this has been for one and all. We’ve had riders stretched between horse stations 11 and 16 with the lead swapping around like a game of three card monte, keeping HQ on their collective toes and our field crews on the move. The weather on the steppe did a complete flip-flop from wet, cold, and dreary to hot, dry, and bleary, putting the riders’ nerves, reserves, water supply, and limits to the test. Mother Nature Mongolia Style – she’s not for the faint of heart. The change in temperatures also brought a new wrinkle with respect to racing strategy: the cold damp weather may have made for a miserable ride, but it may have also helped keep those horses’ heart rates down.  Holy heart rate penalties, Batman! After a veritable scarcity of penalties in the first three days of racing, the vets were busy today handing out heart rate penalties, marking up those pristine vet record cards that the riders guard with their lives. This is not to say that the riders are riding irresponsibly – quite the contrary, as evidenced by horseman extraordinaire Frank (FW) stopping part way to horse station HS15 to rest his horse, Wiesman (WN) putting on the brakes part way to HS14, and at the end of the day, Sampie (SM) and Wiesman (WN) walking their horses into HS15 with one minute of racing time to spare, saddles off and horses nicely cooling. Also in the horsemanship hall of fame today, Justine (JH), on a smokin’ hot mission to be first overall into HS 16 this evening (having left Elise (ES) back at HS15 serving a penalty for an elevated heart rate) pulled up when her horse picked up a slight limp from the rocky road on which they travelled, blowing her lead but earning great respect. Tip of the hat to these riders and all who continue to display the horsemanship on which this great race is built.  

Sarah Farnsworth (photographer).

At the back of the pack, our intrepid adventurers have steadily moved up the field, many doing respectable four-horse stations today in the heat. But that’s not to say that they haven’t had their share of drama – oh no. As sure as the great Mongolian sky is blue, someone is sure to come off their horse on an unscheduled dismount, and today it was Ella’s (EM) turn to watch her formerly faithful equine companion beat it for the hills. A few hours later with the assistance of the herders and their uncanny abilities to zoom in on lost horses no matter where they are on the planet, her saddle and gear were returned. Hats off once again to the herders who form the backbone of this event, and who retrieve saddles and gear so the riders don’t have to ride with pretend stirrups or wrap up at night in old newspapers instead of their puffy sleeping bags.  

Sarah Farnsworth (photographer).

The end of the day found many of our riders suffering from the effects of the hot weather and what we like to call “Day Four Fatigue”, catching many of them partway between horse stations and prompting a mass campout. All campers have received our customary campsite concierge service, which includes verifying that they do indeed have safe accommodations, their horses have adequate food and water, no one is in a haunted ger, and no one is sneaking off to town (except for Margreet (MV), last seen on the back of a motorcycle heading into the local soum.)  Hats off to our hardworking crew who do an excellent job of babysitting when called upon to do so. 

Penalties and hot weather aside, it’s been an excellent day. The front runners are approximately halfway finished the race, but there are many more days of exciting action yet to come.