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mongolderby logoIn late summer 2013 a new student got in touch with Horsehaven.  She was new to North East Ohio and already knew how to ride but wanted to try the sport of fox hunting.  After several lessons where she proved that she was a capable rider, Solange took her on her first hunt on one of our experienced hunt horses.  Not too long after she came out with us several more times, this time on her own trusty gelding Gilbert.

This new rider was (Stephanie) Stevie Murray.

The 2013 hunt season soon drew to a close as winter came to Ohio and it was not long after this point where Stevie revealed why she was so interested in going fox hunting – she had signed herself up to compete in the 2014 Mongolian Derby which at this point was less than six months away!  Stevie had figured that hunting with hounds would be one of the best equestrian activities and training that would help her to prepare for her trek.  The next question Solange had for Stevie was what exactly is the Mongolian Derby?!

This race, the longest, toughest horse race in the world, is the mother of all equine adventures, a 1000 km multi-horse race across the epic wilderness of the Mongolian steppe.  Its mammoth network of horse stations is a recreation of Chinggis Khaan’s, or Genghis Khan’s, legendary empire-busting postal system.

It’s just you, a GPS and your team of horses against a thousand kilometres of Mongolian wilderness. Certainly no marked course, no packed lunches, no shower block, no stabling. And if you lose your horse you will find it’s a very long walk to the next horse station! The only rule of the event is that you must change horses at every station and deliver your mounts to their destination in mint condition.

Oh yes, one more rule, or a stipulation anyway. Because the horses are small you are allowed just 5 kgs of essential survival kit… and anyone who weighs more than 85 kgs when dressed to ride will be automatically disqualified! In fact, The Adventurists have admitted that the horses’ welfare is their primary concern, don’t for a moment think that they are concerned about you! All of the rules that have been put in place are designed with the horses in mind. You? Well… you can look after yourself can’t you?!

The unusual nature of the race made it the focus of many news articles around the world, with both Stevie and Solange even being interviewed and featured on a news segment of local Channel 3 WKYC.

With all the information gathered as best we could considering the unique nature of the race, Solange helped plan and prepare a tailored training schedule focusing on many different aspects that Stevie could expect to experience out in Mongolia, helping to focus on such things as feral pony riding, saddle endurance and safety as examples.  Eventually through the use of social media, Stevie was able to get in touch with the majority of other riders from all around the world who would be competing in the same derby.  It was during this time that she got in touch with a rider not too far away in Rhode Island, who was not only going to compete with Stevie at the derby, but also had the experience of having competed in the previous 2013 Mongolian Derby.

HIs name was Adam Perlman.

After talking to Stevie, Adam decided he liked what he heard about her preparations and decided that he wanted a part of it too.  So he got in touch with Solange and not long after drove himself over from Rhode Island to partake in an even more intensive 10 day derby preparation course planned by Solange.  HIs prior experience and knowledge with the derby stood him in good stead, also helping immensely with Stevie in filling in the gaps and speculation as to what all to expect out in Mongolia with the semi feral ponies.

Stevie and Adam both flew out to Mongolia at the end of July 2014 where they spent several days having some last minute training and orientation by the race organizers.  The race itself actually started early on the 6th of August with a total of 45 riders from all around the world.  Early on Stevie and Adam both kept up with the pace setters, but unfortunately an error with their GPS devices sent them a long distance away from their next enroute horse station early in the race.  This caused them to no longer have a realistic chance of winning the race and so it ended up like all trail rides should – finishing the course while having fun!  The race was won on day 8 by 40 year old Australian mining operative, Sam Jones.  Stevie and Adam both competing the race together the following day on day 9 (August 15th).

After completing the race, extra time was spent exploring the extraordinary sights and culture of Mongolia with Stevie finally returning to the Ohio via Seoul South Korea just under 2 weeks later on August 28th.