Stevie Murray

Fate isn’t something I often believe in, so I guess you would have to chalk it up to really good luck. In the spring of 2013, I found out about the Mongol Derby. In the summer of 2013 I found Solange Ellis, the woman who would get me through this monumental race.
The Mongol Derby is a 640 mile multi-horse adventure race across the desolate wilds of Mongolia that not only pits you against nature and her inconceivable array of elements but does so in one of the most remote areas of the world on semi-wild native horses. Each twenty-five mile leg of the derby offers it’s own unique navigational and terrain challenges but most significantly, it offers you a new horse you must quickly figure out how to ride in order to make your next checkpoint. I found myself lucky enough to be accepted into the race by January of 2014 and not a day later had Solange, trainer and owner of Horse Haven Stables in Hinckley, OH, written a detailed training plan for me and begun implementing it.
Solange not only made sure that I was ready for anything a wild horse might throw at me (bucking, spinning, rearing, spooking, and the most common; bolting) but she helped me develop the adequate muscles I would need to ride four horses a day over seventy-five to one hundred miles of steppe land for twelve to thirteen hours for ten days. She even went through careful gear-checks with me, making sure my equipment would and could withstand hours of jolting gaits and all kinds of weather.
As I spent hours on end riding her horses (usually holding a painful position at a trot, or balancing bareback on an especially jostling trotter) I got to observe the lessons she gave to her other students. I watched her go from refining techniques with experienced equestrians, talking about the physics of balance and the small changes and improvements different positions would yield, to helping a young child successfully make his pony trot for the first time. Solange may say her specialty is beginners, but she has something to offer equestrians of all levels. I myself constantly found this to be true. Being a product of twenty years of all-around competition showing, I thought I had seen all trainers had to offer, yet every day at Solange’s brought a new profound but simple lesson. All the trainers I had had before Solange had their theories, but few had sound science to back them, and even fewer truly practiced what they preached.
Previous trainers often helped me get through tough rides on unruly horses, but none ever volunteered to actually show me. When Solange asked me to jump a slightly bronc-prone horse bareback, I asked to watch how she did it first and to my shock, she put on a helmut and did just that! It is rare to find a trainer who rides as solidly as their theories.