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Joint victory in 2017 Mongol Derby

Mongolia. Wednesday 16 August 2017.
This year’s Mongol Derby, quoted to be the world’s longest and toughest horse race, has been jointly won by 29-year-old Ed Fernon, an Olympic pentathlete from Sydney, Australia, and 51-year-old Barry Armitage, a former professional sailor turned adventurer, from South Africa.


After 1,000km, seven days of racing with twelve hours a day, and each rider using 25 horses they decided in the final stretch not to race each other but cross the line side by side.

In third place, just a few hours behind was 40-year-old Jakkie Mellett, from Lyndon in South Africa who has displayed incredible riding skills throughout, but received a vet penalty at the final urtuu (horse station) meaning a two hour wait before he could give chase to the others.

Endurance World Mongol Derby. Carrying the saddle.This means the race had an all-male southern hemisphere podium this year.

At the end of the first day we saw Leslie Wylie in the lead but after a series of misfortunes including a couple lost horses, lost kit, riding stirrup less Leslie Wylie may have fallen to the back of the field, but has endeared herself to onlookers as a bonafide derby legend.

On the second day, the competitors entered straight into the belly of the beast with apocalyptic storms. Freezing temperatures and horrendous visibility meant unenthused horses.
Ed Fernon and Marie Palzer were able to jet ahead, leading the field along with Jakkie Mellet. They’ve been leapfrogging for most of the week, though penalties have stuck Marie firmly behind.

This year an unprecedented number of riders have been camping out with their horse. With few exceptions, riders have gotten their horses to stay put.

Endurance World Mongol Derby. Starting day 2.On the third day, the misery went on, a rider lost her bridle (riders are issued one to use the entire race) but purchased a new one from a local herder.

Day four saw a horse chase involving a Land Cruiser, a goat pen… and a human wall, with interpreter Yanjaa screaming out “This is dangerous!” while stretching out her arms to stop the thundering beast.

The exact course changes each year and is kept secret until shortly before the launch. It is likely to encompass the following variety of terrain; High passes, green open valleys, wooded hills, river crossings, wetland and floodplains, sandy semi-arid dunes, rolling hills, dry riverbeds, and of course open steppe.
In 1224, Chinggis Khan set up the world’s first long-distance postal transmission system. Using a massive network of horse stations – morin urtuus in Mongolian – his messengers could gallop from Kharkhorin to the Caspian Sea in a number of days.
For ten days each August, the Mongol Derby recreates this legendary system, building a network of urtuus at 40km intervals along the entire thousand-kilometre course.
Each urtuu will consist of a small collection of gers (canvas and felt tents which the herders live in), a supply of fresh horses, a vet team, and a few herders. While you don’t by any means have to stay at the urtuus each night, this is a chance, should you want to take it, to get some rest, hang out with the herders, imbibe some airag (mare’s milk) and eat an awful lot of mutton.

Endurance World Mongol Derby. A herdsman.Mongolian horses were the ‘intercontinental ballistic missiles’ of the thirteenth century. These indefatigable steeds once carried the all-conquering Mongol warriors across half the world. Diminutive, sturdy, fearless, wild, and unbelievably tough, they’re rightly revered in Mongolian culture, and have changed very little over the centuries, free as they are from human interference.
These are small horses, and the rider has to travel light, just 5kg of essential survival kit. And the organisers won’t accept anyone who weighs more than 85kg dressed to ride.
In the months prior to the Mongol Derby around 1,400 horses are selected and they all undergo a Derby training program of regular ridden work to prepare for their Derby dash. They belong to local nomadic herding families and breeders along the 1,000km route. Horse welfare is the primary concern and all of the rules are designed with the welfare of the horses in mind.
On the Mongol Derby, riders are on their own. As a rider, you’ll get a satellite tracking device and emergency beacon which shows their location at all times even when the rider doesn’t have a clue. The data from the trackers is monitored by Derby HQ so they can keep the emergency support vehicles in the right area.
The Derby has a sophisticated web of veterinary support. The rider carries a vet card that records the vigorous checks that the horses undergo before and after their ride. Any riders deemed not to be taking proper care of their horses will be penalised.

Photos by Julian Herbert for the Mongol Derby

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Joint victory in 2017 Mongol Derby

Mongolia. Wednesday 16 August 2017.
This year’s Mongol Derby, quoted to be the world’s longest and toughest horse race, has been jointly won by 29-year-old Ed Fernon, an Olympic pentathlete from Sydney, Australia, and 51-year-old Barry Armitage, a former professional sailor turned adventurer, from South Africa.


After 1,000km, seven days of racing with twelve hours a day, and each rider using 25 horses they decided in the final stretch not to race each other but cross the line side by side.

In third place, just a few hours behind was 40-year-old Jakkie Mellett, from Lyndon in South Africa who has displayed incredible riding skills throughout, but received a vet penalty at the final urtuu (horse station) meaning a two hour wait before he could give chase to the others.

Endurance World Mongol Derby. Carrying the saddle.This means the race had an all-male southern hemisphere podium this year.

At the end of the first day we saw Leslie Wylie in the lead but after a series of misfortunes including a couple lost horses, lost kit, riding stirrup less Leslie Wylie may have fallen to the back of the field, but has endeared herself to onlookers as a bonafide derby legend.

On the second day, the competitors entered straight into the belly of the beast with apocalyptic storms. Freezing temperatures and horrendous visibility meant unenthused horses.
Ed Fernon and Marie Palzer were able to jet ahead, leading the field along with Jakkie Mellet. They’ve been leapfrogging for most of the week, though penalties have stuck Marie firmly behind.

This year an unprecedented number of riders have been camping out with their horse. With few exceptions, riders have gotten their horses to stay put.

Endurance World Mongol Derby. Starting day 2.On the third day, the misery went on, a rider lost her bridle (riders are issued one to use the entire race) but purchased a new one from a local herder.

Day four saw a horse chase involving a Land Cruiser, a goat pen… and a human wall, with interpreter Yanjaa screaming out “This is dangerous!” while stretching out her arms to stop the thundering beast.

The exact course changes each year and is kept secret until shortly before the launch. It is likely to encompass the following variety of terrain; High passes, green open valleys, wooded hills, river crossings, wetland and floodplains, sandy semi-arid dunes, rolling hills, dry riverbeds, and of course open steppe.
In 1224, Chinggis Khan set up the world’s first long-distance postal transmission system. Using a massive network of horse stations – morin urtuus in Mongolian – his messengers could gallop from Kharkhorin to the Caspian Sea in a number of days.
For ten days each August, the Mongol Derby recreates this legendary system, building a network of urtuus at 40km intervals along the entire thousand-kilometre course.
Each urtuu will consist of a small collection of gers (canvas and felt tents which the herders live in), a supply of fresh horses, a vet team, and a few herders. While you don’t by any means have to stay at the urtuus each night, this is a chance, should you want to take it, to get some rest, hang out with the herders, imbibe some airag (mare’s milk) and eat an awful lot of mutton.

Endurance World Mongol Derby. A herdsman.Mongolian horses were the ‘intercontinental ballistic missiles’ of the thirteenth century. These indefatigable steeds once carried the all-conquering Mongol warriors across half the world. Diminutive, sturdy, fearless, wild, and unbelievably tough, they’re rightly revered in Mongolian culture, and have changed very little over the centuries, free as they are from human interference.
These are small horses, and the rider has to travel light, just 5kg of essential survival kit. And the organisers won’t accept anyone who weighs more than 85kg dressed to ride.
In the months prior to the Mongol Derby around 1,400 horses are selected and they all undergo a Derby training program of regular ridden work to prepare for their Derby dash. They belong to local nomadic herding families and breeders along the 1,000km route. Horse welfare is the primary concern and all of the rules are designed with the welfare of the horses in mind.
On the Mongol Derby, riders are on their own. As a rider, you’ll get a satellite tracking device and emergency beacon which shows their location at all times even when the rider doesn’t have a clue. The data from the trackers is monitored by Derby HQ so they can keep the emergency support vehicles in the right area.
The Derby has a sophisticated web of veterinary support. The rider carries a vet card that records the vigorous checks that the horses undergo before and after their ride. Any riders deemed not to be taking proper care of their horses will be penalised.

Photos by Julian Herbert for the Mongol Derby

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