The 2018 Mongol Derby

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By Liz Ampairee with The Adventurists; photos by Laurence Squire

This year marks the 10th Mongol Derby, featured in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s longest and toughest horse race. The 2018 race featured 18 men and 26 women from 12 countries riding 1000km across Mongolia on semi-wild Mongolian horses.

The race recreates Genghis Khan’sancient horse messenger system in epic fashion. The hardy and semi-wild native horses of Mongolia reprise their traditional role as the legs and lungs of the adventure. The horse stations, or morinurtuus, are manned by nomadic herding families as they traditionally were. The messengers are portrayed by horsemen and adventurers from around the world, all riding up to 160kms a day, navigating independently and changing horses at 40 kilometre intervals.

Pre-race training took place August 5-7, 2018, with the start of the 2018 Mogul Derby on August 8. The race was completed on August 15.

Three previous competitors were back for more in 2018. They know the terrain and the worst bits. The other 41 Mongol Derby newbies featured a wonderful mix of professional riders and happy horsemen – an eclectic mix of accountants, nurses, and vets as well as a translator, a fishing captain, and one who works pack camels. Fourteen were from Australia, one from Botswana (dual USA/UK citizen), two from Canada, two from Ireland, two from The Netherlands, one from Pakistan, one from Portugal, three from New Zealand, one from the UK, one from Uraguay, thirteen from the USA – including Michael Gascon of Poplarville, Mississippi – and two from South Africa.

Liz Ampairee reported daily from 2018 Mongol Derby, and enthusiasts could follow her on Twitter at:

Following are her reports, beginning with August 15, 2018:

Today, the 10th Mongol Derby, the longest and toughest horse race in the world, 1000km across the Mongolian steppe, was won by Adrian Corboy from Australia and Annabel Neasham, a 27-year-old Brit from Oxfordshire. Annabel is Racing Manager to Ciaron Maher in Melbourne, and Adrian stepped in at the last minute for Ciaron and is one of his work riders and backs horses for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The pair crossed the line at 13.25 today (Mongolia time) having received no vet penalties at all throughout the race. HQ reports:

“We’ve seen great horsemanship from both - clear vet cards. At every station AC carries both saddles in, giving the horses a break, while AN dumps the remains of their hydration packs on their horses to cool them down.” #mongolderby2018

The pair completed the race in six days and faced typical Mongolian weather – monsoon rain, fog, boiling hot sun, cold one minute, hot the next – as well as a flooded steppe with lots of rivers to cross.

And on finishing the Mongol Derby – “people say when they finish, they could easily do another 1,000k; well...I think I’m good with this”
Report from August 14, 2018:
Many rivers to cross in the 2018 Mongol Derby. It seems likely that the Mongol Derby will be won tomorrow – but with a lack of communications this evening from Mongolia, we’re not quite sure by whom!

It seems that Aussies Adrian Corboy and Annabel Neasham (who apparently I’ve just found out today might actually be British!) are still in the lead and at Horse Station 26 (just two away from the finish). Texan Devan Horn is not far off their antipodean tails.

In the absence of news as to where everyone is in the field is tonight, I’ve sent what can only be described as some absolutely staggering pictures of Mongolia. Enjoy!
Report from August 13, 2018:
One Day Five of the 2018 Mongol Derby, Texan Devan Horn lost her lead at the end of the day being forced to sit out a vet penalty at Horse Station 21. The intrepid Aussies, Adrian Corboy and Annabel Neasham have now taken the lead and are camping out in a small holding just away from HS21.

The rest of the field are now separated by some six Horse Stations (that’s roughly 250kms if my math is right) with a few more retirees today.

I failed to report last night that the hugely popular Pakistan rider Saif Noon has retired, which is just as well as he obviously drank some strong airag overnight and decided to un-retire himself this morning.

Two other riders, Aussie Kathy Garbriel and our oldest competitor, 70 year-old Rod Herman have also had a ride in the blood wagon and are off to Ulaan Baatar for medical checks - but apparently Rod remains “determined to finish.” Hopefully tomorrow will make it clear who is actually still in the race.

The Mongol horses continue to challenge with riders pressing their help buttons, left, right, and centre. As noted by Mongol HQ:

“How to get on. Mongolians like their horses to GO & expect horses to go as soon as they feel a foot in the stirrup. Common problems are: rider hesitates, horse goes, rider hits deck…”

Today also saw what can only be described as ‘scorchio’ weather; so for those who hadn’t drunk enough monsoon rain the last few days, dehydration became an issue. Quote of the day from Portuguese rider, Manual Mendes:

“Official cocktail of the Mongol Derby 2018, straight vodka with electrolyte powder mixed in, it fixes everything and makes you happy”

Many of the riders have yet to brave the river crossing just past HS18 – here’s Devan Horn showing them how to do it.
Report from August 12, 2018:
The world’s longest and toughest horse race continues to live up to its reputation for being exactly that. They’ve had hail stones as big as snooker balls (well, almost), flooding, storms, blazing sun – and today, it’s been cold and wet again. Lovely.

Heather ‘Flash’ Accardo, 37, from Louisiana has been the latest rider forced to retire due to a bad fall and a broken collarbone. The dreaded D&V seems to have also struck a few of the riders including a few of the Aussie Archibald-Bell clan (now known as the Archibells) who seem to be carrying on regardless.  As our Mongol HQ twitter feed informed us:
 “HQ note: DE PUKIBUS, or ‘on sickness.’ Every year, the dreaded D&V strikes the Derby. Strange bugs, new food - **it happens. Sometimes it puts riders out of the race, but more often than not they grit their teeth, clench their bums & ride on.”

With three retirees to date, the field is now 40 strong (we think).  Up the front end, the remarkable Texan, Devan Horn, forges on. There seems to be no stopping this girl who is currently at HS18, has once again shredded the field and has a substantial lead. Future aspiring Derby champions take note how she picks her horses: "this guy has a nice body & was fighting and kicking the others on the line"

Hot on her heels (well 15 or so km behind) at HS17 are the ‘superlative’ Aussies, Adrian Corboy and Annabel Neasham. Tomorrow they may have a chance to make ground on Devan. Not only does she have a vet penalty to sit, but the riders up front will have to swim / ford the mighty Kherlen river 5kms beyond HS18 and anything could happen here (think, Lord of the rings and the horses swishing down the river). Mongol HQ report:

“If it's anything like the usual hazards of Mongolia, the horses will just sigh, roll up sleeves and crack on, while all the humans watch from between their fingers.” 

The rest of the field are strung out across the four previous horse stations like the proverbial Mongolian washing, but the support for all of them across social media is staggering. Previous Derby runner-up, Irishman Richie Killoran is keeping a close eye on his Irish brethren, John Moore, 40. Richie tweeted:

“So months before JD Moore embarked on the 1000km @mongolderbylive, he asked me for advice. I think top of the list was get a good GPS. Turns out he didn’t even bother to bring one and brought a compass instead... like bringing a knife to a gunfight; oh and he’s lost that now too.”
Report from August 10, 2018:
Day Two of the 2018 Mongol Derby, the world’s longest and toughest horse race (says the Guinness Book of Records) was all about the power of the mighty Mongolian horse.  In our modern world, we tend to put sparkly brow bands on horses and use them as a recreational thing. But out in Mongolia, horses are at the centre of their existence – their transport, their sustenance, their livelihood. Their horsemanship is incredible – and for those interested, do have a read of the attached – aptly named The Mighty Mongol Horse. It explains a bit why the Mongol Derby doesn’t have access to riding school horses.

The horses out there are semi-wild and every year, riders are forced to retire from the race as they deposit them on the floor. Today we lost Samantha Anderson from South Africa who dinged her ankle and went off to UB for a scan (damaged ligaments). We also lost Madison Smith from San Fran, who has a dislocated shoulder. Sad for her as it’s the second time she’s had to retire (she’ll be back no doubt).

Henry Bell, one of the Bell/Archibald clan from Australia showed how to harness the speed of a bolting horse (video posted on Twitter - In Mongolia, bolting isn’t a vice; it’s a good thing – they quicker they run, the longer they live!  

At the business end of the race, Texan Devan Horn has now been joined at Horse Station 8 by Charlotte Howard, 25, a seriously focused kiwi and they will start tomorrow in joint first position. There are a few others hot on their heels so the weekend (for us, not them) leaves everything to play for and no minute to lose.

Find complete information about the Mongol Derby at:

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