10 Days, 1,000 Kilometers: The Mongol Derby


Kelsey Riley


Editor’s Note: Kelsey Riley will be riding in the Mongol Derby in August, 2018, and will be regularly blogging about her preparations and ultimately, her 1000-kilometer, 10-day ride across Outer Mongolia. Every rider chooses a charity for which they raise money as part of the process. Kelsey has chosen the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s Blackburn Correctional Facility in Lexington, Ky. To learn more about Blackburn, click here.

I have done some weird and adventurous things in my life, but this one is by far the craziest.

Next August, I will be one of 40 riders participating in the Mongol Derby, which is the world’s longest and toughest horse race and is contested on the backs of half-broke Mongolian horses across 1000 km of the Outer Mongolian steppe. Over 10 days, we riders will have to navigate our way through 25 horse stations using GPS, maps and our wits (there is no marked path) in a course that is a recreation of Chinggis Khaan’s world-first long-distance postal system set up in 1224. We are likely to encounter all types of terrain and weather–open valleys, river crossings, rolling hills, heat, cold, rain, hail–not to mention being bucked off, extreme chafing from 13-hour days in the saddle, and being chased by wild dogs. We will carry just 11 pounds of kit with us and won’t have access to showers while out on the course [click here for video].

Now, why in my right mind would I want to do this, you ask?

Well, first of all, let’s be clear, I wouldn’t exactly say I’m in my right mind!

Second, I have always set out to live the most interesting life possible. The Mongol Derby appeals to me because it offers to a chance to immerse oneself for a brief period in one of the last truly nomadic cultures on earth. And, considering only about half the riders each year finish the race, it is a terrific challenge that few can boast to have accomplished.

Third, and most important, I’m going to use the Mongol Derby as an initiative to give back to Thoroughbred racehorses by raising money for the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s Second Chances Program at Blackburn Correctional Complex. Blackburn, based in my home city of Lexington, Kentucky, sees minimum security inmates rehabilitate and care for off-track Thoroughbreds. Not only does the program provide a respite and a life after racing for the Thoroughbreds, but it gives back to the local community by providing inmates with a renewed sense of responsibility and skill set that they can take with them when they leave the prison. Read about recent Blackburn success story Z Camelot in the TDN .

Working in the Thoroughbred racing industry has allowed me to live the most incredible life, and I owe everything to these animals. I can’t think of a better reason to do this.

So, the financials. As you can imagine for such an epic adventure, the Mongol Derby is not cheap. The entry fee of $12,995 will cover all costs once I arrive in Mongolia, including the use of horses, tack, food, pre-race training and a tracking device so you can follow me from the comfort of your lounge chair. It also goes toward the race crew, medics, and the local Mongolians who are so kindly allowing us to use their horses. It does not include flights to and from Mongolia, equipment I’ll need to purchase for the adventure, travel insurance, etc. The funds raised will be split halfway between Blackburn and covering costs of the trip. However, if and when 50% of the funds raised goes beyond the $12,995 entry fee, all remaining money raised goes straight to Blackburn.

So, for all these many good reasons, I will be absolutely indebted to you if you can contribute to my cause.

To support Kelsey’s ride, click here.





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