The results are final and official! Marylander Barbara Smith finished 9th in the Mongolian Derby.
The race officially finished at 8:30 pm on Friday, Aug. 15, a few riders did need to be carried forward on Thursday to ensure they would cross the line in time – but not Barbara! The first nine positions were confirmed by sundown on Thursday, Aug. 14 with no changes to finishing order needed for those first nine (a number of penalties were accrued by the following pack so not all of them were placed in the order they finished, and The Equiery waited for the results to be official before posting).
For most of the race, home-state girl Barbara Smith sat comfortably in the third tier of riders in the grueling Mongolian Derby, being held…that’s right, in Mongolia! 620+ miles across the steppes, in less than 10 days, duplicating the world’s first long distance postal route established, by Genghis Khan in 1224.
Using a massive network of horse stations (morin urtuus in Mongolian) messengers could gallop from Kharkhorin to the Caspian sea in a number of days. This communication network was instrumental in the expansion of the Mongolian Empire.
For ten days each August, the Mongol Derby recreates this legendary system, building a network of urtuus at 40km intervals, for a thousand kilometers.
47 riders are competing in this year’s desert dash. According to the organizers, “this is no guided tour pony trek.” There is no marked course, no packed lunches, no shower block, no stabling. The course consists of 25 Urtuus, or horse-stations, where riders swap horses and refresh themselves (and the horses receive much needed rest and water). Horses must arrive at each destination in excellent condition, but it is up to the riders to navigate between the urtuus.
The terrain includes 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.
According to The National Geographic, “Fewer than half of the riders are expected to make it across the finish line. The rest will either quit or be carried off the course by the medical team. Broken bones and torn ligaments are common, frustration and bruised egos the norm. Every rider will fall off multiple times during the course of the race, says Katy Willings, the race chief and a former Mongol Derby competitor.”
But Marylander Barbara Smith has – so far – not been one of those unlikely riders!
Organizers prepare over 1,000 Mongolian horses, and according to a variety of reports, they range from bombproof veterans to barely broke (or “gentled” in popular language).
There were daily blogs and race reports from a variety of perspectives, including the teams of vets and medics!
Look for a special feature on “Barbara’s Big Adventure” in the October travel edition of The Equiery!