I am one of 40 riders competing in the 2019 Mongol Derby, the longest and toughest horse race in the world. The race spans 600 miles over 11 days across the vast Mongolian wilderness. Following the route of Genghis Khan's network (established in 1224 AD) for riders carrying information to communicate throughout the empire.
Riders change semi-wild horses every 25 miles, using only a GPS to track the route while enduring extreme physical and mental conditions. The terrain is rough, unforgiving, and breathtaking – high passes, deep valleys, wooded hills, river crossings, wetlands, sandy dunes, rolling hills, and open plains.
Mongolian horses are one of few breeds that haven’t been affected by outside influence and have changed little since the time of Genghis Khan. Measuring a short 12-15 hands (4 -5 ft. from shoulder blades to the ground), they're incredibly sturdy and tough from living on the steppe in feral herds. More importantly, the #1 rule that the Derby enforces is to ensure horse welfare is adequate – so all horses must pass a vet check after every ride.
At its core, this race represents three of my greatest passions: horses, travel, and doing my small part to understand a culture different than my own and finding a way to give back. I spend the majority of my time behind a desk, saving up enough to explore the far corners of the world – and while some may opt for a trip to the tropics or an exciting new city, this is the kind of adventure that I really live for.
I want to use my crazy adventure aspirations for good – bringing awareness and financial backing to the important work that The Nature Conservancy is doing in Mongolia. My additional goal is to raise over $7,000 to give back to the nomadic people and protect one of the few truly wild places left in the world.
From their renowned land acquisition efforts to cutting-edge research that influences global policy, The Nature Conservancy is constantly adapting to take on our planet’s biggest, most important challenges. Their vision is a world where the diversity of life thrives, and people act to conserve nature for its own sake and its ability to fulfill our needs and enrich our lives.
The Nature Conservancy began working in Mongolia in 2008 with the goal of protecting the vast, unspoiled landscape of the grasslands for nature and people. They are actively working with the Mongolian government to help protect and sustainably manage 120 million acres, or 30 percent of the country by 2030. Through organized efforts, the TNC team has been able to help local communities gain secure access to grazing lands, implement sustainable practices, and improve basic income margins via food and fiber production (i.e. yak and camel wool). Plus, they are working with partners to ensure development happens in the right way and in the right places, demonstrating how a Development by Design approach can benefit people, nature and business.
I've had the pleasure of connecting with the TNC team based in Mongolia, and am very excited to learn more about the area and the challenges they encounter. I hope that my involvement in the race can positively impact their work, as their mission resonates deeply with my own life.
If you are interested in following and supporting my journey please visit www.rachelmongolderby.com