I’ve been following the news about the atrocities being committed in the UAE endurance racing community and the inability of the FEI to ensure the safety of its equine participants. It is definitely sickening to watch these races from afar. However, I am thankful that responsible members of the endurance community are taking action to force some sort of conscience on those at fault.
Since I am participating in the Mongol Derby, which is still a mystery to some, I’ll take this opportunity to describe the extent the Derby vets and organizers take to ensure the health and safety of the Mongolian Horses.
First, only the riders are covering 1,000km of the Mongolian steppes, none of the horses will be ridden 1,000km! Each horse will cover a limited distance of 40km, keeping in mind that many traditionalistic endurance riders do not consider anything under 80km to be an endurance race (there is, however, some dispute on that particular topic, of which I will try to avoid in this blog). After that particular horse, from a herd of 1,400 horses, has served its 40km duty, life will return to normal with its nomadic Mongolian family.
Every single horse that takes part in the Derby will be rigorously checked by the veterinarians before and after they are ridden. It is clearly stated in the Mongol Derby Rules that you cannot win the Derby by pushing the horses too hard. Riders will be penalized a minimum of two hours for any horses whose heart rate does not drop within the designated time period or if the horse appears to be mistreated or overridden. Riders are required to give a cash deposit to the organizers of 700L ($1,358CAD) to further ensure their vigilance over the well-being their horses. The rider receives his/her deposit just before they return home, to ensure each horse has fully recovered. Additionally, if anyone is deemed abusive to the horses (or the staff), they will be disqualified from the event and will be instructed to immediately leave the course and make their way home by themselves (the walk of shame).
Anyone who does not want to abide by the rules does not participate in the Derby. Seems pretty simple, doesn’t it?