Playing with a golden eagle outside the Genghis Khan statue.

Playing with a golden eagle outside the Genghis Khan statue.

Excuse the brevity of the post as I’m typing it on my iPhone with a thumb and finger that don’t entirely work, but I’ve arrived in Mongolia! I landed on Wednesday and have been doing some sightseeing and fiddling with my gear for the last few days.

Three more days until the race starts and at this point I’m feeling more excited than scared. I’ve met about 10 of the 40 riders who are riding this year and all are fantastic people who love horses and a good stiff Mongolian vodka.

Things I’ve learned so far about Mongolia:

  • Cars have steering columns on both the right and left hand side. I’m still on the fence if they drive on the right or left side of the road here. The Mongolian drivers I’ve had assure me it’s the right side, but we seem to spend a lot of time in the left lane playing chicken with other cars.
  • Pedestrians NEVER have the right of way in UB. Always wear running shoes so you can quickly sprint out of the way of oncoming traffic.
  • Meat on a stick (of unknown origin — just called barbecue on the menu) is a popular thing to eat here. And it’s quite delicious.
  • One must quickly develop a taste for Chinggis Black vodka, poured neat in generous quantities in large highball glasses.
First ride on a Mongolian Horse.

First ride on a Mongolian Horse.

I’ve reunited with Michelle Tanaka here and her friend Kat Whitney. Together we’ve taken some tours, including visiting the 130-foot Genghis Khan statue and even renting a couple of Mongolian horses from a trail riding place to get a feel for the animals. They were fantastic! Very smooth, quite responsive and even tempered. Granted, these are trail horses for tourists. The Mongolian family told Kat she was riding “Angry Horse” and that he doesn’t go slow. At first she was a little apprehensive, but quickly realized he was just a sensitive, forward horse, and was, in fact, our guide’s personal race horse. She had a good gallop on him, but no sign of angry horse’s wrath.

I got a little bay who was a seasoned tourist trail pony, expert in evading everything. He didn’t want to go forward and would constantly try to spin around and run back home. Despite this I got a few fun canters out of him.

But now we’re wondering if we should ask for the angriest horses on the Derby…