You’re doing what?!?

People give you the side eye when you tell them you can’t participate in dinners out/girls’ trips/any other ‘normal’ social engagement because you are busy training to ride semi-feral horses across Mongolia.

Since being accepted to ride in the Mongol Derby in September, I’ve gotten my tale of why I’m doing this down pretty good. My goal in answering questions is to come across as adventurous and not like a crazy horse girl with a death wish. I don’t know if I’ve achieved that. But here are the answers to questions I know anyone reading this blog will have.

The what
The Mongol Derby is an event put on by The Adventurists — a British organization whose catchphrase is ‘fighting to make the world less boring.’ It’s a 1,000 kilometre race across the Mongolian steppe that attempts to mimic Chinggis Khaan’s ancient version of the pony express. Local families provide with riders with Mongolian horses and riders swap out their mounts every 40 kms.

Despite ranging from only 12 to 14 hands, it’s an affront to call the sturdy equines of Mongolia ponies. To Mongolians these are horses revered for their speed in racing and used as beasts of burden for ranching work. Anecdotally, former Derbyists have told me they’re the most sure-footed beasties they’ve ever ridden and that’s a good thing because apparently the Mongolian landscape is littered with marmot holes.

How long do you have to get ready?
The start gun fires on August 5th next year. Plenty of time, right? Well, not when you’ve had a seven-year hiatus from riding and your competition ranges from jockeys to pro trainers. I’m a sedentary office worker. Once a year I lace up my shoes and participate in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. Somehow I’ve convinced myself this proves I have the physical prowess and mental fortitude to gallop wild horses across foreign lands a la Hidalgo. Any rider I respect tells me I’m going to need to quit my job to put in the hours of saddle time required. So far, the race is far enough away I don’t have to yet consider the severity of my predicament. But I am riding as much as my schedule allows – usually five times a week. To challenge myself, I mix in dumb things like this video of me cantering a 5 year old OTTB with my iPhone in one hand:

How much does this cost?
A lot. Like the cost of the entry might be scarier than the actual riding of these nappy little horses. It’s 7,995 pounds sterling and that doesn’t include my plane ticket to Mongolia. Oh, and there’s all the associated costs of driving to riding facilities, buying gear like a crash vest, tights that aren’t going to chafe a hole through my thigh and caged stirrups to ensure I don’t get dragged across Mongolia at flat tack. To that end, I’ve started a Go Fund Me account. I’m hoping that if you are entertained by my clever words and training tales, you might be willing to send a few dollars my way to help defray the costs of this adventure.

Why are you doing this?
When I stumbled across the Mongol Derby, I had some serious office worker ennui. When I saw people galloping on those horses and sleeping in gers with Mongolian herders my internal compass/voice/whatever you want to call it screamed to me do it. Since I’ve been accepted, life feels so much more vibrant. Never in my 33 years have I taken such a big risk physically, mentally and financially. Living with this heightened sense of danger and purpose has made me feel more alive than I have in years. And through this journey, no matter how it ends, I hope to inspire other people to take on massive challenges, because it’s in doing those challenges you find the sweetest moments in living.