In the heart of the Gobi Desert, Mongolia nomads from the last true horse culture in the world come together to train and condition the horses for the annual Gobi Desert Cup sponsored by TRM Nutrition. While some travel from thousands of kilometers away, they return each year for the 480 kilometer endurance ride that employs and provides sustainability for their nomadic way of life.
While the sun peeks over the horizon the herders bring in the horses who have wandered off into the night in search of grass and water. Soon, these horses will be tied to a traditional horse line awaiting an international rider there to test their horsemanship, their endurance, and fulfill their desire for adventure.
What better way to experience the vast expanses of Mongolia than on the back of a horse?
While many riders compete for the prized Gobi Desert Cup and prizes donated by our generous sponsors such as custom-made Setzi saddles for the first three finishers, others are there for the adventure and experience. Our goal is to provide a safe and incredible adventure to all that changes lives for the better- not only our riders but our nomads and their horses.
Many of you wonder who has been chosen to ride the 2019 Gobi Desert Cup from August 28 to September 6? We have the final list of riders here for you!
Sam Jones, Australia, 45
Sam is no stranger to Mongolia and won the 2014 Mongol Derby! Currently, Sam is a horse trainer working mostly with breakers and remedial cases. She says, “I would like to be able to do every race/ adventure/ endurance ride everywhere! But Mongolia holds a very special place in my heart and I cannot wait to return to the steppe. The more I have heard about the Gobi Desert Cup the more impressed I am, I am excited to be part of an event that gives so much back to the local community. My main goal for this race is to enjoy it! I find the isolation and wide open spaces make it easy to live in the moment and nothing beats riding a good horse across the steppe!”
Liann Wadewitz, USA, 31
Liann is a returning adult equestrian residing in Brooklyn, New York and spending most of her free time doing Roller Derby! She is attending The Gobi Desert Cup for the adventure and we are happy to give her exactly what she is craving.
Michelle Morges, USA, 35
Dr. Michelle Morges is a Veterinary Oncologist and medical acupuncturist. She works hard to play hard and combining travel with horses is about as good as it gets. Primarily a hunter/ jumper Michelle has been training to ride endurance just for this event. Let’s see if her mental determination and willpower will make her a contender.
Carmen Jackson, USA
Carmen hails from the San Francisco area and was one of the first riders to apply. She has made it her priority to train at Global Endurance Riding Center, our official training center and home of 2018 Individual winner, Christoph Schork. Carmen is the epitome of dedication and discipline. Will her long months and crazy calendar of training be enough to ride the entire 480 kilometers and six days across the Gobi Desert?
Cynthia Peticolas, USA, 62
Cynthia Peticolas is no stranger to endurance riding and adventure. She’s ridden endurance since 1991, ridden the 2,000 mile Pony Express route across the USA, and traveled by motorcycle through 7 countries. Now she is turning her attention to join us to experience Mongolia and her culture for the first time. Will her competitive nature kick in or will she just enjoy the ride? Either way, she is going to have the time of her life!
Laetitia Goncalves, France/ Portugal, 29
Laetitia is a seasoned endurance rider and Captain of Team France. While only 29-years old, Laetitia has a strong record. She was a junior and senior rider for the French National Team. She has ridden in both the President’s Cup as well as Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Dubai World Cup four times. In the 2009 World Championship in Hungary, she placed 3rd individual and 1st team with Jasmine des Ayssades. More recently, she placed 8th in the 2016 World Championship Negrepelisse and 16th in the 2016 World Championship Samorin.
Laetitia said, “I am very excited to take part in such a different scenery, the Mongolian horses, the immersion within the local culture. I am looking forward to getting back to basics and being secluded from the modern world. I look forward to sharing this experience with friends for an unforgettable experience where we will share our passion.”
Will her impressive record give her a leg up on these non-traditional endurance horses? Only time will tell.
Sarah Bertaux D’Agier, France, 51
Sarah is a French national, married with two children. She lives in Dordogne and owns two endurance horses and two donkeys which they use to trail ride with friends and family. She discovered endurance about 10 years ago and has ridden in Chile, Mongolia, and Jordan. She never thought she would have the chance to go back to Mongolia! Sarah said, “Sportive by nature with a love for adventure, I had to jump at the opportunity to participate in The Gobi Desert Cup.”
Cassandra Carmona, France, 23
Cassandra is 23-years old and owns about 10 horses. She is passionate about eventing and endurance! Cassandra has 20 years experience with horses and the goal to have her own stable one day. She will be competing as a member of team France and no doubt, this will be a team to watch for during the race!
Virginie Jacquet Bournazel, France, 35
Virginie Bournazel is the manager of L’écurie des Collines for 15 years with her husband and their 11-year old son. They organise local trail rides, treks, and qualify young horses in endurance. She is qualified FEI* and her objective is to preserve her horses’ welfare. Virginie has a very busy professional life, but loves travelling and wish she was doing it more often! We can definitely scratch that itch for her this year!
Jennifer Sims, USA, 44
Jennifer is popular influencer on Instagram known as Styled Equestrian and more recently EqGlobetrotter, where she is known for her equestrian fashion and travels the world on equestrian holidays. Jennifer has primarily been in the hunter/ jumper world but started playing polo last year and is now riding endurance for the first time as Captain of Team EqGlobetrotter.
We asked Jennifer what she was most looking forward to in Mongolia, “Everything. Meeting everyone, meeting all of the horses and the Mongolians who are a part of the GDC. Pushing myself to accomplish something that most people would never be brave enough to attempt.“
Will this be the start of a beautiful relationship with endurance riding? Only time will tell.
Louis Geyer, S. Africa, 51
Meet Louis, owner and operator of Cape Winelands Riding in South Africa!
Louis said, ““I am the owner of a horse riding holiday establishment in South Africa, with 37 years of riding experience. I have ridden in a variety of disciplines including hunting, hunter trails and trail riding amongst others. I regularly go on multi-day trail rides, such as the Namib Desert ride in Namibia. Why the Gobi Desert Cup? Riding in Mongolia is a life goal for me, it is a cultural experience I look forward to. I would like to throw my support behind The Gobi Desert Cup. I look forward to riding in such a remote region on Mongol mounts. Sharing a passion with like-minded horsemen from around the world.”
Louis is no stranger to riding in open spaces and longer distances. But will that help him in Mongolia? We will find out.
Cortney Rothman, USA, 45
Meet Cortney who lives in Oregon, USA. Cortney says, “I have worked with many different horses both in the saddle and on the ground in my 45 years. I am in the best shape of my life as I also ski and surf on a regular basis. I’m inspired by wide vistas and plains, happy to be dirty and smell like horse for days at a time, camp under the stars, be too cold or too hot. I’m also so excited to learn and experience endurance riding and to visit such an incredible place.“
We can certainly check those boxes for Cortney and make her adventure a memorable one!
Olympia Granger, USA, 46
Olympia says, “My experience began at the age of 11-16, halted for 20 years, and restarted in 2010. My riding spans all disciplines – you can call me a bit of a dabbler. Gaming, barrel racing, hunter/jumper, cow working, and my latest obsession, polo. I’ve participated in multiple horsemanship clinics since 2012 with renowned clinician Buck Brannaman, Peter Campbell, Greg Eliel, and an up and comer Michael Sparling. Mainly though i trail ride one of my four horses who are all very different. Two quarterhorses, 1 thoroughbred, and 1 quarter/cross (polo pony) I ride weekly in both Western and English. I’ve traveled 3 x to Africa on horse safari, one being in Mashatu that requires intermediate/experienced riders only. The past 3 years I’ve become involved with riding and organizing the John Wayne Pioneer Wagons & Riders with their cross state ride across Washington State that involves riding 220+ miles over 17 days, mileages upwards of 27 miles per day. (3 break days) My attitude towards horses is what can i offer them.”
Apparently Olympia does it all and we can’t wait to see her experience Mongolia for the first time!
Sybil H.Mair, UK, 43
Meet Sybil a dressage rider and filmmaker from England. Sybil said, “I am enthralled by Mongolia. And having learned more about the ethos and objectives of the GDC, I feel that we are being given an extraordinary opportunity to explore another culture and people more intensely, to set and overcome our own personal challenges, and the rare chance to forge a relationship with another being and attempt to navigate a path together.“
Sybil will be uniquely challenged riding in the wide, open spaces of the steppe since she spends most of her time in the dressage arena. But we know that she can do it and go home with the knowledge she can ride anywhere.
Shelley Ensor, NZ, 51
Shelley is a lively Kiwi who heard about our ride on the news, when our 2018 rider Stephanie Scott was interviewed about her travel. She applied the same day! Shelley said, “I have been riding since I was young. I love a challenge and have broken my last 2 horses in, Jackson is a thoroughbred x and my Clydesdale Belle. Both different types that had their own challenges. I do the cavalcade every year which is a 7-day horse trek over difficult terrain with basic facilities. I saw this race on TV tonight and just loved what I saw. How exciting ??”
Andrew Hogg, NZ
Andrew was intrigued by the ride when he found out friend Shelley was joining up, and decided to apply with her. Andrew noted, “I was brought up on a high country station near Albury in South Canterbury and have been riding since I was 7 years old. We did all our hill work shifting stock with horses and over the years I have broken in several. While working as a valuer in Auckland in the late 1980’s I had a string of ponies and played polo for the Auckland club however since getting married in 1993 I have restricted myself to cavalcade and weekend horse trips. I do an annual one week cavalcade with Shelley Ensor who had informed me of the Gobi Desert Cup and that she was doing it. I have always been very outgoing and like adventure and feel that the experience would be excellent.“
From following their training rides, it seems Andrew is a late to arrive but passionate about horses all the same. How will he do getting prepared each morning before sunrise? I guess we will find out soon enough!
Nigel Colefax, AUS
Nigel Colefax is an Australian that has competed the famous Shahzada three times, and completed it three times. It is no small feat to ride 400 kilometers successfully on one horse! So we asked Nigel why he was riding the Gobi Desert Cup and why others should as well. He said, “It will be a once-in-a-lifetime ride. The only ride in the world that offers this type of experience.”
We couldn’t agree more Nigel!
Helen Davey, Australia 48
Helen rode as a teenager before taking 20 years off and coming back several years ago. Since then she has been riding endurance as well as jumping and some cattle work. She trains with Sam Jones who she will be riding in Mongolia. Helen’s biggest challenge? She said, “Riding so many different horses with different personalities and gaits. It will use all my muscles and more!”
Monde Kanyana, S. Africa
Monde is no stranger to Mongolia and has ridden the Mongol Derby, even winning the Sportsmanship award! He is a horsemanship trainer and works on a game preserve in South Africa. We are so pleased to welcome him to The Gobi Desert Cup this year and show him how we prize horse welfare and the native culture. More, we hope he shows us and our nomads a thing or two about horsemanship!
Jillian Vickers, USA, 56
Jillian is living the equestrian life in Hawaii training horses, riders, and playing polo. Jillian said, “I’ve been a horse trainer and riding instructor most of my life. I start colts, ride English (hunter/jumper and basic dressage) and Western, show horses (pleasure and trail). I have played polo for the last 25 years and grew up riding competitive trail (NATRC) and endurance riding. I worked for about 15 years in the Arabian horse show industry before moving to Maui and starting my own horse business which I’ve had for 25 years now. It consists of lessons and training. I also breed Arabian horses! !I ride five or six days a week between two and four hours a day.”
It sounds like Jillian brings a lot of experience and passion to her work. Aloha, Jillian and we are sure you will find adventure with us in Mongolia!
Nayef Alenezi, Kuwait, 25
Nayef was a member of the Tennessee Tech Equestrian Team and competed in endurance. He lives currently in Kuwait City. When asked if he could handle a Mongolian horse he answered, “I trained my crazy Arabian horse and he taught me how to be patient and a lot about horsemanship. I love to spend time with horses and to explore places on horseback because I love the desert and nature.“
Twenty-one riders from all over the globe brought together by a passion for travel and horses. As you can see they vary in age and discipline but all want to experience Mongolia and support an amazing cause. We are happy to oblige and take them on the journey of a lifetime. A journey which employs and supports the local nomads for several months via the Mongolian Horse and Nomads Foundation through our annual event.
Please, please support them and cheer them on via our Facebook page where we will be posting ride updates and interviews. You may also track their progress across the steppe using the following link: https://share.garmin.com/gobidesertcup. Trust us the riders rely on your encouragement while they are far from home!