Mongol Derby 2022

Mongol Derby 2022

June 13, 2022

Siobhan is participating in the Mongol Derby race which starts on 23 July 2022!

This race is in Mongolia and involves riding Mongolian horses for 1,000km.

Riders race from station to station on semi-wild Mongolian horses, changing horse at every station after vets have checked for heart rate, soundness and general well-being. (Stations are 35 to 40 km apart so the distances for the horses are kept reasonable and the horses are carefully checked by vets at each station).

Siobhan has selected New Zealand Riding for the Disabled as her charity of choice. Thank you Siobhan!

The course is 1,000km long. It’s a race that is full of challenges, and for some riders, tribulations.

We talked to Siobhan Ryan about the Mongol Derby and she told us all about it.

Here is what Siobhan had to say.

“I have been riding all my life, getting my first pony at age 3 – a very cute and slightly naughty paint Timor named Jojo.

I grew up in the racing industry with my parents being trainers, but was pulled over to the sporthorse side and have been competing on the national show jumping circuit for the past 25 years. I have been reasonably successful on a number of self-produced horses, reaching Grand Prix level with my first hack, an off the track racehorse called Hogan. More recently I have been focussed on a small number of young homebred horses who are performing well on the national circuit.

I have also spent the past couple of seasons competing in Competitive Trail Riding (CTR) and endurance riding in preparation for the Mongol Derby. I have really enjoyed the challenge of ‘switching codes,’ learning how to rate a horse’s pace and navigating a variety of terrains.

I love the challenge of riding all sorts of different horses, and I have a fairly high tolerance of falling off, making the Mongol derby an ideal travel destination!

When I’m not riding horses, I work as a consultant for research, innovation and regional development programmes. This involves working across government departments, industry and community groups to identify suitable funding or investment sources; as well as contract negotiations, and establishing programme governance, monitoring and evaluation.”

Siobhan also let us know about the background to the Derby, and other details about the race.

“Background to the derby
The Mongol Derby, which honours the tradition established by Genghis Khan’s Golden Horde, is contested over approximately 1,000km of the Mongolian Steppe, with stations posted approximately 35-40km apart. Riders race from station to station on semi-wild Mongolian horses, changing horse at every station after vets have checked for heart rate, soundness and general well-being. The race takes from seven to 10 days to complete, riding in daylight hours, with 10 days being the maximum time allowed. Riders have the option of staying at the horse stations, hosted by local families, or camping out with their horses.

Selection process
Riders are selected through an application and assessment process. Race organisers receive hundreds of applications from around the world, and then after an initial assessment/long-listing process, interview approximately 200 applicants. 40-45 riders are then selected for the race, with a wait-list in case of rider withdrawals. I was interviewed by three people, including the race director and two previous competitors, to assess my suitability for the race. I was then offered, and accepted a start in the 2020 event… COVID had other ideas, so after a wee wait I now have flights booked for July 2022.

The Derby has a high failure rate – most years approximately half of the competitors fail to finish. This is generally due to rider injury or fatigue/exhaustion and related illnesses. During the selection process, I asked the interviewers to describe the primary barrier to finishing the race: the most common response was “bad luck.”

There is an extensive race crew, consisting of both medics and vets to ensure rapid
response to any incidents. Veterinary checks are mandatory at every station, where riders switch horses. While the rider injury and illness rate is fairly high, the horses fare much better: this is due to a combination of being well-conditioned to the environment and being asked to carry out a relatively modest 40km each – the same distance as an intermediate-level endurance event in New Zealand.”

Good luck Siobhan – we look forward to hearing about the Mongol Derby and how you get on. The race begins on 23 July 2022 and finishes 1 August 2022.

Find up to date tracking of Siobhan’s location in the race on the Equestrianists website.

To donate go to Siobhan’s donation page.

Photo credit: Laura Kate Photography