What Is The Mongol Derby?

An Adventurist Update

The Mongol Derby is the longest and toughest horse race in the world. The 1000km course recreates Chinggis Khaan’s legendary empire-busting postal system, with riders changing horse every 40km, and living with herders or camping under the stars.

Each year around 30 professional, semi-professional and enthusiastic amateur riders compete against each other for the derby crown. To stand a chance of finishing riders must balance survival skills and horsemanship and to stand a chance of winning an extra level of determination and no small amount of luck is required.

Enduring the elements, semi-wild horses as well as unfamiliar food and terrain, completing the derby is an achievement few can boast.

Kirsten Melis and Clare Twemlow


Mongolian horses were the Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles of the thirteenth century. These indefatigable steeds once carried the all-conquering Mongol warriors across half the world. Diminutive, sturdy, fearless, wild and unbelievably tough, they’re rightly revered in Mongolian culture, and have changed very little over the centuries, free as they are from human interference.

These are small horses, so you’ll need to travel light – just 5 kgs of essential survival kit. And the Adventurists won’t accept anyone who weighs more than 85 kgs dressed to ride.

In the months prior to the event 1200 of these feisty little beasts are selected, and undergo a Derby training program of regular ridden work to prepare for their Derby dash. They belong to local nomadic herding families and breeders along the 1000 km route. Horse welfare is the primary concern and all of the rules put in place are designed with the horses in mind.

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