Monday, June 29, 2009
Monday June 29 2009
Take note of this upcoming 'Mongol Derby' in August - billed as 'The Longest Horse Race in the World'.
Racing 1000 km across 'wild Mongolian terrain' - 25 international 'riders' on hundreds of native horses (i.e. the little Mongolian ponies), will change mounts every 40 km "so the horses will be fresh" (read: not injured or dead), over no marked course, with no confirmed water stops - "They're going to give us GPS locations to the wells, where we'll be able to get water, and they don't guarantee that the wells will have water," says one of the participants.
And, there's the big question about veterinary control. "Hopefully we won't get any horse injuries because the nature of the Mongol Derby means it is the rider under stress not the horse," says the website. (Horses, with presumably no conditioning programs, carrying heavy riders with various or no degrees of endurance or racing experience, racing 40 km, not stressed?)
"12-14 hand" ponies (weight limit for riders is 187 pounds - !) will be "semi-wild" and unshod. "if your horse sustains even a minor injury you will need to get off and walk it to the next Urtuu. (No word on how, if the horse breaks a leg, or crashes metabolically, one would be able to do this.) You will receive training on how to spot injuries and assess their severity before the race in Mongolia."
The website says there will be 'veterinary backup to come to its rescue', but the overall welfare of the horses has yet to adequately documented. No veterinarians have been named to oversee the horse’s medical needs. And how would one do this for 1000 km, when the participants may take up to 3 weeks to finish, where there is no marked course? "They're providing us with these yellow brick trackers, so we can activate the emergency beacon if our horse is injured and we can't walk it in," a rider said.
When asked if V.E.T. Net, a Mercy Corps program which trains Mongolians, would address this critical issue, the charity spokes people did not respond.
And speaking of charities, to further twist things the wrong way, the world-wide charity Mercy Corps has accepted £25,000 in exchange for helping the English travel company to organize this event.
“Mercy Corps are delighted to be a part of the first ever Mongol Derby,” said Jennifer Adams, Mercy Corps Event Development Coordinator in Scotland. No word from Jennifer on how, or if, any of that £25,000 'donation' will be spread to the Mongolian nomads who sell or lend (or, perhaps, are told to do so? Makes you wonder) their horses to this 'race', or how, or if they will be reimbursed if their horses are injured or die.
"Bleeding kidneys, broken limbs, open sores, moon stroke and a list of dangers longer than your arm stand between you and victory,” warns the official race website, to entice adventurers and adrenaline junkies.
Hey, I'm all for fun and adventure, and adrenaline junkets; and personally I don't care if people want to put their lives in danger, that's their business. But if it's all about the pain and danger to, and stress on, the humans, why not have them walk, or run, or drive? Why endanger hundreds of horses that nomadic Mongolians depend upon for their way of life? Why should even one horse be made to risk its life for this bit of 'fun' by foreigners?
If you want to ride endurance, come ride in the Tevis Cup or some of our 5-day rides, or the Tom Quilty or the 5-day Shahzada in Australia. If you want to horse tour around Mongolia, take an organized tour with someone who has been there before (The Adventurists, putting in this 'race', have not. Ever.) You can even go with endurance riders, Christoph Shork and Dian Woodward of Global Endurance Training, who lead organized tours over there in conjunction with Boojum Expeditions, a REAL expedition and adventure travel company. You can ride 8 hours a day and learn something about the Mongolian people and culture, not exploit them.
This Mongol Derby is not a sporting event. This is not endurance riding. This travesty of a 'race' is a disgrace to the horse world and an insult to responsible riders and competitors and horse organizations around the world. If you are participating in it, I would really like to know your reasons. Please feel free to comment or email me if you are one.
There will be more to come in my blogs as things develop with this. For now, you can read an Article by the Long Rider's Guild, "Racing into Trouble". You can also read much more on the Mongolia page on The Long Rider's Guild.
And if you care, you can sign a petition to stop this HERE on the Voices for Horses page.
If you'd like more on this "Official Charity" Mercy Corp who is accepting money for helping with this, click here and form your own opinions.
More to come.