In the Guinness Book of Records for being the world’s longest horse race; travelling across 620 miles of Mongolian steppe, with rivers, hills, thunderstorms, vicious dogs, dehydration, sunburn and falls from semi-wild horses to contend with, there is little doubt The Mongol Derby also deserves its reputation as the world’s toughest.
Drawing in 40 competitors each year from around the globe, this year’s race includes riders from 13 countries, including a New Zealander who has competed in the World Equestrian Games, an Everest climber from America and Uma Mencia Uranga, an endurance rider based in Dubai!
The race certainly lives up to its reputation and in a normal year only half of the competitors actually finish the race, with last year seeing two helicopter evacuations! But whilst the race might be tough on its human participants, it’s a lot easier on the traditional Mongol horses which the riders use. They are famous for their endurance and sturdiness and get changed every 25 miles so they never get too tired, with vets on hand throughout the race.
Uma is only 26, but is hoping she can bring the title of ‘Mongol Derby Winner’ back to Dubai, where she has studied and worked for the last seven years. She certainly has the pedigree to be in with a chance of winning the race, being an endurance horse rider at the Fazza Stables in Dubai and a Rustic Pathways (www.rusticpathways.com) group leader, for the past two summers, leading groups of students in Morocco and Mongolia.
It’s not just about the racing for Uma though and she is raising money for charity, including Cool Earth (www.coolearth.org), who help preserve rainforests around the world by working with and empowering local people.