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[RC] Melissa's Mongol "Dream Team" - k s swigart

Melissa said:

Please email to ridecamp some of your ledgendary
?rider role-models, especially some of the names
?of International riders with incredible records
?of consistent completions that we maybe haven't
?heard of very often here.
Well... if I were going to pick one person who I thought might have the best 
chance of completing this thing, I would put my money on Louis Brunke (sp?) way 
before I would put it on Tribly Pederson, even when she was still riding.
To my knowledge, Louis Brunke has never completed a sanctioned endurance ride 
in his life.? He did, however, complete the "CSMF of all time."? He is one of 
the two riders who completed the Ride Across the Americas from end to end on a 
14 hh pony.? He followed an unmarked trail from the tip of South America to the 
North Shore of Alaska sometimes covering as little as a few miles a day as he 
hacked his way with a machete through the dense undergrowth of tropical rain 
forest.? At times his horses sustained themselves on dried corn husks.
I mention him because I want to illustrate that a record of completing 
sanctioned endurance rides is little indication of being able to complete 
something like the Mongol Derby as near as I can understand the concept from 
what I have been able to glean on the Internet (which I am willing to concede 
may not be accurate).
But, it seems to me that what is required to complete the Mongol Derby bears 
very little resemblence to what is required of virtually any sanctioned 
endurance ride.? The 2001 XP was the closest that I could think of, but, as 
many people mentioned, it DID parallel a major Interstate highway for much of 
the way and at no time were any of us ever very far from a Wal Mart.
I realize that most people here (and in fact most people anywhere) have little 
experience with having to actually navigate on unmarked trails and that most 
endurance riders complain mightily about poor trail markings if the trail is 
not sufficiently well marked that it cannot be followed at whatever speed you 
choose.? In fact, there have been a couple of articles in the last few months 
ago in the Endurance News about just this topic.
If you look in the February EN article about "Steve's no-fail trail marking 
tips" (p. 8) and the June EN article by Stagg Newman about how to ensure that 
you are still on trail, you will note that they do not apply to this ride 
across Mongolia...so riding a marked endurance trail is little preparation for 
this Mongolian event.
If _I_ were the organizer of this event, the ability to do an endurance ride 
would be pretty low on my list of essential criteria.? The ability to navigate 
in unmarked terrain, that would probably be pretty high (higher, even, if you 
ask me, than the ability to ride a horse), some experience with travelling in a 
third world country and knowing about both foreign languages and, um, less than 
sanitary conditions and food...pretty high, the ability to "survive in the 
wilderness" (what we called it in the Boy Scouts, I even have a merit badge for 
it) really high, but number one on my list would be the ability to rapidly 
evaluate a changing situation, adjust to it, switch to an alternate plan, or to 
quit before getting yourself into something that you cannot get out of.
Ironically enough, by the way that they are set up, modern-day sanctioned 
endurance rides do not do much to foster any of these skills.? The Duck's "you 
are on your own out there" and "don't count on me to save your horse's life" go 
a little way to fostering some of these skills (although I am still trying to 
figure out why it is okay for the Duck to say it, but not The Adventurist), but 
rides on trails marked with surveyor's ribbon every 20 feet and chalk arrows 
pointing the way to go at every intersection, along with mandatory stops at 
frequent intervals where they can force you to quit if you are too ignorant to 
figure it out on your own along with feed and water for your horse, and 
sandwiches and cookies for the rider, and multitudes of support people (whether 
you brought them yourself or provided by ride management) do not prepare you 
for anything other than the "ride the horse" part.
This isn't to say that no modern-day endurance rider has these skills, just 
that they are hardly essential for completing an endurance ride.? So a long 
record of completing endurance rides is not the criteria that _I_ would use to 
select the best participants for such an adventure.? So it is hardly surprising 
to me that the successful adventurist of The Adventurists also did not have it 
as one of their pre-requisites.
Orange County, Calif.
p.s.? The old Outlaw Trail multi-day ride came a damned sight closer to 
fostering these skills than any AERC ride I have done before or since.? And I 
am reminded of the statement that was made by one of the vets at the only vet 
check on the first day of the first time I rode it (~45 miles into the ride, 
mind you) when talking about a horse that had to be led/dragged by its 
rider?the 20 miles off the Boulder Top, "If that horse doesn't come back under 
its own steam, then that horse isn't coming back."? We have places right here 
in the good old USofA where horses are a long ways from veterinary attention, 
even at endurance rides.? But if they were to put on the Outlaw Trail again, I 
would be the first one to sign up...even if it weren't sanctioned (which it 
probably couldn't be, because of the Federal Government restrictions on use of 
the land).

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