Home Current News News Archive Shop/Advertise Ridecamp Classified Events Learn/AERC
Endurance.Net Home Ridecamp Archives
[Archives Index]   [Date Index]   [Thread Index]   [Author Index]   [Subject Index]

[RC] Regarding the Mongol Derby - K. Riordan - Merri Melde


I have been involved in endurance riding since 1968, before there was an American Endurance Ride Conference, before endurance became an international sport, before FEI even gave endurance riding a glance. I was also involved in a 3,000 horse race from New York to California in 1976 and a 2,000 mile horse race in 1979 over the original Pony Express Trail. I have seen and experienced the glories of distance riding and the heartbreak of distance riding.

Over the years we have learned so much about the physiology of horses over distance at speed because of endurance riding. We have learned what it takes to be prepared ourselves, and what it takes to develop and sustain a successful endurance horse. Most endurance riders do not take those responsibilities lightly. We care about the health of our horses and will go to extremes to protect them from harm. Veterinarians have learned vast amounts of scientific and practical knowledge about horses that carry weight over distance combined with speed because of the sport of endurance riding. That knowledge has now spilled over to all disciplines, including Olympic sports, and has helped protect horses from harm.

With my experience in staging endurance rides for all these years, it is hard to comprehend how these Mongol Derby people will even transport all these Mongolian horses from rider position to rider position, not to mention all the other statistical logistics mandated by this kind of endeavor.

I have been on the Board of Governors for the Tevis for the past 20 years. We have a Foundation that heads the Ride, and maintain year-round board meetings, a full-time office, committees for education and historic purposes, and a trail committee that dedicates year-round attention to the trail. Let me share a bit about how this once-a-year 100-mile, rugged event comes to be.

At the Tevis, all horses must pass an extensive pre-ride veterinary check. We have 18 veterinarians along the course, plus treatment veterinarians at four different locations, along with a University hospital on the alert with a helicopter at the ready.

We have some 750 volunteers that take pulse and respiration counts of all the horses at each stop, administer timer cards, set up veterinary checkpoints, transport food and water for horses and riders to various stops along the way, mark the 100-mile course, and perform other tasks too numerous to mention. We have emergency trailer transportation, a certified team of "drag" riders who follow the horses and are equipped with radio communication and first aid for horse and rider (they report to each checkpoint that all riders are accounted for).

There is a horse emergency rescue organization at the ready should the necessity arise. We maintain satellite relays with satellite phones, broadcast live video and statistics on the internet from command central, and utilize teams of communication crews. The Ride is overseen by Ride Management, Forest Service crews, and a Cup Committee to maintain the integrity and the rules of the Ride. In addition to all this, some 400 crew members tend to their riders and horses over the 100 mile course!

At the beginning of my 40+ years of being in the endurance world, I have seen what that lack of knowledge and preparedness can promote — an ugly picture at best. I am not only saddened by the approach to this Mongol Derby, I am ENRAGED. Horses are not commodities, to be used and tossed aside. And that's what will undoubtedly happen in this race.


Here's what is predictably going to happen should this ride continue.

Mongolian horses ridden that distance under these conditions will:

Die of dehydration
Die of colic
Die of azoturia
Die of exhaustion
Become crippled
Sustain foot and lameness injuries that will lead to death

These horses are not prepared physically for this ride. They are not prepared nutritionally for this ride. They are not prepared to carry this kind of weight over distance at speed. The RIDERS are not necessarily prepared for the event!

For anyone who has spent even one poignant moment with a horse, we must say STOP. We must be the voice for the horse, and have that voice be louder and more prevailing than the voices of this reality-TV approach that reeks of "throw the Christians to the Lions." We must be louder than the voices who say "who cares, it's just a horse."

We must be the voice for the horse. We must elevate our collective human consciousness to a level higher than this abomination.

If not, then we suffer a kind of death too.

Kate Riordan
Member, Board of Governors (1999 to present)
Western States Trail Foundation
"The Tevis"

If you wish, you can sign a petition to ask that the event be cancelled.