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2016 Sandymount Express 1000: October 1-8

The Sandymount Express 1000 is an endurance horse race, testing riders to the their physical and mental ability to complete 1,000kms in eight days

Competitors - Sandymount Express pix

Pre-Ride - Devan Horn pix

South Africa Sandymont Express - The final day, and the day after - Devan Horn

October 9 2016

I woke up the morning of the final day secure in the knowledge that I would have an easy finish. My legs felt awesome, I was full of energy, and very confident. Starting out on the first loop, we were all full of cheer and high spirits. And then the storm came.

The cloud cover gave a respite from the Fauresmith Sun (like the Tevis Moon, just less charming), but the wind was something primal. So hard and fast I couldn't breathe, a relentless headwind that made Every. Single. Stride. A fight. Every inch of forward progress was a victory. Rain. Lightning. Dust twisters. Definitely qualifies as the hardest day.

But my horses and I were harder. Fairlane, fresh and strong, Aviatrix, completing her 240th kilometer, ears pinned to her neck and nose snarled shut, and especially Brio who handled the worst of it with his striking long trot, cutting a straight line through the storm and getting me to the finish.

As soon as I crossed, and the tears and champagne hit the dirt, I learned that Lize had vetted out on her last loop and had to do an extra 40 in these conditions. As Tines had done for me on my very first day, all 8 riders loaded up in the back of a truck to cheer her home. The din when she crossed the line is hard to imagine. We mobbed the vet at the end, teasingly daring him to vet her out a second time. But her horse looked fantastic, and the Sandymont was officially at an end.

For my team, the kilometer breakdown was:
Aviatrix: 250 K

Hidalgo: 170 K

 Zara: 170 K

Brio: 170 K 

Fairlane: 120 K

Coco: 80 K

Sunita: 40 K 

Cowboy: 40 K (vet out)

As you can tell, I had the privilege of riding amazing horses this week. I want to thank Donnie, Jackie, Wessel, and especially Rykie for letting me ride their horses on this adventure.

I also want to thank Jaco and Rykie for their help during the race. They were my support team, helpers, grooms, and family. Along with Elias, Beeerkjie, and Joseph, they kept me moving to the finish line all week. To Leon and Engela to opening their home to me while I attempted this ride.

Thank you to my fellow riders, all 8 of you were amazing, not a single one of us quit or retired, and it was an absolute privilege to ride with you. It was tough, beautiful, and wild all in one. We've done this, we can do anything.

Thank you to my sponsors, Hammer Nutrition and Tropical Riders, both of which supplied product that I couldn't have gotten through without.

A big, huge thank you to the South African endurance community in general. I came here solo, with no family or support team, and you made me feel welcome and became my support.

South Africa Sandymont Express Day 6 - Devan Horn

October 6 2016

Day 6

I could tell you about the heat, and the wind, and the chinks in my armor. I could tell you about the chaffing. I could tell you I was dehydrated yesterday. I could tell you the last loop of today seemed endless.


I could tell you that a butterfly landed on Fairlane's mane as I was riding. I could tell you how excited I was to gallop next to a herd of giraffe, my horse taking 8 strides for every one of theirs. I could tell you Zara was the third horse in my string to reach 160 kilometers for the week, and how proud I am of her. How well Brio and Fairlane ran today, and the relief I felt when we passed the vet check and successfully reached 750 kilometers. How Tines and Monique agreed to WALK their horses out in this heat to wait for a fellow rider close behind, who had to repeat a loop. And what it meant to me for Saskia (Fellow Mongol Derby veteran and self-appointed den mother) to sit me down and tell me to stop fighting and take care of myself. I could tell you about how everyone's crew is now...everyone else's' crew. And each rider asks the other competitors to watch their horses' gaits to make sure they're ok out on trail. I could tell you I'm having the time of my life and I don't want it to end yet.

So I will!

South Africa Sandymont Express Day 5 - Devan Horn

October 5 2016

I had a great day 5! It was a HOT one! Avatrix got to 160 kilometers on our first leg, and when i got in Jaco had a big suprise for me! His name is Brio and he is a suprise horse! I took him on leg 2, and he did fantastic (we will swap him for Blizzard). Zara cleaned up the day on the 45 kilometer loop. She will go tomorrow too. Its amazing how my horses are getting stronger and stronger! I can almost smell the finish line! 3 more days!

South Africa Sandymont Express Day 4 - Devan Horn

October 4 2016

I am thrilled to report we are halfway there!!! Coco Channel was stronger today during her loop than yesterday, Hidalgo beasted up to 160 kilometres sound and happy, and Avatrix came through for our 45 kilometre loop like a dream. We have wrapped up day 4, and I’m beginning to get my schedule down:

4:00AM – Wake up

4:05AM- Breakfast (1 banana, a piece of toast with peanut butter, and a double espresso)

4:50AM- Rykie drives me to race site. She also picks what music I will have stuck in my head all day. Popular choices include Avicii and OneRepublic, at top volume.

5:00AM- Get to the race site. Go through list of stuff I have to do. Find out Jaco and Elias have already done the stuff I thought of and everything I’ve forgotten as well.
5:30AM- Ride an awesome horse

8:30AM- Ride another awesome horse

11:30AM- Ride a fantastic horse

4:00PM- Dinner 1 (cheese and either antelope or springbok, preferably both)

5:00PM- Dinner 2 (Brai…I look around in expectation when anyone says this word. It involves throwing some sort of animal over and open flame and cooking it with delicious spices. It’s like a dry rub barbeque) and a potato if there’s room.

9:00PM- Dinner 3 (Biltong in bed)

9:30PM – Sleep

I’m chronicling what I eat because as every endurance athlete knows, at some point during the race you usually hit a wall, slump, mental droop, or low point. For me, it has historically been day 3 of the race. This time, I have had ZERO slump or fatigue, and my body feels like it hasn’t started working yet at all. It’s probably because I’m in fair shape right now, feeding it correctly, and have the best possible fuel. Every Hammer Electrolyte product I packed for this trip is worth its weight in gold. During the ride I’m fuelling with HEED, E-lyte electrolyte pills, and 1-2 Hammer Gels.

We’re going into the back stretch, and not only am I 100% fresh, I have two horses that haven’t even done any miles yet on my string. The horse that I have ridden so far are happy and sound. I got a really nice complement from the vet today on how my horses’ backs are looking extremely good, which makes me feel great! On to day 5!!!

“He said, "One day you'll leave this world behind
So live a life you will remember."
My father told me when I was just a child
These are the nights that never die
My father told me
When thunder clouds start pouring down
Light a fire they can't put out
Carve your name into those shining stars
He said, "Go venture far beyond these shores.”” -Avicci

South Africa Sandymont Express Day 3 - Devan Horn

October 3 2016

Hello all! Day 3 is over, I got around without a hitch today. I had great rides on Zara, Coco Channel, and Hidalgo! Hidalgo has now done 3 days in a row, and he's going tomorrow too! What a champion, he is everything you want in a long distance horse: sound as a bell, liquid canter, and most importantly, he flicks his ears to let me know there's someone coming when my britches are down!

Team USA is doing really well, except the girls need to tone down their partying. Zara and Sunita both managed to hurt themselves in the pasture during the evening. Zara cut her heel bulb but is good to go, but we're rearranged Sunita's schedule to give her a day or two off. we keep shuffling the schedule around to accommodate mandatory resting periods and novice requirements, and as of now the plan is to take Coco, Aviatrix, and Hidalgo tomorrow. Wish us luck!

South Africa Sandymont Express Day 2 - Devan Horn

October 2 2016

Blog Post (Kind of!)

Im copping out tonight, sorry! heres a few photos, i had a great day today!!!! Im having issues with connectivity on my phone, thats the only reason for this short post! Im feeling fantastic and strong, not even sore yet! My horses looked great and we had a really successful day. Bring on day 3!!!

South Africa Sandymont Express Day 1 - Devan Horn

OOctober 1 2016

(You better sit down this one!)

Well, I came here to fight, and Africa threw the first punch! I started out the ride on Cowboy, setting out with 9 other riders on our first loop. It was impossibly beautiful starting out at sunrise with the wild game, until the buffalo attacked! Buffalo in America are fluffy cows. Buffalo here are tanks happy to charge horses and chase them if you come up on them unexpected! Luckily, Rachel and I got to sit on our horses and watch them chase the front runners instead of being chased. We waited until we were sure they were gone and continued our ride. I had a great loop with Cowboy, he was the smallest of my string but had the biggest trot! We went all the way around the loop, and started making the decent into camp. Suddenly, he was tender going downhill. I thought to myself "Oh no, this isn't happening, this is my first loop and first horse, he can't possibly be lame!" But when we got to the vet, he was footsore. He could technically ride again in 2 days, but we will probably give his miles to another horse.

As you know, if there is something wrong with your horse at Sandymont, you must repeat the entire loop...

And that's how I ended up riding 160k (100 miles) on my first day!

I did it in about 12 hours. After Cowboy vetted out, I became conscious of the fact that I was now in last place by a matter of hours. But luckily I was able to instead focus on doing the best for my team that I could, which did NOT include bumrushing to make up time, but getting them around safely and slowly, so we could keep going through the week. The course is a huge challenge, and more technical than I had given it credit for. I re-rode my first loop on Aviatrix, then rode Zara and Hidalgo as well. Luckily, I was able to get around without further penalties. Aviatrix is a solid veteran, takes care of herself and won't be rushed! Zara did her first endurance ride today, and rocked it, even if she is a bit green under saddle! Hidalgo is also a veteran, but would happily gallop every loop if I let him. He was not impressed by my attempt to get him to slow down.

So everyone else finished in between 1 and 4. I finished just before 6. On my last loop, I got a really nice surprise when fellow rider Tines packed his truck with friends and beer, and met me on the turnaround one extra loop! It was really awesome of him, It was a fantastic pick-me-up, and made me feel better about being out there so long. What a great competitor.

Elias says a bad beginning means a fantastic ending. At the end of day 1, I'm hours behind and have 40k extra on my legs. But...my horses look great, and I feel fantastic! Have you ever seen a more beautiful challenge?!?

USA's Devan Horn to Compete in South Africa's Sandymount Express 1000

September 29 2016 It's an endurance horse race, testing riders to the their physical and mental ability to complete 1,000 kms in eight days. She'll have 8 horses to get acquainted with and ride each day. The ride begins October 1.

USA's Devan Horn, a Mongol Derby veteran (2nd in 2013, withdrew in 2015), is thrilled to begin this new escapade in South Africa.

"It feels incredibly right to be headed into another wild, insane adventure," she wrote. "I'm indulging a measure of wild ferocity I generally attempt to batten down in polite company. In three weeks’ time, I’ll have both of the longest horse races on the face of this planet dusted~!"

She got a chance to ride two of her horses on Wednesday. "I'm quite happy with both of them, and I still have 6 to meet!"

Her hotel is a great accommodation with roan antelope and sable antelope out by the pool. "I don't know how I ended up in this African palace, but I'm not asking any questions! I keep expecting someone to come in and tell me I've got a cot in the back of the horse trailer instead. But it seems to me this cozy little room (with ensuite SHOWER!) is mine for the week! I'm in such good hands with these excellent horses and hostesses!"

Keep up with Devan's adventure here: