Jim and Cindy Brown, Best managed horse overall.
We are Jim and Cindy Brown from the United States.
We just got back from completing the first inaugural Gobi Desert Cup six-day endurance ride of 480 kilometers (about 300 miles) across the Gobi Desert riding Mongolian horses.
Between the two of us over the past 25 years we’ve had many endurance riding adventures, including numerous multiday rides. We heard of the Gobi Cup at convention and decided it sounded like something we had to do!
After over 24 hours of traveling, we arrived in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, and met our ride coordinator, Camille Champagne, and our other 14 competitors from France, New Zealand and Australia and a 19-year-old Mongolian. Several of the girls were in their mid-20s and early 30s and two men in their 40s/early
60s with wives in their 50s. Jim is turning 71 in October, so was by far the oldest competitor.
We packed up and drove over several hours to our beautiful blue-tented Gobi Desert Cup Ride Camp and were warmly welcomed by the wonderful staff Camille had coordinated of families of friends, workers,chief steward, two vets, drivers, and horse herders. We were our own little village in the middle of nowhere with no electricity or running water. Everything there is carried in and moved each day during our competition.
We received two days of “training”so we could become familiar with the hardy Mongolian steeds and their unfamiliar traits and gaits which consisted of very little ground manners and very choppy short stride trots that they could do all day long. The local herders were kind enough to arrange for us all to watch a true Mongolian horse race, which children between the ages of 4 (yes, I meant to say 4!) to 13 raced 2-year-old horses for a 5 km (3.1 mile) distance. It was exhilarating to watch and incredible talent at such young ages!
Each morning, we woke to the high desert’s chilling winds, packed up our gear for transport to our next camp, then carried our saddles down to the picket line of horses to see which horse waschosen daily for us to ride in that day’s 50-mile endurance ride. Then up and off we go in search of pink ribbons which were our daily trail markings. Once you got moving on your horses you were pretty good for the duration of that day. The horses were amazing with what we were asking them to do. They were all wild herd, barefoot, pony-sized horses with a ton of heart to go. Camille and her Mongolian family help had arranged to have them ridden and some distances put on them so they would be in better shape for our endurance miles.
They only forage food from the desert land for their daily rations and were given water as available now and again. Each day we would evaluate the horse given us as we went down the trail and work on completing that day’s ride with a horse in great condition.
Our four-person team included two Australian endurance riders both named Bek (we called them Bek 1 and Bek 2). We placed third team overall. Bek 1 got second place overall individual and Jim Brown got overall Best Managed Horses (overall best condition, we call it here). After six days on horseback, we got to race camels on the seventh day—they are a bit harder to manage, tall, smelly and actually quite fast.
We also got to go to a professional performance featuring Mongolian singers and dancers in the middle of the desert that we’d find in a San Francisco theater—it was that professional!
It was the most amazing, exhausting, yet adrenaline-rushed adventure we’d had. This is something that will be available yearly, so if you think it may be on your bucket list, sign up!