How to Prepare for a Successful Gobi Desert Cup

By 2018 Gobi Desert Cup Winner, Christoph Schork, Global Endurance Training Center.


The Gobi Desert Cup will be a demanding and challenging undertaking. Every day for 6 days you will ride a new horse for 50 miles, a horse you will know nothing about, not about his mannerism, his history, his performance, his heart rate.

You will need to dig deep into your bag of tricks, your past experiences with horses, what you have learned about horsemanship, riding skills, tactics and you will have to listen and observe to gain important knowledge about the horse you are going to ride and hopefully finish sound and healthy with at the end of the day.

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How can you prepare yourself in the best possible way for this adventure?

I have put together some, in my opinion, important bullet point suggestions to prepare yourself in the months before the big event: 

  1. Take riding lessons by an experienced instructor in dressage and long distance riding.  Ride as many different horses as you can get your hands on watch, observe, learn the behavior of each horse, study its particularities.

  2. Increase your saddle time up to 8 hours within a couple of months before your departure.

  3. Learn to ride in different saddles, feel comfortable with any saddle you might have to ride.

  4. Read up on social media, websites and books about the Mongol horse culture, their training methods of horses and the Mongol history.

  5. Global Endurance Training Center has partnered up with the Gobi Desert Cup Organizing Committee to be the Official Training Center for Gobi Desert Cup riders. We , the staff of GETC, will prepare you for this adventure, teach you about Mongolia and their horses and make sure you will have a great experience while riding in Mongolia and representing your country. We offer online courses and online coaching, but nothing replaces a visit at GETC in Moab, Utah to train hands  on and learn from experienced Mongolia riders. I personally have visited Mongolia about ten times and ridden dozens of different Mongolian horses while guiding and racing in this magnificent country. At GETC we offer weekend clinics or weeklong clinics to fully prepare you for the Gobi Desert Cup 2019.

    You may visit our website at www.globalendurance.com, our FB page www.facebook.com/globalendurance or email us at info@globalendurance.com.

    We are looking forward working with you.

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My Experience with the Gobi Desert Cup

In 2018 I rode the GOBI DESERT CUP. I was the Captain of the USA Team, consisting of four riders. Riders from 6 other countries also formed teams. After arriving in Mongoliaʼs capital Ulan Bator, we all came together in a hotel and received a warm welcome by the staff of the Gobi Desert Cup. Procedures were explained and after a nice Mongolian meal we made friends with all the other riders. Next morning we departed in small buses south towards the Gobi, visiting some historical sites on the way.

Arriving at our starting camp, we all had ample opportunity to check out our horses, observe a demonstration by the local herders of their horsemanship and horse training and prepared for the next day first 50 mile race. Every morning, horses were allocated to each rider; we had time to watch them being saddled and pre ridden by the herders. After a Buddhist blessing we went on our way for day one.

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The Gobi is a stunning place to visit. Wild horses and donkeys roam here, the scenery is breathtaking. We did ride mostly in small groups because Mongolian horses travel much better in groups vs on their own by themselves. We are riding the speed we feel our horse for the day can handle for 50 miles without overexerting himself. The first vet check after 25 miles will give us further insight on how fast the horse we are riding is recovering. Is his appetite good? Is he drinking? These are all parameters to watch for, if your horse eats and drinks well, has good bowel movements, moves freely and has recovered to the HR of 64 within a few minutes, he is doing well.

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I am referring to the horses we rode in a masculine gender because most likely all the horses you will be riding are geldings. After an hour vet check, conducted by some of the most experienced veterinarians in the world, and time for the horses to relax, eat and drink, we continued on for the second half of the race. Support staff met us every 15 t0 20 km to offer water and hay for the horses and refreshments for the riders.

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At the finish, horses had to recover to a HR of 64 beats a minute and trot sound in order for the riders to get a completion. Each day we were allocated a new and different horse. Some horses were taller, some were quiet, others had a little more spunk and loved to go fast. It required intuition and feeling to work with the horses temperament.

Horsemanship was the order of each day. After arriving at the finish and checking the horses in, support staff had already set up our camp site and erected the tents we were sleeping in. Before dinner, we had our Awards ceremony for the day, honoring the top placed riders, the Best Managed Horse and award the Sportsmanship Award of the day, going to the rider who displayed the best sportsmanship on that day. Dinner followed and was enjoyed by all riders and local staff together, then some of us went for an early sleep, others shared their days experience and liked to party a little together. Next morning after a joint breakfast we set off again for the day, riding through different parts of the Gobi and seeing different landscapes, met new people and learned more.

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Depending on your finish each day, you accumulated points in your overall standing for the 6 days together, the actual Gobi Desert Cup Award. After the last day riding, we had a big Awards Party with the overall winner, the overall Best Managed Horse Award and the Team Awards handed out. The prizes were incredibly beautiful; Top 3 placed teams and individuals received trophies and tablets, modeled after the identification pendants called ‘paizaʼ, carried by each of the Mongol messenger when crossing the empire to deliver important messages to the Khan. These paizas gave them ID, authority and privileges at the change-over stations, called ‘yamʼ. Our USA Team won the Overall Team Event, I personally won the Gobi Desert Cup as the Overall Winner and also the Overall Best Managed Horse Award. So this event was a huge success for our riders and myself. On the final day, we had the opportunity to ride camels, listen to Mongolian folklore singing and dancing and visited Mongolian Buddhist Temples. Memories for a life time were created.

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Having participated in over 600 different endurance races during the last 30 years, I can honestly say that the Gobi Desert Cup was one of the best organized and managed race I ever attended. The staff was very helpful, always there for horses and riders. Horse Welfare was of utmost importance to the staff and the riders. And it showed in its results: at the end of the event, all horses were in excellent shape, no injuries, no treatments were necessary. The Gobi Desert Cup was a highlight in my riding career. I will be back. 

Camille Champagne