From the Saddle: Helen Davey
I get a text one night from a friend. " Do you want to come do the Gobi Desert Cup with me?" "What is that?" I say.
8 weeks later I am in Mongolia ready to ride 6 different Mongolian horses 480 km over 6 days. It is really a 10 day event, which turns into a two week holiday for me. A holiday of a lifetime.
It is hard to summarize the Gobi desert Cup. I could write a book on it, but I will try to give a few highlights.
The competitors. 21 people from 7 countries. The fun we had together will never be forgotten. We came from all different horse disciplines yet we all shared a passion to do this ride. We supported each other in every way and rarely stopped laughing. We even laughed about how sore we were each evening and shared our supplies of electrolytes, Action Cream, Zinc cream, duct tape, Bandaids, seat savers, lip chap, bras, vodka...……...between us we had all we needed. I made friends for life.
The horses. The Mongolian horses really are the toughest horses in the world. They don't know fences or gates and when not in work they are free to roam the Mongolian Stepe, surviving harsh winters in the desert. They allowed us on their backs and gave it their all to take us 80 kms in one day. Full respect goes to these amazing horses. My horse on the last day was Zippy the Stallion. I wanted to tell all my friends I rode a wild stallion but seriously he was the calmest sweetest horse that looked after me all day in extreme heat.
The Mongolian people. Wow, just wow. The most generous, kind and fun people. Even with the language barrier they were always keen to communicate with us. Charades usually worked a treat. The herders worked for two months before we arrived to prepare these horses for us and worked around the clock caring for them during the ride. I had a great time dancing with them at our end of week party!
The Crew. It takes a lot of people to make something of this magnitude happen. Camille and Nara, the directors, had a vision three years ago and made it happen. There is a big crew for things to run smoothly and they all did an awesome job. It was so well organised and we had great food and accommodation. Really there was nothing we lacked, well ok maybe ice cream but it was the desert and no matter how many times I heard the ice cream van jingle in my head the van didn't show up.
The landscape. The vast distances without fences were stunning. Seeing herds of horses, goats, camels, cows, sheep and even a lone antelope was breathtaking. I took plenty of photos but they just don't quite do it justice.
To get the real picture you will just have to go. Get fit, try out your gear and then go ride the Mongolian horses. You won't regret it, I promise. Mongolia, thank you, I will be back one day.
Helen Davey (West Australia)