The cats our of the bag, and it's time to announce that in six weeks I will be getting on a plane for Mongolia.
I'm going to compete in the worlds toughest and longest horse race the legendary Mongol Derby. One thousand kilometres and twenty-six different horses in the words of the organisers
"This is no guided tour, or pony trek. There is no marked course, no packed lunches, no shower block, no stabling. That’s the whole point. It's just you, your team of horses and a thousand kilometres of Mongolian wilderness. And possibly a GPS. You must change horses at every station and deliver your mounts to their destination in mint condition. But how you navigate between them is where your adventure begins...."
Of course I'm doing this for a good cause to and will be raising money for two fantastic charities along the way. One is Kiwi Care Team and the other is Cool Earth.
This is going to be the hardest, scariest and most challenging thing I've ever done. Not only coping with different horses, and the elements, but there is no one out there to help you, to guide or to come looking for you. But as the birthplace of domestic horses and the last place on earth that still has wild horses, it's somewhere I've always longed to go. This blog is not called the Wild Horse Project for no reason.
Helping me get fit along the way will be my two ex-wild stallions Matariki and Bear who are both broken in and going beautifully under saddle. Hopefully photos to come soon. The goal is to be able to ride 100km a day for the entire race. So before I leave I will be spending as many hours a day in the saddle as possible, not just on one horse but spreading it out between all of them. Bear and Matariki being the closest in size and stature to the horses I'll be riding pin Mongolia are going to be the best at getting me fit, so in a few months there will be some very fit wild horses and hopefully a fit rider too.
But I'm going to need your help as well, I need to raise money for the two charities I support so I've set up a Give a Little page where you can donate as little as a dollar and the money goes towards helping me reach my fundraising goals.
For me this isn't just a race. It's a chance to see the homeland of horses, learn more about wild horses and their heritage. See humans and animals interact in one of the most ancient cultures and challenge myself in the most wide open and remote places left on earth.
If you wanted to get really technical, New Zealand only has feral horses, not wild. As all the horses runing free, are descended from domestic stock, that has either escaped or been set loose, and found their way to the Kaimanawa ranges. That they now habitat in the centre of the north island. The first reports of horses runing free on the kaimanawa ranges, date back to 1876. Some of bloodlines known to have made into wild populations are Arabian, exmoor, Welsh, a group of Comet horses, stock horses from cattle or sheep stations as well as a Cavalry posts in the area.
in 1981 the herds of horses runing free in the ranges, were put under protection by the New Zealand Government. numbers at that stage had plummeted to just 174 wild horses. But by 1994, numbers had risen to 1,576. With this many horses they were causing massive damage to their fragile and unique enviroment.
The New Zealand Department of Conservation has been carrying out annual musters and culls, since 1993. unfortunatly horses that cannot be adopted out to private homes are slaughtered. The aim is to keep the wild population at a managable number for the health of the horses and the enviroment.
The United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organization lists the Kaimanawa horses as a herd of special genetic value that can be compared with other groups of feral horses such as New Forest ponies, Assateague ponies, wild Mustangs, and with free-living zebras. Kaimanawas are of special value because of their low rate of interaction with humans. This lack of interaction may result in a herd with more wild and fewer domestic characteristics, which is of special interest to researchers.