Pamplin Media Group – Local women race horses through Mongolia
Amy McNamee and Shandie Johnson compete in the Mongol Derby, the world’s longest and toughest horse race
Blast through Mongolia, two women from central Oregon compete in the world’s longest horse race.
The Mongol Derby, a 1,000 kilometer trek through the Mongolian steppes on semi-wild horseback, began on Thursday August 11.
Antelope resident and Madras High School graduate Amy McNamee and her friend Shandie Johnson from South Wasco County rode their horses for the challenge.
The race, known as the longest and toughest horse race in the world, lasts 10 days in a rugged and remote environment. The Mongolian Derby is based on the route of the first long-distance postal transmission system, built by Ghenghis Khan in 1224. Riders generally follow this path, although there is no marked route.
The race begins in the Mongolian steppes near Ulaanbaatar and travels 1,000 kilometers through rugged, rural landscapes on Mongolian steppe horses. These horses are between 12 and 14 hands tall, shorter than the average horse, but are described as “equine gladiators”. The horses are semi-wild, so they require extra care for saddle and navigation. The 1,500 horses used for the event are often loaned to the derby by local horse racers and ranchers, and include some of the strongest and fastest on the steppes. “Each horse has been carefully selected by our veterinary team and trained in preparation for the event,” said the Equestrianists group, the race organizers. “They will be fit, healthy, over five years old and tough as a titanium spoon.”
Besides the horses and riders, the racing team includes veterinarians, doctors, Mongolian herders and Urtuu families. Racers pay $15,500 to enter the race and must go through a screening process to ensure they are ready to race. The runners also raise funds for the race’s charity, Steppe and Hoof, which supports herders and their animals in the Mongolian steppes.
Readers can follow the progress of the race and see where McNamee and Johnson are along the course at https://equestrianists.com/live/
Follow the Pioneer after the riders return in late August for behind-the-scenes details from the race.
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