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Kristen Kovatch


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Los Angeles Area Barns Burn Amidst Deadly California Wildfires

Screenshot via video

Fueled by dry conditions and Santa Ana winds, rapidly-moving wildfires are burning hundreds of thousands of acres in Southern California, threatening many homes and barns in the greater Los Angeles area.

A lack of seasonal precipitation has created bone-dry conditions in Southern California, providing plenty of fuel for rapidly-moving and unpredictably-spreading wildfires in the greater Los Angeles area. Fanned by the gusty Santa Ana winds of late autumn, four large fires and several smaller fires have burned an estimated 116,000 acres as of Thursday morning.

Thousands of firefighters are battling the Thomas Fire outside of Ventura as well as the Rye, Creek and Skirball fires closer to Los Angeles, with an estimated 300 homes and business already lost.

The Creek fire burned the well-known Middle Ranch of Lakeview Terrace, home to several well-known barns including Archie Cox’ Brookway Stables and Dick Carvin and Francie Steinwedell-Carvin’s Meadow Grove Farms. Fortunately, all horses on the property were evacuated to safety on Tuesday in advance of approaching flames.

Video from Jorge Hidalgo of Brookway Stables shows a terrifying scene, in which Hidalgo and others still on the property are sent to the riding ring as the safest place as flames take the barns around them. Conditions on the roadways made leaving impossible. Fortunately, all are now safe.

Fire is on

Posted by Jorge Hidalgo on Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Getting very very bad

Posted by Jorge Hidalgo on Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Video from Francie Steinwedell shows the barns — now mercifully long empty of horses — going up in flames:

So sad to see our barn go up in flames

Posted by Francie Steinwedell on Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Equine evacuation centers have been set up at Hansen Dam Equestrian Center, Los Angeles Equestrian Center, the Fairplex grounds and Antelope Valley Fairgrounds. Many smaller farms and ranches are also opening their doors to horse owners in need.

Some farms and ranches have not been as lucky as Middle Ranch — due to the fast-moving nature of these wildfires, some larger facilities had only enough time to get people to safety. Thirty horses reportedly died in the Creek fire on Wednesday when the owners were forced to flee for their lives early in the morning with no time to evacuate stock to safety.

As fires are still raging, with only 15% estimated to be contained, few wide-scale relief efforts have been set up at this time. So far, Damoor’s Feed and Tack of Glendale, California has pledged support to affected horse owners:

While no announcement of aid has been made formally by US Equestrian, interested individuals can always donate to the Disaster Relief Fund to help fellow equestrians in need. We will continue to monitor this story as fires burn; the weather forecast for Friday and Saturday shows that winds may diminish which may allow firefighters to gain some control over the flames.

For networking and information about evacuations, visit the Southern California Equine Emergency Evacuation Facebook group. More information about disaster preparedness and evacuation plans can be found here.

Update 12/7/2017 7:14 PM EST:

Two fires at 0% containment –called the Lilac and Liberty fires — are spreading rapidly north of San Diego, threatening numerous farms and equestrian centers. Evacuation points for horses have been opened up at the Del Mar Fairgrounds and Del Mar Equestrian Center, among other locations.

The San Luis Rey Downs race training facility was a scene of chaos as an estimated 50 horses were turned loose by track staff when their barn caught fire. Some horses were able to evacuate to Del Mar Fairgrounds before road closures forced drastic measures, emphasizing the speed at which the Lilac fire has progressed in just one afternoon, growing rapidly from a thousand to two thousand acres. Individual trainers have confirmed equine deaths, but with fire still active in the area both rescue trailers and individual autos are not being granted access so a total head count of loss is not yet known.

We will continue to follow these stories as they develop.

Best of HN: Songs About Horses: ‘Dressage Girls’

Tweaking lyrics is a time-honored tradition at Horse Nation — every December we love to re-release our re-imagined Christmas carols so we can all sing about our equestrian problems in the holiday season, for example.

This song, performed by Tom White O’Connor, however, might just take the cake. Accompanied by a video by Joseph Newcomb, Tom croons away about the perils of falling in love with an equestrian. And not just any equestrian — a dressage girl.

Without further ado:

The lyrics, if you’d like to sing along again:

Dressage girls are easy to love, they’re just hard to afford
They ride big fancy horses that cost more than most Porsches, I’m sure
Saddles and bridles and vet bills and clinics
You say “darlin’ we just can’t go on”
Then she rolls those brown eyes and your heart nearly dies
It’s time for a new credit card.

Daddies, don’t your let your daughters turn into dressage girls
Don’t let ’em ride warmbloods that cost way too much
Let ’em play softball and soccer and such
Daddies, don’t your let your daughters turn into dressage girls
You’ll lose ’em for sure, for dressage there’s no cure
You’ll be left mucking their stall.

(So good. Oh, but wait, the second verse gets better. Way better.)

Dressage girls ride horses in shows like you’ve never seen
They ride sideways and backwards and all alphabetically
There’re no cattle or ropin’, barrels or whoopin’
The crowd’s quiet like a Sunday church hall
You’ll be proud just to see her, even if you can’t figure what the hell she’s a doin’ out there.


Daddies, don’t your let your daughters turn into dressage girls
Don’t let ’em ride warmbloods that cost way too much
Let ’em play softball and soccer and such
Daddies, don’t your let your daughters turn into dressage girls
You’ll lose ’em for sure, for dressage there’s no cure
You’ll be left mucking their stall.

Truer words have never been sung. (“They ride sideways and backwards and all alphabetically” — GENIUS.) We’re officially adding this one to our Horse Nation playlist.

Go riding!

Electronic Logging Devices & CMVs: What New Regulations Mean For Horse Owners

Photo via Trailers of the East Coast/Flickr/CC.

The “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century,” or MAP-21 bill, was enacted in 2012 by Congress with ongoing implementation for the next few years. Of most concern for livestock haulers and horse owners is the phasing in of a requirement for commercial motor vehicles to install and use an electronic logging device, or ELD.

The purpose of an ELD is to log the hours of driving time performed by a driver: Legally, a driver can only be on the road for 11 hours in a 14-hour stretch before they are required to take a mandatory 10-hour rest period. The ELD records drive time and alerts the driver when he or she is over their hours; any infractions are recorded by the ELD and can be viewed during inspection. Drivers found to be in violation during inspection or traffic stop can be fined.

Currently, we’re in the “awareness and transition phase” as described by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) — commercial drivers are not currently required to have an ELD but are encouraged to start the transition now from paper log books, logging software and automatic on-board recording devices. The next stage, phasing in the ELD, begins on December 18, 2017.

While we typically picture tractor-trailers when we mentally envision a commercial driver or commercial motor vehicle (CMV), the reality is that CMVs can come in many shapes and sizes, and these rules and requirements apply to all of them.

What is considered a commercial motor vehicle?

The full legal description of commercial motor vehicles can be found here. The commercial motor vehicle definition as would apply to horse owners can include a truck and trailer with a total gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,000 pounds, as well as a truck and trailer that have been written off as business expenses or are used for business — if you’re a professional trainer and your rig is part of your business, it’s considered a commercial vehicle. Even if your vehicle does not actually require a commercial driver’s license (CDL) but is part of your business, it can be considered a commercial vehicle. If you haul horses for compensation, your truck and trailer are considered commercial vehicles.

If you’re a sponsored rider, you are considered a professional and your truck and trailer are also considered commercial.

Essentially, if your truck and trailer is used for profit or for business purposes, it’s considered a CMV and all of the CMV rules apply, as they always have. You need a Department of Transportation (DOT) number, and some states may require a state number as well.


A full list of exemptions can be found here. The most key exemption for horse owners reads: “Unless otherwise specifically provided, the rules in [Subchapter B, including the definition of a CMV] do not apply to the occasional transportation of personal property by individuals not for compensation and not in the furtherance of a commercial enterprise.”

In explanation, amateur owners/non-pros are exempt from the commercial vehicle status if they’re hauling for recreational purposes: you can still load up your horses and go trail riding, and you can still haul your horse to go show for fun as long as you are not deducting your expenses for tax purposes for a business and counting any prize monies as ordinary income (not business income). Essentially, for the recreational horse owner, there’s no need to worry about installing an ELD as hauling is not considered commercial.

Agricultural exemptions also apply to CMVs: the full list of agricultural exemptions can be found here. For transporting horses under the agricultural exemption, you may travel within a 150-mile radius from the source of your commodity without requiring an ELD — in this case, let’s assume your load of horses from your home barn. You may also travel outside of that 150-mile radius no more than eight days every 30 days with the use of a paper log (no need to use an ELD).

Clear as mud, right?

The upcoming ELD requirement starting on December 18, 2017 will definitely impact professional horsemen and horsewomen who spend a lot of time and miles on the road; individuals who are already following rules and regulations for CMVs will likely not have to modify their individual practices. The changes coming in December are increasing the potential for these rules to be enforced more strongly.

More information can be found at the FMCSA website.

On Giving Tuesday, Remember Equine-Based Charities

A therapeutic riding lesson. Photo: Flickr/Andrew Hutchinson/CC.

Happy Giving Tuesday: this growing annual movement reminds us to keep some room in our plans this holiday season for charitable giving as well as gift-giving to family and friends. If you’re looking for ideas or inspiration for an equine-based charity to support this year, we’ve highlighted a few of our favorites.

The Brooke

In developing regions of the world, equines are still a critical aspect of the workforce — an estimated 100 million working horses and donkeys support 600 million people in such tasks as carrying water, hauling fuel and feed or pulling loads. The Brooke seeks to improve the lives of these working animals through community-level change, including education, health care and networking with local veterinarians. The Brooke also works with governments in these countries to develop legislation to better protect working animals. Learn more about The Brooke.

US Equestrian’s Disaster Relief Fund

2017, frankly, was a terrible year in terms of natural disasters: from wildfires all across the American west to hurricanes in the Southeast and Puerto Rico, the United States was hit hard — and of course, where there are people there are horses. US Equestrian’s Disaster Relief Fund was a resource for horse owners in need in these times of crisis, providing funding for emergency veterinary care as well as feed. We’ll never know what tomorrow might bring, but the Disaster Relief Fund could very well be our parachute. Learn more about the Disaster Relief Fund.

Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation

The TRF is the largest and oldest organization of its kind in the world, devoted to protecting the Thoroughbred racehorse when his racing days are over to prevent him from possible neglect, abuse or slaughter. To this mission, TRF has sheltered thousands of animals, with many going on to second careers while some remain at sanctuary. TRF has also partnered with State of New York Department of Correctional Services to create a vocational training program for inmates, focusing on equine care and management. Learn more about Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.

PATH International

The Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH International) is the credentialing organization for therapeutic riding centers and also certifies instructors and specialists. PATH International provides training and educational resources for therapeutic riding schools all over the world, insuring that students, teachers and horses are safe, healthy and happy and that the maximum benefit can be reached by all. Through PATH International, prospective students can find an accredited organization that will best match their needs to enrich their experience. Learn more about PATH International.

Your local rescue or therapeutic riding center

Keeping your donation in your own community can be one of the best ways to help affect change at the local level — search for reputable horse rescues or therapeutic riding centers in your area that could benefit! Keep in mind that donations don’t have to be in the form of cash: many rescues or programs are desperately in need of volunteer help, either for day-to-day operations or for larger projects. Your individual talents will be appreciated, whether you’re able to groom rescue horses, repair fence, repaint the barn, muck stalls, be a sidewalker champion, design marketing materials, write articles or build a mounting ramp.

Need more ideas? Check out our past weekly Standing Ovation by Ovation Riding columns, which spotlight an individual or organization doing good work in the horse world.

Go riding.

SmartPak Cyber Monday: Sales on Sales on Sales!

Not actually my horse, but he’ll be snug as a bug in this new rug thanks to SmartPak’s sales! Photo via

Whether you’re getting a jumpstart on your holiday shopping list or investing in a few new pieces for yourself or your horse, Cyber Monday is a great time to visit!

Cyber Monday sale: Using code Holiday17, enjoy 15% off your eligible purchase (plus an additional 5% off with your association discount for certain memberships) — PLUS, orders over $100 are eligible for a free $15 SmartPak gift certificate, which can make a great gift or be applied to one of your own future orders!

25 Deals of Christmas: SmartPak’s annual ongoing holiday sale is in full swing, with a special deal available daily! Today’s deal? 30% off SmartPak and Rockin’ SP turnouts! There’s a different deal every day, so keep checking to see the ways you can save big every day.

Christmas is already coming early for my new horse Jobber, who is in need of a new turnout sheet after just two weeks of romping around in an old sheet I already owned, happily punching holes right and left. Armed with sales on sales on sales, I snagged him a brand-new SmartPak Ultimate High Neck Turnout Sheet, which comes with SmartPak’s 10-year Indestructible Guarantee — if he punches holes in THIS sheet, I can send it back to SmartPak, no questions asked, and get a replacement or refund!

Normally a $199 purchase, the 30% Deal of Christmas combined with the Cyber Monday sale gave me a bottom line of $119 for this sheet, PLUS a SmartPak Gift Card for $15, PLUS free shipping! That’s definitely a heck of a way to kick off my holiday shopping… plus ensure that Jobber will be comfy and dry in the rain and snow this winter.

Go SmartPak!

3 Reasons You Should Listen to Horse Radio Network’s Radiothon on Monday

Our friends at the Horse Radio Network are gearing up for another Radiothon – a 12-hour live podcast marathon on Monday, November 27 kicking off at 9 AM and wrapping up at 9 PM. We’ve compiled a few reasons you’ll want to tune in throughout the day:

1. $4,000 — that’s FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS — of prizes to be given out during the day.

Thanks to sponsors, the Horse Radio Network is giving away $4,000 in prizes throughout the day, including (just to name a few) Cavallo hoof boots, a Kentucky Performance Products package, Total Saddle Fit Shoulder Relief Girth, six months’ supply of Stud Muffins, gift certificates, books, and the grand prizes of a $500 Weatherbeeta package and winner’s choice of Wintec saddle.

How do you enter to win these prizes? Call in live during the day to share your message of holiday cheer, and answer this year’s theme question: what was your best horsey Christmas gift, past present or future. Call in at 435-272-1997.

2. Awesome guests will be featured throughout the day.

If you’re a fan of Stacy and Jesse Westfall, Jared Rogerson, Felix Francis, Darley Newman, Christine Traurig, Janelle Roads, Frank M. Calo, Yvonne Barteau, Wendie Malick, Nic Roldan, Boyd Martin, Shellie Hensley, Susanne Ott, Carter Bass, Lisa Preston, Carly Kade or Leslie Wylie’s husband Tommy, you’ll want to make sure you’re listening to Radiothon. Check out the full schedule to see when your favorite guests are featured!

3. It’s a Horse Nation/Nation Media takeover in the final hour.

Leslie Wylie and Kristen Kovatch are taking over the airwaves at 8 PM to host the Horse Nation Hour and close out Radiothon with a bang. Past Nation Media Radiothon takeover highlights have included reminiscent tales of pony-coveting childhood years, Dom Schramm’s Christmas morning pajamas gaffe and an “I am Spartacus!” international listener drink-off. What’s in store this year? You’ll just have to listen live and find out…

Tune in to Radiothon on Monday in your browser at – no download required.

Best of HN: Coming Soon, Equestrians Against Normalcy

All photos courtesy of Equestrians Against Normalcy.

First there was Apples to Apples.

The premise of the game is simple: a group card game, everyone holds a hand of “thing” cards — objects, concepts, proper nouns, etc. The active player in each round draws a “description” card — say, “delicate” or “furry” — and players play the “thing” card in their hand that they feel best (or most hilariously) matches the description. The active player chooses their favorite, and the player who played the winning selection gets a point. This was THE game for many years at gathering and parties.

Then there was Cards Against Humanity: the party game for horrible people.

Same concept, but with a much darker, more cynical, twisted and sometimes downright cringe-y feel. I was coaching a college riding team when CAH first became popular, so needless to say the now-iconic black and white decks made an appearance at basically every away horse show or long-distance competition. Cards Against Humanity launched a hundred spoofs, including a couple of much-loved iterations right here on Horse Nation: check out our first collection and our second collection.

Now, horse-loving ladies and gentlemen, the time has come: introducing Equestrians Against Normalcy, a card game created by an equestrian for equestrians. Viral posts have been circulating early this week featuring Equestrians Against Normalcy, which is in the final stages of development with hopes to be available on the market just in time for the holiday season.

We caught up with game creator Victoria Morrow, a full-time professional horsewoman, to learn more about the game. She’s exactly the kind of sharp, witty individual that you’d expect to find at the helm of a game celebrating the weirder things about horse life — she walks the walk of the equestrian world, finding time to sit down and answer our questions between teaching lessons and thawing frozen water buckets. In short, she’s our kind of girl.

HN: Naturally, we have to ask: how did you come up with the idea for Equestrians Against Normalcy?

VM: Playing card games and board games with regular friends and horse friends has always been a pastime for me — especially when we have been gone to longer horse shows. One of the easiest games to travel with have been card games where you play one card to go with another; over the years quite a few have come and gone. Two of the more popular ones right now are Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity. It was the mechanics of those games that made me think it would be a blast if there was one that was geared towards horse people, and adult horse people especially.

There are some horse-themed games out there, but they are all geared towards kids. This all started to come about last winter while I was laid up from the latest in surgeries from a riding accident years ago. I had a lot of spare time on my hands and can’t stand to sit idle. So I decided that I wanted to make something that would be fun for adult riders to be able to play with each other. At the same time there is nothing in it that is offensive, so it is something that the teen riders could also play.

HN: Who are the masterminds behind the game? Who makes up your team?

VM: Team? That would be great, but it’s just me. I run a stable and offer boarding, training, and lessons.

Horses have been part of my life as long as I can remember. My father grew up on the race track riding horses for his father who was a flat race trainer and was a steeplechase jockey. He started me riding and showing when I was three and later got me into eventing which lead to me being able to compete in the US and Canada and eventually start my own business. I have been very fortunate to have him there for me.

My husband Steve has been kind enough to get the website up and running, and the email working. Luckily he is good with computers as the only thing I use them for is shopping for horses and tack!

HN: There’s certainly a parallel between this game and Cards Against Humanity — did you need to do any special licensing to imitate the original?

VM: I love playing CAH with my friends. And while Equestrians Against Normalcy and CAH have the same game play mechanics of using one card to finish another as do many others, that is pretty much it. EAN was designed specifically for the adult equestrian. All of the cards are equestrian themed and can be safely played in public so that you can play at the shows and stables — trainers can play with their clients.I love CAH but definitely would not play it with my clients or at shows.

Game mechanics are not something that you need special licensing to use — in fact it is one of the things that anyone can use, which is why there are so many games out there using the same ones. EAN definitely is its own stand alone game and we wouldn’t want anyone to confuse it with any other games. We tried to make sure our packaging was not the same as others down to the font.

HN: What is the process like for developing and producing a game?

VM: A lot of work! I couldn’t even tell you the hours that went into just what went on each card. Coming up with unique things for over 500 cards was more work than you would think!

I did have to beg the assistance of a friend of my husband’s for the help type setting the cards. It turns out no matter how much you yell at the computer and computer program it doesn’t help. I also now have a new appreciation of graphic designers and their ability to use Illustrator. It took awhile but I did manage to design the boxes and get the prototypes made.

But before we even had the prototype cards made up we made a basic one at home to play with different horse groups to see if it was as much fun as we hoped it would be, and it was. After the prototypes were printed, that was when we started to send them out to other people to play. Since this is a side business that we are doing, it is taking longer to get to production for sale than it would have if I wasn’t trying to do it between working horses, teaching and running a stable.

HN: There aren’t a lot of games that exist specifically for “horse people” — there are games for horse-loving kids, but I can’t think of any equestrian-specific games off the top of my head. What are your thoughts on this niche market?

VM: I think people definitely have a desire to have a game geared towards the adult rider. Especially after seeing the reaction to our Facebook page! There are so many things out there geared towards riders and their horses, but not things for them to have fun together with. We spend so much money on making sure our horses are happy and have fun in their stalls and paddocks. It is about time we got something too.

HN: What’s next? Where will people be able to purchase a copy?

VM: The biggest thing is getting EAN ready for sale to the public. We are trying really hard to have EAN available for purchase online at the very start of December so that people can have it for the holidays. As soon as it is available we will be posting links to the online purchasing area on our Facebook page Equestrians Against Normalcy and on our website

Since it is such a small company — just me with the assistance of my husband — we’re partnering with a company that specializes in card games. Since the decks will be printed on demand, there’s no fear they’ll run out. And their turnaround time for producing and shipping has been fantastic. Plus they ship worldwide so anyone can order!

If the game does well we would love to be able to provide tack stores with them as they have inquired about the game, and to develop different decks for different riding disciplines and breeds. We definitely will keep everyone posted via the Facebook page and website about the game’s availability!

Update 11/14: Equestrians Against Normalcy is now available for purchase! Visit to order a copy.

We’ll have a sneak peek and game review of Equestrians Against Normalcy coming soon! Keep it locked on Horse Nation and the EAN Facebook page/website for updates about the game. Go riding!

Best of HN: This OTTB’s Second Career in Horseback Hawking is #Goals

Nothing to see here, just a man and his horse and his golden eagle out for a hack. Screen shot.

Mounted falconry or hawking is quite possibly one of the most [email protected]$$ disciplines in existence. In some parts of the world, such as Mongolia, it’s not so much a fun leisure sport as a legitimate way to acquire food for the family — but in other places, including Europe, hawking has traditionally been a pastime of the wealthy.

All over the world, individuals are keeping this sport alive through hawking or falconry clubs, and in a few places the traditions live on through tourism: Dartmoor Hawking in Dartmoor National Park is perhaps the best-known of such destinations. Established on the grounds of the 40-acre Bovey Castle estate and with access to 15,000 additional acres of open ground in the national park, Dartmoor Hawking teaches guests about the art of falconry and offers the opportunity to take these skills to the saddle.

(There’s also an intriguing link marked Weddings/Engagements — just picturing a golden eagle delivering an engagement ring makes me grin.)

My experience with large birds while in the saddle is mostly limited to wild turkeys exploding out of cover right under the nose of my mounts, some of whom have not taken too kindly to that kind of fluttering be-feathered surprise. Proving, however, that horses can learn to tolerate pretty much anything, including a bird with an eight-foot wingspan flapping away right over their heads, the horses at Dartmoor Hawking look pretty chill with this. If anything, they even seem to strut a little bit, as though they know that they’re the ballers of the horse world.

The latest horse to join Dartmoor Hawking’s ranks? An off-track Thoroughbred, reminding us once again that there’s really no limitations to what this breed can do.

Shubaat is an 11-year-old gelding by Monsun with wins to his name on both the flat and over timber. He’s a graduate of the Godolphin rehoming and retraining program: as one of the largest breeding/racing operations in the world, Godolphin holds itself responsible to the horses in its string and supports its horses through retraining and rehoming with regional partners in Europe, Japan, Australia and the United States.

While “horseback hawking” may not be a common career for any horse, let alone an OTTB, Shubaat is actually the second horse from Godolphin to find his home at Dartmoor Hawking — a gelding named Caymans also came through the Godolphin rehoming program and has been hawking for quite some time!

Shubaat, best of luck in your totally awesome second career. Go OTTBs, and go riding!

Thursday Video: SmartPak ‘Ask the Vet’ November Edition

As long as there will be horses, there will be horse people. And as long as there will be horse people, there will be horse health questions! For all those questions where you can’t ask your own vet, your barn buddies or you’re simply stumped or seeking a different opinion, SmartPak is here. One a month, SmartPaker Sarah and Dr. Lydia Gray answer fan-submitted questions so we can all keep learning about horse health.

Questions answered in this episode:

1. What is the best age to geld a stallion? Is it better to do it before starting them under saddle?

2. I have a young horse that had a locked stifle. It happened twice so far, once when she was 2 years old and the second time was about a year after that. Why does it happen? Is there a treatment for it? And is it a long term problem?

3. Is there any benefit to joint supplements given in feed? I have been told they are helpful but also that horses do not metabolize them when given this way and injections are better. Is this true?

4. My horse recently got her SI injected, and I was just wondering if there was anything I could do to help her be more comfortable, especially after hard work/jumping? Could I poultice/liniment the area or is there something else I could do? Thanks!

5. Clicker training for horses has been growing in popularity. What are the pros and cons of it? Is it a more humane way to train horses?

Never stop learning! And if you have a burning horse health question for Sarah and Dr. Gray to answer in a future episode, you can submit in the following ways: comment on this video (via YouTube, not here at Horse Nation) and tag your question #AskTheVet. You can also post your questions on SmartPak’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or by visiting the SmartPak blog — don’t forget the hashtag! Questions can be submitted directly via [email protected] or at the Ask the Vet Questions submission site.

Bonus: if your question is selected, you win a SmartPak gift card!

Go Riding.

Best of HN: 7 Reasons My Barn is Basically an HGTV Dream Home

So rustic! So homey! All photos by Kristen Kovatch.

Here’s the funny thing: I don’t even watch a lot of HGTV. Truth be told, we don’t have cable at home — we’re a modern couple, and we went the way of the Roku a long time ago. There are, however, a few times a year that I find myself perhaps in a hotel for the night, visiting family at home or otherwise somehow able to access a television to while away a few hours… and somehow, every time, HGTV seems to be on.

Whether you’re watching House Hunters or Fixer Upper or one of the myriad other “dream home” series that give you the perfect arc of action in an hour or less, there are a few things that I’ve noticed make for the perfect home — whether they’re features already part of the place, or a DIY project you choose to add yourself. And I’ve also noticed that my barn possesses all of them already. Step aside, HGTV. We got this.

1. An open floor plan

This space just really flows, you know what I mean? Visual cues help separate the cross-tie area from tool storage, but at a moment’s notice we could open up the goat pens and use that space for additional wash stalls. That’s what’s so fun and flexible about this space — we’re really making the most of one room.

2. Dramatic lighting

We just redid the lighting in the barn’s center aisle so I’m actually really excited about this — it added a fun new modern update to this rustic space while still flooding the barn with warm, traditional light. (In all seriousness, these flat LED lights will save a ton on the electric bill, are virtually indestructible by overeager horse noggins and they don’t get hot — win win win for a barn setting.)

3. Huge yard

It doesn’t matter if you have one Chihuahua or eighteen kids — the house buyers on HGTV absolutely must have a huge yard that provides versatile space for wearing out said dog or offspring while also providing outdoor living and entertainment spaces with fancy things like a fire pit, outdoor kitchen, maybe some of those big-bulb carnival lights that are so trendy right now.

Feast your eyes on this giant yard. And yes, we do sometimes have campfires and sleep-outs in this versatile outdoor living space.

4. Walk-in closet

When we talk about our gorgeous and interior-lit walk-in tack room, my sister-in-law and I like to look at each other and giggle: I’ll say things like “oh, there’s plenty of room for my random bit collection in here!” to which she’ll respond “not if my goat feed goes in there first!” So cute.

“This tack room is so big you could put a horse in it!” Get out of there, Winston.

5. Sliding barn doors

Sliding barn doors are HAVING a MOMENT, you guys. Everyone wants them for everything, from “discreet” bathroom doors to closet doors to random bedroom doors even though a conventional hinge door would actually be about 500 times easier, but who’s counting. As it turns out, my barn was fashion-forward this whole time, boasting not one but THREE sliding doors that only occasionally run off their sliders and drive me totally nuts.

6. Board and batten siding

Overshadowed only by its currently-sexier cousin shiplap, board and batten siding is JUST DARLING for when you want to add that rustic touch to your living room, guest room, random bathroom wall or heck — the whole house. While the front-facing sides to the barn were redone with metal siding more recently, the back sides are still the original board and batten painted in screaming “barn red” which makes our home style sense totally on point.

7. Your adorable hosts

For all of the above reasons plus this super-staged photo for a product review, my husband and I could totally be equestrian home style makers for HGTV. Just call us Chip and Joanna.

Photo by Kim Bentley

Thursday Video: How to Measure Your Horse for a Blanket with SmartPak

Horses are like people: they come in every size and shape, and a horse that you might “ballpark” to fit in a blanket size 78 might actually be more comfortable in a 75. But how can you tell? How can you ensure BEFORE you buy that expensive new blanket that the size you ordered will fit your horse just right?

You measure, of course! If you’ve never measured a horse for a blanket, SmartPak is here with a helpful how-to video to demonstrate exactly how this process works and what you need to do to make sure you’ve got the proper size.

Thanks, SmartPak! Need more information on blankets and blanketing? Don’t miss SmartPak’s in-depth Blanketing Guide. You can also browse the full selection of stable blankets, turnout blankets, sheets, hoods, coolers and more at!


Best of HN: 6 Horses You Meet On the First Really Cold Day of the Season


It’s finally happened: today dawned chilly, with a cold gusty wind out of the north spattered with fitful rain. It’s the kind of day where you start to doubt the equestrian life path you’ve chosen, standing as you are with your hood tucked up and your back to the wind as you nurse your frozen fingers, wishing your horses would eat faster so you could collect the pans and dash back to the barn and eventually thaw your hands over the car heater.

When you return to ride later this afternoon, there are choices to be made. Let this serve as your guide to help you navigate the horse world on that first really cold day of the season: here are the horses you might be meeting today.

The High As a Kite

With every gust of wind, this guy is off like a rocket, tail fanning the air and head up like an elk, blowing and snorting like he’s a wild stallion. Egged on by his pasture mates who are equally loving the crisp weather, there’s probably going to be a lot of farting and bucking and general carousing about while you and your barn friends stand by the gate clutching your halters and lead ropes wondering if it’s safe to go any further.

The Bluffer

A relative to the High As a Kite but with a little less stamina and perhaps a little more focus, the Bluffer will thunder up to you in the pasture, eyes bugged out and nostrils flaring, and jig-step the whole way into the barn enough to make you wonder if you’re taking your life in your hands trying to get on him today. You’ll pop him into the roundpen or put him on the lunge line to let him “get it out of his system” only to find that he’s put his professional pants on today and is ready to go, no questions asked, no matter how many cold gusts of wind goose him under the tail.

The Anti-Bluffer

The inverse of the Bluffer, the Anti-Bluffer comes in placidly to the barn, stands with a hind foot propped and lower lip a-dangling, looking for all the world like Dobbin the Lesson Horse until you lead him out for your ride and he comes alive in truly terrifying fashion, all prancing and snorting and clearly very excited that the temperature dropped twenty degrees overnight and the breeze is high. Don’t forget your lunging equipment.

The Ticking Time Bomb

This horse has been fairly pleasant to work with so far: he came in out of the pasture with minimal airs above the ground and came out tacked up and ready to work without complaint or explosion… but there’s a suspicious lift in his back and those ears are certainly on a swivel today with every gust of wind. Make sure your jacket is well-fastened and don’t make any sudden movements up there in the saddle or you’ll be off to the races.

The Puff

The Puff can be found standing wisely with his back to the wind, coat fluffed up against the chill, perhaps with his face buried in the hay feeder in an ingenious technique to keep his nose and ears warm. He does not want to go riding today, thank you very much, though if you are insistent, he will reluctantly trudge in to the barn with you and perform his job, all the while clearly quite unimpressed with your work ethic on these less-than-ideal riding days.

The Even Keel

No matter what the weather — blowing snow, pouring rain, summer sun or chilly autumn breeze — the Even Keel is exactly the same, every time, every ride. The Even Keel can be found in the guise of old school masters and lesson ponies, the so-called Husband Horse or the true unicorn you acquired for a song. If you have an Even Keel, embrace this rare breed. And go riding.

Best of HN: New Guinness Ad Features ‘Compton Cowboys’

Screen shot via YouTube Screen shot via YouTube

Guinness has always pushed the advertising envelope with creative commercials, and its latest iteration of the “Made of More” campaign is designed to feature real people enriching the world around themselves. Today, the brewery giant dropped the “Compton Cowboys” campaign, featuring the real urban cowboys of the notorious city of Compton, south Los Angeles.

Compton might be best known according to mainstream media for gang violence and rough neighborhoods, but many individuals growing up in this urban setting are choosing positive alternatives. Especially in the neighborhood of Richland Farms, where many properties even within the city limits are zoned agricultural, residents are carving out tiny ranches where they can keep horses and ride on both the city streets and dirt paths.

Compton is the homeplace of the well-known Compton Junior Posse, a youth riding program and outreach that teaches local youth the ins and outs of horse care and riding, teaching critical life skills like empathy and responsibility while providing an alternative to gang culture and violence.

Guinness also shared a number of more in-depth interviews and conversations with individual “Compton cowboys,” who describe life in the city and the love they have for their horses, many of whom are rescues. The resounding theme is the last line of the 90-second spot shown above: “Did I save the horse? Or did the horse save me?”

These are the same emotions we all feel, whether we’re riding out of an urban ranch or over rolling green hills in the countryside: freedom. A sense of peace. A step away from our everyday reality. All who love horses are united by these feelings, no matter what walks of life we all tread daily.

We salute Guinness for sharing the story of the Compton cowboys. Go riding.

Best of HN: 3 Times Florida Horse Owners Got Creative During Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma, a storm of historic proportions, ravaged Florida last weekend before clawing its way north into Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama despite weakening to a tropical storm. Millions across Florida are without power as winds toppled trees and littered roads with debris, with some coastal regions still facing storm surge as well. Prior to making landfall in the Florida Keys, Irma decimated the Caribbean islands of St. Martin, Turks and Caicos, Barbuda, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands, as well as the north coast of Cuba. Irma caused extensive damage across the Southeast and our thoughts are with all of those affected.

Encouraging reports are coming in from equestrians in Florida, including friends of Horse Nation at the Horse Radio Network based in Ocala who all safely weathered Irma, horses included.

In true equestrian spirit of ingenuity and resilience, these horse owners got creative when it came to keeping their horses safe during this historic storm, and we give them a special Horse Nation salute:

Horses That Help, a non-profit horse program for at-risk and special needs youth, brought eight horses into the concrete block living room after moving out the furniture. Thanks to a quickly-changing forecast, Horses That Help’s evacuation plan didn’t pan out. After 32 hours inside, the horses are turned back outside and made it through the storm A-OK!

When your house is made of poured concrete, it’s the safest place for everyone. Georgia Mott in Okeechobee County, Florida brought her horses into the laundry room. According to Facebook updates, these horses are also turned back outside in great shape now that Irma has passed.

Posted by Georgia Mott on Saturday, September 9, 2017

Sherri Stoy, faced with aged horses that she felt would not have handled the stress of evacuation well, moved her horses into some temporary stalls in her living room, and it looks like everyone was pretty happy despite the weather!

Entered a contest to win some funds to rebuild the barn. Ty so much to everyone who has visited this link and supported…

Posted by Sherri Stoy on Sunday, September 10, 2017

Helping those affected by Irma

The following charities are accepting donations to assist with Irma relief efforts in Florida and the Caribbean. Since this is still a developing crisis, other charities will likely emerge as well as Irma continues to pound the Southeast.

  • UNICEF: in addition to assisting with Harvey relief, UNICEF is also raising funds to assist children in the wake of Irma and ensuring that students can return to school
  • Salvation Army: manning shelters and aiding in cleanup relief
  • GlobalGiving: raising funds to be dispersed to vetted local charities in the Caribbean and the United States so that money gets to where it’s needed most post-Irma

Animal charities:

  • Best Friends: donations will go directly towards helping reunite pets and owners and to support animals turned in at shelters in the aftermath of Irma
  • Brooke USA: raising funds to be channeled directly to US Equestrian Disaster Relief Fund for horses
  • US Equestrian Disaster Relief Fund: donations used exclusively to aid horses and horse owners

Our thoughts are with all affected by Hurricane Irma! Stay safe and go riding.

Tuesday Video from SpectraVet: Sidesaddle Fox Hunting

“It’s such an old tradition, and it should be kept going.” This video from The Countryside Alliance has been making quite a buzz!

The comparisons with Downton Abbey are irresistible — but watch this video and try not to slip back in time to when sidesaddle was not an old tradition but a means of riding for women, a way to keep right up with the men while maintaining the elegance of the times.

Sidesaddle, and especially sidesaddle hunting, is experiencing a resurgence in popularity, whether aided in part perhaps by Downton Abbey or fueled simply by another era of adventurous women who don’t shy away from a challenge while still honoring the past. It’s remarkable to see these ladies, who look like they stepped right out of an old English painting, soaring over hedges that would make many quake in their boots. We’ll let these ladies explain:

An Old Habit – The ladies making hunting side saddle cool again

As the hunting season kicks off, we meet a group of passionate (and fearless) ladies who choose to tackle the largest of hedges from a side saddle. The full feature will be available in My Countryside magazine, out Friday 8th September. Get 20% off a subscription here:

Posted by The Countryside Alliance on Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Hooked on sidesaddle? Here’s more sidesaddle fox hunting coverage from our sister site Horse Nation to keep you reading:

Why SpectraVET?

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SpectraVET is committed to providing only the highest-quality products and services to our customers, and to educating the world in the science and art of laser therapy.

We design and manufacture the broadest range of clinically-proven veterinary therapeutic laser products, which are represented and supported worldwide by our network of specialist distributors and authorized service centers.

Small But Mighty? Considerations For Towing Horses With an SUV

Reader Lisa Landis emailed me the following photo with a question: “I want to know the reality of trailering with a small vehicle. I tow with a pickup so when I see this I think these people are crazy.”


Photo by Lisa Landis.

Certainly the vast majority of horse towing is done with pickup trucks — but in reading Lisa’s email, I realized I had seen my fair share of bumper pulls towed by SUVs, and I had never thought too much about it. Having never owned my own truck and trailer, only ever towing with vehicles either owned by my place of employment or family members who presumably did their own research, I scoured the internet, tracked down friends with SUV (or other) towing experience and bugged my local auto dealership for their thoughts.

The million-dollar question: Is towing with an SUV safe?

Answer: It depends.

Towing basics

Vehicles are given a tow rating from the manufacturer, which refers to the maximum weight that a vehicle can tow. This information should be somewhere on the vehicle itself (like that handy chart on the door panel that you never remember to look at until right now), or you can speak to your manufacturer directly. I also found this handy quick chart from How Stuff Works that lists almost every vehicle on the road — as it turns out, my small SUV, the Ford Escape, is rated to tow only 1500 pounds (oddly the same as my husband’s Crown Vic).

When consulting that doorsil sticker, pay attention to a few figures:

  • gross vehicle weight rating, referring to the manufacturer’s recommended maximum total weight of the vehicle when loaded with passengers, cargo, feed sacks, etc
  • gross combined vehicle weight rating, referring to the manufacturer’s recommended maximum total weight of the vehicle when loaded PLUS the trailer, also when loaded
  • gross trailer weight rating, or the manufacturer’s recommended maximum total weight of the trailer

Exceeding these ratings is a good way to overly stress your engine, transmission, brakes and other systems.

Additionally, any towing vehicle should be equipped with a tow package, which includes not only the physical ball hitch for making the connection but also a fortified suspension and brakes, transmission cooling and a power steering package. The trailer brakes need to be properly calibrated to the towing vehicle as well. You may find extended mirrors a necessity as well to be able to see past the end of your trailer.

For towing a bumper pull, the tongue weight of the trailer is recommended to be no more than 10% of the tow rating for trucks and no more than 5% for SUVs, according to the dealership I spoke to. So for an SUV with a tow rating of 5000 pounds, the tongue weight should be no more than 250 pounds.

The old rule of thumb was that a tow vehicle had to be heavier than the trailer and load, but newer trucks and SUVs are being manufactured lighter for fuel efficiency while maintaining the horsepower to tow safely. That said, basic physics suggests that a heavier vehicle will be more likely to control a trailer, and ideally your vehicle is close in weight to your loaded trailer.

Flickr/Roger H. Goun/CC

Flickr/Roger H. Goun/CC

Where SUVs are different from trucks

So far, so good — let’s say we’ve run the numbers and figured out that our mid-size SUV should safely be able to tow our two-horse bumper pull, including both horses, tack, feed for a day and our show trunks as well as the driver and passenger plus our luggage. We’re ready to roll for the show season, right? Technically, yes — but there are a few more considerations as well as after-market installations that might come in handy.

Horses are not “dead weight.” A horse’s center of gravity is much higher than a trailer full of inanimate cargo. Also unlike the inanimate cargo, horses can and will move around somewhat during transport. If you’ve ever experienced a horse suddenly shifting his weight, or perhaps pawing or kicking out while in transit, you know that the trailer that’s been rolling along so quietly behind you can suddenly feel like it has a life and direction of its own. Some professionals in the truck industry recommend keeping the loaded gross trailer weight about 10% or 20% lower than the rating for the vehicle to better handle those stresses of a higher center of gravity and surprise shifts in weight.

The wheelbase matters … maybe. However, there are no industry standards to go by for determining what is a “safe” wheelbase length in relation to the trailer — it’s simply a fact that a longer wheelbase will provide more stability for the trailer. A shorter wheelbase could feasibly lead to the rear axle being pushed down by the trailer tongue and lifting too much weight off the front of the vehicle, leading to a loss of control. It’s worth noting that when I asked my local dealer about wheelbase, he told me that staying within tow rating and tongue wait would generally eliminate the wheelbase length ever coming into play — since there is no industry rule of thumb to go by in this situation, I would recommend speaking to other drivers about their experience.

Both of these factors can combine to form a potentially dangerous situation — it’s possible that even with the right SUV and trailer, I could possibly haul one of my Belgians around town, but that doesn’t mean I necessarily want to. The size of horses and their individual centers of gravity isn’t considered when tow rating and gross vehicle and trailer weights are configured by manufacturers, and having a tow vehicle that’s too light when compared to the trailer load can lead to a loss of control.

The bottom line: towing your bumper-pull horse trailer safely with an SUV is definitely possible, and it may the most economical option for horse owners with only one vehicle. However, we highly recommend doing plenty of research into your specific vehicle and trailer to ensure that you are staying safe on the road. There are enough hazards on the highways for hauling our horses as it is without further compromising their safety with a poor match of vehicle to trailer. Some drivers may simply feel safer in a truck while others find hauling their horse with an SUV to be just fine.

We recommend this article from TransWest, which provides even more in-depth information about selecting the proper tow vehicle.

Do you have an experience to share? Let us know in the comments!

Best of HN: Laura Cheshire is Our New Hero After Wild Bridleless Ride

PC: Grant Peters/Trackside Photography PC: Grant Peters/Trackside Photography

Sure, there are a few places that it’s fun to try riding your horse without a bridle. Places that come to mind immediately, at least for the first few times, include the roundpen or a small, empty arena with all the doors or gates closed.

Places I’d definitely never give this a shot include the track, during a race, on a fit Thoroughbred who’s never given this one a shot before… but that’s exactly what Laura Cheshire had to contend with last Friday at Murwillumbah in Australia when the bridle on her mount Secret Blend fell apart just a few strides into the race.

Downton Abbey GIFs - Find & Share on GIPHY

Watch the 11 horse carefully — the video quality isn’t great as it’s a video of steward’s footage, but you can see what you need to see:

Stewards footage from yesterday.. this song played when I got in my car to drive home and the relief was strong that…

Posted by Laura Cheshire on Saturday, August 26, 2017

Laura’s quick thinking prevented “Exo” from immediately stepping on the bridle or getting tangled in the reins as soon as the bridle broke; Laura reeled the tack up and was able to keep everything around the base of Exo’s neck for the time being. According to her interview with Australia’s Horse Racing Only, fellow jockey Robbie Agnew, mid-race, told Laura he would help guide her and Exo around the turn.

By the turn for home, most of the field seemed to realize that Laura had no bridle, and did a masterful job of steering clear of her to finish the race. Once under the wire, her fellow riders tried to help slow Exo down, but no avail — Laura and Exo were still off and running, and all she could do was tell everyone to get out of the way before there was a wreck.

Pony rider Mozzie Coleman met up with Laura and Exo, still galloping, into the backstretch — but with nothing to grab to catch and slow the horse, there was no way to help. Laura told him to let Exo go, as the horse had started racing the pony.

Breaking Bad GIFs - Find & Share on GIPHY

Laura’s terrifying ride continued all the way around the track for a second lap, with the pair thundering right by the steward who could only watch helplessly. The other horses were still exiting off the track, and fearing a big wreck should Exo attempt to bolt off the track, Laura impulsively asked the horse to turn via neck rein.

Amazingly, he responded.

The pair turned towards the inside rail and headed into the turn for yet another lap, successfully navigating through the horses leaving the track before Mozzie on the escort pony caught up to them again. Still with nothing to grab to help catch the horse, Mozzie simply rode alongside before Laura suggested he ease the pony down, hopefully slowing Exo as well. Just as the Thoroughbred started to slow, a rein broke loose and wrapped itself around the horse’s hind leg, sending him back into a frenzied gallop again.

Doctor Who GIFs - Find & Share on GIPHY

In a stroke of luck, Exo never stepped right on the rein, which would have caught and likely flipped the pair; when the rein came loose Laura again managed to reel it into her hand while also contending with her saddle slipping to the side. Again using the neck rein, Laura managed to turn Exo towards the outside rail, intending to turn him all the way in the other direction to head up the mile chute and hopefully into a dead-end where the horse would stop.

Exo and Laura turned nearly right into the outside fence, and while Laura felt Exo consider jumping the rail, he fortunately decided merely to stop, bouncing lightly off the fence and allowing Laura just enough time to leap off and wrap one of the reins around his nose, keeping him under control. Both horse and rider were uninjured, if perhaps exhausted from this wild ride.

Tv GIFs - Find & Share on GIPHY

Laura, while clearly demonstrating some amazing horsemanship and quick thinking, is humble about the situation. “Ultimately I am in this game because I love horses and not just because I want to win races,” she told Horse Racing Only. “At the end of the day, as much as I tried to look after the horse … the horse looked after me even more. That horse could have done anything he liked for three laps. He could have made bad decisions with bad consequences.

“He could have put both of us through a fence and maybe we wouldn’t have walked away from that… but, instead, he kept me safe.”

Rupaul'S Drag Race GIFs - Find & Share on GIPHY

Laura Cheshire, you’re a woman after our own hearts and an official Horse Nation hero. Best of luck in your future races.

Read Laura’s full account of the incident at Horse Racing Only.

Wylie vs. The Mongol Derby, Powered by SmartPak, Day 9: Leslie Completes!

In August 2017 writer/rider Leslie Wylie will be attempting her most fearsome feat of #YOLO yet: a 620-mile race across Mongolia. Riding 27 semi-wild native horses. Carrying only 11 pounds of gear. Relying on nomads for food, water and shelter. On a mission to help stop deforestation.

To be held Aug. 9-19, the Mongol Derby is widely regarded as the toughest horse race in the world. Inspired by the Genghis Khan’s original “pony express,” there’s no trail or set route, just 25 GPS checkpoints/horse exchange stations to hit over the course of 7-10 days. Keep it here for weekly updates on Leslie’s ride of a lifetime! Click here to read previous stories in the series.

From left: Leslie Wylie, 35, Tennessee, USA; Taylor Dolak, 25, Colorado, USA; Lucy Taylor, 22, NSW, UK / Australia; Amanda Charlton Herbert, 26, Maine, USA; James Lester, 22, Perth, Australia. Photo by Julian Herbert/Mongol Derby.

It’s been an epic nine-day journey for our Leslie Wylie across the wild steppe of Mongolia — and after more than a week of frantic dot-watching on our end and some truly legendary riding on Leslie’s end, she crossed the finish line today at 6:05 p.m. local time, 6:05 a.m. EST. And yes, her now-famous grin was ear-to-ear.

Day 9 Recap

The ninth day of racing saw a big part of the field cross over the finish line, many carrying on the rising Derby tradition of crossing the line in unison with traveling partners and fellow Derbyists. After all — to borrow the phrase from the sport of endurance riding — to finish is to win, and we imagine it’s impossible not to feel some intense camaraderie with your fellow riders after enduring a thousand kilometers on the backs of some pretty wild horses.

We’ll let the photos speak for themselves on Day 9.

Ceri Putnam (30, UK) and Sally Toye (55, UK). Photo by Julian Herbert/Mongol Derby

Bobbie Friend (27, Australia), Emma Manthorpe (30, Australia) and Charlotte Wills (36, UK). Photo by Julian Herbert/Mongol Derby

Rachel Land (38, US) and Margaret Summers (60, US). Photo by Julian Herbert/Mongol Derby

Paul Richards (58, UK) and Cy Lloyd-Jones (41, UK). Photo by Julian Herbert/Mongol Derby

Not pictured but also crossing the finish today were Suzanna Holmquist of Sweden, Victoria Twelves of the UK, Louisa Ball of UK and Liv Wood of Canada. Liv retired due to injuries from a fall earlier in the week but was medically cleared to ride the last few legs today for the adventure, and we’re glad she was able to ride across the finish!

The rest of the field is projected to finish tomorrow on Day 10.

Raise a glass to Leslie Wylie!

We’re so proud of Leslie for accomplishing the Mongol Derby, battling truly adversarial conditions and challenges along the way. She lost her entire kit on Day 3, including her stirrups, but kept smiling and rode right into Derby history by completing her next 40 kilometer leg without any stirrups at all. She got bucked off a wild Mongolian horse on Day 4 and got right back on to complete her next leg.

Her fellow riders, no doubt bolstered themselves by Leslie’s indomitable spirit, helped her along the trail with a donated kit stuffed into a spare sock, and the generous Mongolian people took care of her as well.

Throughout the entire journey, Leslie just kept smiling. If we know Leslie, she awoke every morning looking ahead to the adventure the day would bring her, no matter how wild it might be. We can’t wait until she’s back to share her stories!

Most of us will likely never contest the Mongol Derby. Crossing hundreds of miles on semi-feral horses at the mercy of the elements is certainly not in everyone’s adventure playbook, and that’s OK. While this race is in the books for Leslie and for all of us at EN who were along for the ride, we hope Leslie’s journey will continue to inspire you for a very long time. It certainly will for us.

Go Leslie. Go Eventing.

Wylie vs. The Mongol Derby, Powered by SmartPak, Day 8: Horsing Around

In August 2017 writer/rider Leslie Wylie will be attempting her most fearsome feat of #YOLO yet: a 620-mile race across Mongolia. Riding 27 semi-wild native horses. Carrying only 11 pounds of gear. Relying on nomads for food, water and shelter. On a mission to help stop deforestation.

To be held Aug. 9-19, the Mongol Derby is widely regarded as the toughest horse race in the world. Inspired by the Genghis Khan’s original “pony express,” there’s no trail or set route, just 25 GPS checkpoints/horse exchange stations to hit over the course of 7-10 days. Keep it here for weekly updates from Leslie ride of a lifetime! Click here to read previous stories in the series.

What it feels like to finish! MP RHW GC BW JW complete on Day 8. Leslie is on track to complete tomorrow! Photo by Julian Herbert/Mongol Derby.

The first finishers completed the 2017 Mongol Derby yesterday (in record-setting time!) and more followed suit today with much celebration. Our Leslie Wylie’s “traveling group” is projected to finish tomorrow, one day early, with just three legs left in the 1,000 kilometer journey.

As the sun sets on Day 8 on the steppe, let’s just remember that not only have this lot been riding hard for a full week and then some, they’ve also been dealing with harsh weather conditions, staying in gers hosted by nomadic herdsmen and eating food provided by their gracious hosts. We can only imagine on Day 8 how inviting this lovely lake at the finish line must be:

Read on for the day’s full report.

Day 8 Recap

As Ed Fernon, Barry Armitage and Jakkie Mellet — the top three finishers from yesterday — lounged around victory camp, perhaps sleeping off the celebratory vodka they had knocked back the night prior, the race continued across the steppe for the rest of the field.

Warren Sutton and Will Comiskey (aka “Dingo”) had only the last leg to finish after their overnight at Urtuu 27, and they rolled across the finish line together in what seems to be becoming a new Mongol Derby tradition, taking the tied finish for fourth place around 11:10 a.m. local time, 11:10 p.m. EST last night. This was Will’s second Mongol Derby completion, and he “blessed” his final mount with a bit of mare’s milk:

Warren Sutton reportedly forgot to turn on his tracking device, so the tracking map still shows him as being at Urtuu 27. We are assured that he did, in fact, complete the Mongol Derby.

Later in the afternoon, the joint sixth-place finishers crossed into victory camp, including the first lady riders to complete in 2017: Brooke Wharton, Rebecca Hewitt, Marie Palzer, Jodie Ward and Greg Chant.

The final riders of the day to finish were Roberta McLeod at 5:30 p.m. local time (5:30 a.m. EST today) for 11th place and Jen Cook at 8:18 p.m. local time (8:18 a.m. EST) for 12th. Rebecca Pumphrey turned up at the finish at 9:30 p.m. local time (9:30 a.m. EST) after getting lost in the dark for the last three kilometers.

Rebecca earned herself a three-hour technical penalty that could possibly bump her to lower than 13th depending on when the first riders finish tomorrow. Regardless of final placing, we’re sure she’s happy to be across the finish line. Congratulations to all the day’s finishers!

While the dangers of the Mongol Derby certainly aren’t diminished just by proximity to the finish line — riders can still contend with hazards like marmot holes, unpredictable and semi-wild mounts, spooky things like cars popping right up out of nowhere and the various injuries and illnesses that everyone has been battling from Day 1 — we’re perceiving from our desks on the other side of the world that the focus now is not just on surviving each day on the steppe but on finishing.

Spirits are high among the back pack: high enough that a few riders got into some fun shenanigans along the trail.

BW, or Brooke Wharton, already finished earlier in the day, so this last tweet is a typo that should be LW. If there’s one person we trust to take things to the next level, it’s Leslie. So look out, Lucy and Jimbo. You’ve got LW on your tail now.

Leslie and the rest of her new trail friends have safely made it to Urtuu 25 for the night, giving them three legs to ride tomorrow and on track to finish on Day 9, one day ahead of the Day 10 deadline. We’re sending them all our best thoughts for a safe final day of riding.

Injury and Accident Assessment

In an impressive display of grit and tenacity, some of the Bloodwagon riders — those who retired earlier in the Derby due to injury or illness — are reportedly “itching to ride again.” Medical staff have been dispatched to assess Jane Boxhall, Rick Helson and Liv Wood to see if they can be cleared to ride again, at least giving them the opportunity to ride across the finish line.

We’ll continue to bring you daily updates from the Mongol trail. You can also follow along via Mongol Derby Twitter (Leslie’s call sign is LW) for live updates. Track the riders via GPS here. Go Wylie!

Wylie vs. Mongol Derby, Powered by SmartPak, Day 7: We Have Winners!

In August 2017 writer/rider Leslie Wylie will be attempting her most fearsome feat of #YOLO yet: a 620-mile race across Mongolia. Riding 27 semi-wild native horses. Carrying only 11 pounds of gear. Relying on nomads for food, water and shelter. On a mission to help stop deforestation.

To be held Aug. 9-19, the Mongol Derby is widely regarded as the toughest horse race in the world. Inspired by the Genghis Khan’s original “pony express,” there’s no trail or set route, just 25 GPS checkpoints/horse exchange stations to hit over the course of 7-10 days. Keep it here for updates on Leslie’s ride of a lifetime! Click here to read previous stories in the series.

Ed Fernon and Barry Armitage cross the finish line together. Photo by Julian Herbert/Mongol Derby.

After trading the lead several times not only over the past few days but in the final hour of the race, Barry Armitage of South Africa and Ed Fernon of Australia crossed the line together as co-winners of the 2017 Mongol Derby, with Jakkie Mellet of South Africa just behind them to finish third.

The three riders pushed each other hard and fast throughout the event to separate them significantly from the rest of the field, and the three Southern Hemisphere riders were the only riders to finish today. Another 10 or so riders are in range to potentially finish tomorrow.

Our own Leslie Wylie appears to have had a fast and efficient day on the steppe, making it to Urtuu 21 this evening with just six checkpoints to go before the finish line.

Barry Armitage off and running from the final checkpoint. Photo by Julian Herbert/Mongol Derby.

Day Seven Recap

A distance of 220 kilometers separated the leaders from the rear pack this morning, and the weather quickly turned hot and sunny to create challenging conditions (especially when compared to the cold, blowing rain riders faced on Day 2).

Jakkie Mellet, who had maintained a steady lead for much of the Derby, ran into trouble just beyond Urtuu 25. His horse returned without him, the saddle hanging under the horse’s belly and Jakkie followed soon after on foot; a nearby car had spooked the horse, which then proceeded to dump Jakkie. In the chaos, a stirrup leather snapped, and in a nod to our dear Leslie …

Jakkie wound up making his own stirrup leather out of rope and continuing on, but not before Ed Fernon passed him to take the lead. Jakkie, Ed and Barry battled for the lead over the next few legs with about 20 minutes of traveling time separating them. As race organizers described, over a 1,000 kilometer race that’s essentially photo finish material.

Further drama ensued due to the hot weather when Jakkie picked up a vet penalty at Urtuu 27, meaning that Ed and Barry could continue on while he served two hours. Ed and Barry continued on together through the final leg, ultimately crossing the finish line together to share the win. Jakkie earned a well-fought third place, finishing roughly an hour and a half later. All three riders’ horses passed the final vet check, and all three riders (plus their horses) cooled down in the lake together!

Ed Fernon and Barry Armitage enjoy a well-earned dip with their horses at the finish line. Julian Herbert/Mongol Derby

Leslie appears to be safely checked in to Urtuu 21 for the night. Without any of her gear to help her comfortably handle a night camping in the open on the steppe, this was likely the best decision despite having some riding time still available at the end of the day. As noted by race organizers, self-care along the Derby trail is important.

Which is why we’re glad Leslie appears to have gotten a good breakfast this morning:

No further details are available on the above-mentioned “fending off wolves” incident, but we’re definitely craving more news on that. We’ll report what we learn.

Leslie and the rest of the riders at her urtuu are projected to finish two days from now, and we’ll be there every step of the way cheering our girl home! We’re delighted to see she still has a big smile on her face after seven days of facing what can only be described as myriad challenges on the Derby trail.

Yesterday’s official Derby recap put it this way: “End of Day 1 saw LW in the lead, bunking between urtuus solo. Ballsy. After a series of misfortunes including a couple lost horses, lost kit, and showing true derby grit by riding stirrupless with a sock for a saddle bag, LW may have fallen to the back of the field, but has endeared herself to onlookers as a bonafide derby legend.”

Injury and Accident Assessment

Emma Manthrope had to cope with a horse that pulled up very lame about 13 kilometers out from Urtuu 20. The vet stationed at the urtuu headed out immediately to treat the horse, who reportedly responded well to treatment and is doing fine in the care of a local family.

Mongol Derby organizers noted that injuries in the field involving the horses always take precedence over clearing the riders at checkpoints. We salute the horsemanship of the entire Mongol Derby team and the obvious care they take with the horses!

Most of the other incidents of the day involved Derby vehicles stuck in bogs or running out of fuel — the hazards of such a remote expedition with a fast-moving field!

At the close of Day 7 of racing, the EN team sends our heartiest congratulations to co-winners Barry Armitage and Ed Fernon, as well as third-placed Jakkie Mellet. We’re cheering all of the Mongol Derby competitors home!

We’ll continue to bring you daily updates from the Mongol trail. You can also follow along via Mongol Derby Twitter (Leslie’s call sign is LW) for live updates. Track the riders via GPS here. Go Wylie!

Jakkie Mellet brings his last horse in across the finish line. Photo by Julian Herbert/Mongol Derby.

Jenni Autry and Lorraine Jackson contributed to this report.

Wylie vs. Mongol Derby, Powered by SmartPak, Day 6: One Steppe At a Time

In August 2017 writer/rider Leslie Wylie will be attempting her most fearsome feat of #YOLO yet: a 620-mile race across Mongolia. Riding 27 semi-wild native horses. Carrying only 11 pounds of gear. Relying on nomads for food, water and shelter. On a mission to help stop deforestation.

To be held Aug. 9-19, the Mongol Derby is widely regarded as the toughest horse race in the world. Inspired by the Genghis Khan’s original “pony express,” there’s no trail or set route, just 25 GPS checkpoints/horse exchange stations to hit over the course of 7-10 days. Keep it here for weekly updates from Leslie as she prepares to embark upon the ride of a lifetime! Click here to read all the stories in the series.

Current leader Jakkie Mellet on the steppe. Photo by Julian Herbert/Mongol Derby.

The Mongol Derby is modeled after Genghis Khan’s “pony express” relay system that was used to carry messages across his land. When you think about how many miles Leslie rode on Day 6 — she traveled the distance of four Urtuus, which are spaced roughly 40 kilometers apart, for a total of 160 kilometers or about 99 miles — it’s easy to see how such an express system could be effective.

It’s also a reminder that the Mongols were, and still are, tougher than nails. With more injuries forcing retirement as well as some questionable horsemanship choices, Day 6 proved to be influential.

Day Six Recap

Our Leslie and a pack of fellow riders roared out of Urtuu 14 right on the dot at 7 a.m. local time (7 p.m. EST last night) to start Day 6. We’re happy to report that Leslie’s great attitude and resilient sense of adventure despite losing her kit on Day 3 still appear to be riding high; she’s been described as “in great spirits.”

We’re even happier to report (and so, so grateful to her fellow riders) that Leslie’s been able to assemble a sort of mini-kit (as her original kit has still not been located), consisting of a sock filled with donated odds and ends from other competitors. Since everyone in the race was bound by the 11-pound gear limit, we know that there is very little extra to go around — many thanks to these generous riders!

Leslie is safely checked in at Urtuu 18 for the night, with the field spread from Urtuu 25 back to 16. The frontrunners are expected to complete the Mongol Derby tomorrow on Day 7.

Among the front runners: Jakkie Mellet continues to lead while earning kudos from the field veterinarians for smart riding and good horsemanship. He has incurred one two-hour penalty, which he served today, but is taking good care of his mounts and increasing his lead.

Ed Fernon incurred a stern, official warning and then penalty time for inconsiderate riding. The Mongol Derby takes equine welfare extremely seriously, with every horse undergoing an examination after every 40-kilometer leg. Riders are expected to present their horse to the veterinarian immediately, and every horse has 30 minutes to recover its resting heart rate. This allows the vets to determine if a horse is in metabolic distress and needs additional attention.

Unfortunately, on Day 6 Ed adopted the technique of gallopping his mount all the way to the next Urtuu only to “loiter” outside the station for about half an hour to bring his horse’s heart rate down without veterinary supervision. Ed first received a warning and then a penalty after he repeated the offense. Marie Palzer, who led alongside Ed in the early days of the race, also served six hours of penalty time today for veterinary offenses.

The six riders in the front running pack — Jakkie Mellet, Barry Armitage, Marie Palzer, Ed Fernon, William Comiskey and Warren Sutton — are expected to finish tomorrow. Vodka and airag (the famous Mongol drink of fermented mare’s milk) await them at the finish line.

Jakkie Mellet on the steppe. Julian Herbert/Mongol Derby

Elsewhere on the trail, riders were strongly encouraged to take the bridge over the Kherlen River rather than attempt to ford as water levels were high. Fortunately, everyone made it safely across without incident. Storms moved in and out of the area for the “Adventure pack” (the back half of the field) but again travel appeared to be incident-free.

The family hosting at Urtuu 15 reportedly sent their riders off with packages of dumplings to be eaten on the ride. We love the Derby hospitality!

In other news, we’re trying to find a way to get word to Leslie that we’d like this one brought home for us:

… not so much this one though. He can stay in Mongolia.

Injury and Accident Assessment

We’re sad to report that Liv Wood (OW) has retired after a hard fall on her lower back; yesterday we reported that she was also battling an ankle injury. According to Liv herself via Facebook, she had clean X-rays on both her foot and her back, and she should be cleared to ride after 24 hours. She fully intends to return to the trail after a day’s rest, and she may be the first person in Mongol Derby history to medically retire and then return. All our best to Liv!

Gigi Kay, age 59 from the UK, also retired on Day 6 after cracking two ribs. A late entrant to the Derby, Gigi is an equine veterinarian currently working in Morocco. We’re sending our wishes for a speedy recovery!

One minor injury to report as well:

Jakkie Mellet on the steppe. These beautiful landscapes are too good not to share. Julian Herbert/Mongol Derby

We’ll continue to bring you daily updates from the Mongol trail. You can also follow along via Mongol Derby Twitter (Leslie’s call sign is LW) for live updates. Track the riders via GPS here. Go Wylie!

Wylie vs. Mongol Derby, Powered by SmartPak, Day 5: Steppefamily

In August 2017 writer/rider Leslie Wylie will be attempting her most fearsome feat of #YOLO yet: a 620-mile race across Mongolia. Riding 27 semi-wild native horses. Carrying only 11 pounds of gear. Relying on nomads for food, water and shelter. On a mission to help stop deforestation.

To be held Aug. 9-19, the Mongol Derby is widely regarded as the toughest horse race in the world. Inspired by the Genghis Khan’s original “pony express,” there’s no trail or set route, just 25 GPS checkpoints/horse exchange stations to hit over the course of 7-10 days. Keep it here for weekly updates from Leslie as she prepares to embark upon the ride of a lifetime! Click here to read previous stories in the series.

Leslie (center, in the pink jacket) and some fellow riders with the generous local family who fed them all last night at Urtuu 11. Photo courtesy of Mongol Derby.

Did you miss past updates? Catch up on Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and Day 4.

Another long-running joke on the EN team prior to Leslie Wylie’s departure for Mongolia was the inevitable comparison to the Hunger Games.

With some noted exceptions (such as, you know, the entire premise of the Hunger Games) the parallels become obvious: a whole world watches virtually, tracking their favorite rider with every ping of the GPS, while the riders themselves simply focus on the task at hand, the idea that thousands of people are watching their every move most likely not on their mind whatsoever.

In reality, however, Mongolia is not the Hunger Games — as the race organizers pointed out today, there is no holographic leaderboard equipped with video updates and realtime movement tracking. They did offer this helpful gem:

All this boils down to is that we at home only know as much as we can see about Leslie’s progress — but considering the logistics of tracking 43 riders, not to mention coordinating veterinary, medical and support teams across a thousand kilometers and orchestrating the wrangling of hundreds of horses, herdsmen and local families to help, we’re always happy for a glimpse of Leslie’s smile on the steppe and to know that she’s still kicking on and riding hard.

We’re SO grateful to the race organizers who personally answer our requests for Leslie updates, taking the time out of what we’re sure is a chaotic day to keep us informed. Many thanks to the hardworking Mongol Derby team.

Day Five Recap

Veterinary violations are likely to change the order of the leading pack in the next day or so, as leader Jakkie Mellet has a two-hour penalty to serve at Urtuu 22, while pace stalker Marie Palzer has racked up eight hours with a third penalty today. Ed Fernon has a clean record and will likely be able to take the lead; all three of these leaders are camped between Urtuus 20 and 21.

Barry Armitage, overnighting between Urtuus 19 and 20, is expected to move into second place tomorrow. But as always, this is the Mongol Derby, and everything can change in an instant.

The running order through the rest of the field remained similar to yesterday, with a few riders in the back half of the pack making huge leaps in their progress. Organizers report that today’s group of horses seemed feistier than usual, and several riders had to make use of their “help” buttons to summon assistance and a carry-forward to the next Urtuu, which earned them penalty hours to serve at Urtuu 22.

Leslie is overnighting with a party of 15 riders at Urtuu 14, all being fed by a generous local family. The cooperation with the local herding communities is critical to the Mongol Derby, and we’re so grateful to all of the families who have donated the use of their horses, helped wrangle wild steeds, housed riders overnight in their gers and taken care of the riders spending the night in the various Urtuus.

Leslie appears to have had a fairly uneventful day (which in Mongolia is a very good thing!) with no exceptionally wild ponies or major incidents to report. She progressed from Urtuu 11 to 14, which is an estimated journey of about 120 kilometers. Not bad for a day’s ride!

All along the route, the “steppefamily” continues to welcome what by now is probably a fairly filthy, stinky, unwashed field of riders for overnight stays. The family at Urtuu 19 was described as “awesome,” and Barry Armitage reported that he is staying with “a lovely family” on the steppe between Urtuus 19 and 20. Our hats are off to the hospitable people of Mongolia!

The spread of the field at the end of Day 5. Leslie’s route is highlighted in red.

Injury and Accident Assessment

A sixth rider has retired from the Derby. Marianne Williams, age 54 from the US, retired with a broken collar bone requiring surgery due to falling in “every marmot hole in Mongolia.”

According to Marianne’s biography, “riding the Mongol Derby (her first horse was a wild mustang) is a natural expression of Marianne’s quest ‘to not go gentle into that good night’ but to slide sideways into her grave — laughing like hell — while clutching one last cold beer in her weather worn hand.” She sounds like our kind of gal, and we wish her all the best in her recovery.

James Lester and Lucy Taylor, both from Australia, had made a pact to ride together; yesterday, Lucy was delayed along the route with an injured horse, which she helped treat alongside the vet, earning her big kudos from race organizers.

As a bit of a joke, James decided to hide at Urtuu 11, leading Lucy to believe that he had broken the pact and gone ahead without her. He popped out to surprise her just as she burst into tears, and she reportedly punched him in response.

To make it up to her, James offered to ride the horse that Lucy had originally selected. A particularly wild mount, it had bucked her off when she first tried to mount, and then proceeded to buck James off as well. He got right back on and they took off together, pact intact and earning some respect from the locals and race organizers for wrangling this particularly wild mount.

Liv Wood, whom readers should remember as one of Leslie’s partners in her 100-mile Texas training ride, is soldiering on with an injured ankle, presumably after a fall she took on the morning of Day 5.

Liv is overnighting at Urtuu 14 alongside Leslie, and we’re confident that these two strong-willed ladies will keep each other’s spirits high going into Day 6!

We’ll continue to bring you daily updates from the Mongol trail. You can also follow along via Mongol Derby Twitter (Leslie’s call sign is LW) for live updates. Track the riders via GPS here. Go Wylie!

Wylie vs. Mongol Derby, Powered by SmartPak: Day 4 Takes A Village

In August 2017 writer/rider Leslie Wylie will be attempting her most fearsome feat of #YOLO yet: a 620-mile race across Mongolia. Riding 27 semi-wild native horses. Carrying only 11 pounds of gear. Relying on nomads for food, water and shelter. On a mission to help stop deforestation.

To be held Aug. 9-19, the Mongol Derby is widely regarded as the toughest horse race in the world. Inspired by the Genghis Khan’s original “pony express,” there’s no trail or set route, just 25 GPS checkpoints/horse exchange stations to hit over the course of 7-10 days. Keep it here for weekly updates from Leslie as she prepares to embark upon the ride of a lifetime! Click here to read previous stories in the series.

Leslie getting some makeshift stirrups … but only after riding 24 miles without! Photo via Mongol Derby.

Did you miss past updates? Catch up on Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3.

Somewhere in the flurry of endless email chains between the EN team, Jenni said something along the lines of “Wylie was a Viking warrior princess in another life.” The moniker stuck, and while the good folks at Derby HQ might be shaking their heads every time one of us retweets with #VikingWarriorPrincess tagged on, you have to admit that it’s a pretty fitting title.

Because, after all, what else do you call a lady who can do this, while smiling?

Oh yes, that was filmed during the now infamous #StirrupGate incident on Day 3. There goes our Leslie, cantering along without her stirrups, grinning from ear to ear, one hand casually holding the reins of her semi-wild Mongolian pony, for 24 miles no less.

Day 4 was perhaps not quite this smooth.

Day 4 Recap

The sun set on Day 3 with riders spread across the map; many overnighted at Urtuus (the official checkpoints with shelter and food) while some camped with local herders or out on the open steppe. Impressively, most of the hobbled horses were still where they ought to have been when the sun came back up, and the majority of the field got off to a fresh, quick start despite working through some aches, pains and minor injuries.

Leslie spent the night in Urtuu 9, and the start of her Day 4 was delayed ever so slightly as the crew helped her work through some issues with her tack. Most notably, the infamous camel stirrups that were donated to her yesterday.

Unfortunately, the camel stirrups didn’t hold up to the rigors of the Derby trail, but the delivery of a spare set of horse stirrups looked like a game-changer for her. However, Leslie’s first horse of the day had other ideas.

Fortunately our tough cookie was soon back on the trail, though still without her kit, which is still being held hostage by a wayward pony.

At the front of the pack, Jakkie Mellet continues to lead thanks to a masterful bit of horsemanship to navigate his semi-feral mount beneath a railway bridge. Marie Palzer and Ed Fernon continue in hot pursuit, and all three are overnighting at Urtuu 16. Barry Armitage is not far behind, camped between Urtuus 15 and 16.

The rest of the field is scattered between Urtuus 11 and 15, with the biggest pack of 17 by far lodged in Urtuu 11. Many riders will be serving penalty time here, including Leslie, as she earned a one-hour penalty after she required assistance to catch her loose horse.

Unfortunately, Leslie also left her raincoat behind at Urtuu 10. Fingers crossed for good weather. So far the forecast looks promising: a high of 25C/77F, followed by a very chilly evening.

Current field with less than 200 km separating leaders from trailing pack at U11. Leslie highlighted in red.

Injury and Accident Assessment

The field grows smaller as more riders retire, and we send our best wishes for a speedy recovery to Clare Salmon, who is being treated for an ankle injury. She and her husband Neil Goldie-Scott retired at Urtuu 7 this morning.

Julia Fisher and Jane Boxhall, both of whom retired earlier in the week, are back on the Derby trail so to speak, riding with Hustler Erik in the bloodwagon.

We always say “it takes a village” in eventing. Behind every horse and rider combination, a slew of individuals come together to keep all the wheels turning in support, from coaches and grooms to family and friends.

And it truly takes a village in Mongolia as well. From our viewpoint here at home, safely ensconced on the couch or in the office watching our little red LW dot eke her way across the steppe, it’s impossible to know what’s truly happening on the ground.

But reports of fellow riders helping each other, waiting for each other at Urtuus so they can ride together as they agreed, and of course the generosity and ingenuity of the local herdsmen are warming our hearts and making us feel like perhaps the steppe isn’t such a lonely place after all.

A big shout-out to Rachel Land, who is looking after our Leslie tonight:

It’s definitely been a challenging day for the Mongol Derby contestants. Here’s to a good night’s rest and another cracking day on the steppe tomorrow.



We’ll continue to bring you daily updates from the Mongol trail. You can also follow along via Mongol Derby Twitter (Leslie’s call sign is LW) for live updates. Track the riders via GPS here. Go Wylie!