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.

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