World’s Toughest Horse Race Retraces Genghis Khan Route

By  //  August 17, 2014

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NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC: Riders Attempt To Stay Atop Half-Wild Mongol Horses For Over 600 Miles 

Competitors gallop toward the finish of 2010's Mongol Derby. Fewer than half of the riders in this year’s race are expected to make it across the finish line. (PHOTOGRAPH BY CHARLES VAN WYK, THE ADVENTURISTS)

Competitors gallop toward the finish of 2010’s Mongol Derby. Fewer than half of the riders in this year’s race are expected to make it across the finish line. (PHOTOGRAPH BY CHARLES VAN WYK, THE ADVENTURISTS)

On August 6, before most of the world woke up, 47 riders from around the globe had saddled half-wild horses and set out on what the Guinness Book of World Records has called the longest equestrian race on Earth.

When not racing, the horses are cared for by the local herding families who staff much of the Mongol Derby course. The horses are also monitored by a team of veterinarians during the event. (PHOTOGRAPH BY QUENTIN MOREAU, THE ADVENTURISTS)

When not racing, the horses are cared for by the local herding families who staff much of the Mongol Derby course. The horses are also monitored by a team of veterinarians during the event.
(PHOTOGRAPH BY QUENTIN MOREAU, THE ADVENTURISTS)

The goal—beyond not getting seriously injured—is to ride a 621-mile (1,000-km) circuit of Mongolian steppe in less than ten days.

The race route is modeled on the horse relay postal system created under Genghis Khan in 1224, which was instrumental in the expansion of the Mongolian Empire.

Guided by a local escort, specially appointed postal riders would gallop more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) to a morin urtuu, or horse relay station, where another escort would be waiting with a fresh horse.

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