Thursday, August 20, 2009
photo:Hannah Ritchie and Charlotte Davison are part of a team competing in the Mongol Derby

Thu, 20 Aug 2009 7:51p.m.

Two New Zealanders living in London are preparing to canter into the record books with the race of a lifetime.

Hannah Ritchie and Charlotte Davison are part of a team competing in the Mongol Derby - a race the organisers have called the biggest, baddest equine affair on the planet.

"It's based on the old postal system that Genghis Khan created," Ms Ritchie explains. "When he was developing his empire, basically his riders would ride 22 hours a day in the saddle and change horse every 40km so they could get a message from Mongolia to Western Europe. I think they did it in about 11 days."

Starting in the ancient capital of Kharkhorin, the 26 riders of the derby will cover 80km a day to finish up somewhere in the Khentii province of Mongolia two weeks later.

It's not so much a race as an endurance test. Riders will spend 14 hours a day in the saddle.

The Kiwi pair's trusty steed for the race is the native Mongolian horse. It's an ancient breed that's stocky with short legs and a large head and roams free for months at a time.

Between them the race competitors will go through almost 800 horses in Mongolia, but sourcing so many horses shouldn't be a problem. In Mongolia they outnumber people seven to one.

The competitors are only allowed to carry 10kg of supplies and there are no support vehicles following them. The only safety net is a GPS attached to each rider to ensure they can be found if things go seriously wrong.
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