Sunday, May 22, 2011

Horse Welfare on the Mongol Derby - Full Story

20 May 2011

Jenny Weston, head vet on the 2011 Mongol Derby, is interviewed by Derby organiser Katie Willings exclusively for Horse Hero. Her answers provide an extraordinary insight into horse culture in Mongolia and the organisation of horse welfare on the 1000 km race.

Question: You are a 4* accredited FEI vet and have a great deal of experience vetting at high profile endurance rides. How does the Mongol Derby compare to an FEI endurance event?

"To complete is to win!"

Answer: The Mongol Derby is similar to endurance riding in general with the motto "to complete is to win" pretty much upper most in the minds of most of the competitors. As always there are those few who truly do want to win but for most it is about seeing the countryside, spending time with the horse and testing yourself. In endurance there isn’t supposed to be outside assistance and there is a marked track – that is very different in Mongolia! Vets and race organisers will come to your aid if called upon, the riders constantly assist each other, and the locals will give up their bed for you (literally) if you turn up at their ger in the evening. There is no marked track – it is all navigated by GPS. The vetting criteria for pre-ride selection and post-ride evaluation, however, are very close to those used in FEI endurance rides. Heart rate recovery parameters are the same – 64 bpm within 30 minutes, and this is for horses whose resting HR is usually considerably higher than a fully fit endurance horse. We also assess hydration of the horse and gait, to check that the horse is fine to be returned to its owner after having been ridden.

The difficulty for the rider lies with the fact that they are riding unfamiliar horses – how do you assess whether the horse is tired or just lazy, when you don’t know how it normally behaves?...

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