Friday, April 17, 2015

Mongol Derby: Young grazier signs up for toughest horse race in the world

17 April, 2015
Bogantungan grazier William Graham at his property west of Emerald, central Queensland. He will compete in the Mongol Derby in August. (Alice Roberts - ABC Local)

A young Queensland grazier is about to embark on the longest and toughest endurance horse race in the world all in the name of charity.

Bogantungan grazier William Graham says he is preparing for the adventure of a lifetime in the form of the Mongol Derby in August; a race that will see him travel 1,000 kilometres in 10 days through the Mongolian Steppe on horseback.

The experienced rider uses horses on his property, west of Emerald in central Queensland, on a daily basis but says nothing will fully prepare him for the challenges of navigating the terrain in Mongolia.

"I'd say I've got a bit of an advantage, I know how to navigate around the bush and can ride for hours," he said.

The track competitors follow is based on the postal route established by Genghis Khan, which saw the mail delivered via a number of horse stations across the country up until the 1940s.

Apart from the distance, riders will also have to battle the rough terrain, semi-wild Mongol horses and an unfamiliar diet of Mongolian local cuisine.

Many riders don't complete the race due to injury or illness.

But William says that's all part of the adventure.

"It might be painful for a while I suppose but the experience and the sense of adventure and the desire to win [will keep me going]," he said.

He says he expects the race to be mentally and physically challenging.

"You're only allowed to ride between the hours of 8.30am and 7.30pm, which is a fair stretch," he said.

"Then you camp with the local tribe wherever you get to and you eat their tucker, so I'm looking forward to a bit of mutton.

"Apparently you have to have a few drinks with them at night time, I don't know what we'll talk about but I suppose we'll find something," he added with a laugh.

The race is run by a United Kingdom-based adventure company, which ensures each horse is only ridden for about 40 kilometres a day before the riders are instructed to swap for another at each station.

Participants have to pay a large sum to take part in the race to cover the cost of the animals, food and support personnel but William is using the adventure to also raise money for the Royal Flying Doctor's Service through donations.

"They've given me a couple of rides over the years and they need a lot of money to keep that outfit running," he said.

"We're not even isolated but for a lot of people the RFDS is a vital service for the bush."

The Mongol Derby will run from August 2 to 16.

If you would like to donate to the RFDS through William's ride, please email the ABC.


[Full story]