July 4 2019
Nine intrepid riders from around the world met in Mongolia in early June to ride The Gobi Gallop -the longest annual charity endurance ride on the planet. Billed as a ride covering a minimum of 700 kilometers in 10 days of riding, the Gobi Gallop this year exceeded all expectations and ran for a full 770 kilometers covering Arkhangai, Overhangai, Bulgan and Tov provinces. The riders faced rain, sand storms, cold nights and searing heat in the day and miles and miles and miles of desert in addition to amazing rivers, wonderful rocky outcrops and outstanding cultural and historical sites. The Gobi Gallop this year was aptly named the Ride to Kharkhorin and the riders had a wonderful morning on their “rest day” touring the famed Erdene Zuu Monastery in Kharkhorin which is the home of the oldest working monastery in Mongolia where they were treated to not only the peace and tranquility of the monastery but got to witness monks chanting their prayers.
In addition to riding farther than any previous Gobi Gallops, this international group with riders from America, Canada, Australia, Belgium and England also crossed the 700 kilometer line a day early!
Susan Smith from New Zealand, 67, became the oldest woman to ever finish the Gobi Gallop. Considering this was the longest Gobi Gallop on record this is no mean feat and she undertook it with grace and dignity and great humour and set the bar high for future Gobi Gallopers who are looking to break this record. In addition to riding the longest ever Gobi Gallop Sue had the added challenge of riding after her friend and co Gobi Galloper came off hard when her horse went through a soft spot in the ground and ended up being sent into Ulaanbaatar by ambulance to be looked at. Fortunately, she ended up with only a cracked collar bone and assorted bruises and was able to greet Sue a day and a half later back at the finish line for the Gobi Gallop. This was the first time in Gobi Gallop history that anyone was sent off in an ambulance and not a happy record to break. Michele herself was very impressed with the majestic Mongolian guides, their horses their amazing endurance abilities. As she puts it, “These are not horses that have had their spirits broken by man and work. These are horses whose spirits and hearts have been embraced and revered by their handlers and those handlers are the Mongolian horsemen who guided us safely across some of the harshest riding terrain in the world....”
Another amazing record that fell to Martin Ruppert of Belgium was the record for the most kilometers logged in the traditional Mongolian wooden saddle, an unusual looking hand carved wooden saddle which all the Mongolians ( and some of the foreign guides) traditionally ride in and which each rider is required to log at least 20 kms in. This year Martin set the stage by actually preferring the Mongolian saddle and he ended up spending 408 kms in it. In fact, whenever anyone else was not in it, you could find Martin trotting along on “Rocket” out in the lead of the pack taking care of business. In his own words, the Gobi Gallop was “an experience so beautiful it makes you want to go back there every moment of the days in memories within yourself or by talking about it to others”. The Traditional Mongolian Comfort Saddle as it is called, was sold at the live auction at the Gobi Gallop Gala which tops off this amazing ride for over $3000.00 to benefit the children.
The ride is not just about the distance and the endurance component, it is a trip through time and a chance to learn about traditional horse training and care in the oldest surviving horse culture on the planet. According to Logue Williams, an experienced American endurance rider and first time Gobi Galloper describes the Gobi Gallop like this:
“You begin with recognizing the reason you are there....the precious children of the dump. Then you move on to the amazing herdsmen and guides, the fabulous horses, the tireless Julie Veloo, your equally amazing riding companions, the crew members who met you in the Yellow Bus each evening with your tent set up, your bags ready to be grabbed, the table and chairs ready to accept your tired bodies, your plastic cup filled with delicious adult libations....then you begin to gush about the tremendous views, the sure-footedness of your steed for the day, the majesty of the hundreds of horse herds headed up by a lone stallion...you then marvel at how you cantered non-stop for 15 kilometers, your horse never missing a beat, you laugh when you think of the daily joke by the herdsmen who pretend to grunt heavily when they assist you in mounting your horse for the day....you try to end your speech....the music begins playing softly, steadily rising in volume....you manage to add a few more rambling sentences about thousands of marmot holes, volcanic rocks, steep mountain climbs, a sand storm that you took unaware, the night that you slept through an entire thunderstorm, the hot springs, the trips to the monasteries, the afternoon that you got to help herd the horses,.. and you get chill-bumps when you remember listening to the melodic and soulful sounds of your guides and herdsmen, who are now your friends, sing in complete harmony a song of respect for mothers.”
The Gobi Gallop is the brainchild of Julie Veloo, Vice President of Veloo Foundation and 7 time Gobi Galloper. Coming to riding late in life when she moved to Mongolia, Julie did her first Gobi Gallop at 52, a scant year and a half after the first time she sat on a horse. She learned to ride in Mongolia and now leads treks and adventures, including the Gobi Gallop, across Mongolia to raise money to care for Veloo Foundation’s projects in Mongolia. The Gobi Gallop riders this year raised in excess of $48,000 USD all of which will go to support Veloo Foundation’s Children of the Peak Sanctuary Project which feeds, cares for and educates hundreds of Mongolian children who would otherwise be scavenging in the garbage to survive or home alone. This total combined with the money raised at the Gobi Gallop Gala in Ulaanbaatar and the sister Gala in Brisbane brought the 2019 total raised to a whopping $92,000 USD.
The current total for money raised for Veloo Foundation’s Children of the Peak / Narnii Huuhduud project over the 7 years of the Gobi Gallop stands at almost $550,000 USD all of which has gone directly to help the children. This total makes The Gobi Gallop one of the highest netting charity rides in history. In addition to the money raised for the charity, 100% of the riders fees paid to participate in the Gobi Gallop over the years have stayed in Mongolia and has gone to help support crew along with numerous traditional herder families as they train the horses in the traditional Mongolian endurance riding so they are able to take on this epic endurance challenge. A staggeringly beautiful ride, amazing horses, the oldest horse culture on the planet, raising money for an excellent cause and providing a demand for traditional training techniques which are under threat make the Gobi Gallop a truly one of a kind endurance adventure.
More information & photographs about the ride, the route, the participants and the charity available on request or visit http://www.horsetrekmongolia.com/gobi-gallop.html
Veloo Foundation is a 501 (c) 3 not for profit in the United States and a registered Canadian charity or visit http://www.veloofoundation.com/
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