The Lynx Makes It's Way In The World's Toughest & Longest Horse Race
“As any good horsewomen does, I follow a lot of horse people on Instagram and came across a post about the Mongol Horse Derby. So, I clicked on it.”
Rachel Roman realized that this race that so many American equestrians have never heard of combines three of her greatest passions: riding, the outdoors, and learning about other cultures. After finding a post on social media, she followed the post to a link and then to an application. Just a month after submitting her request to ride, Rachel received a call. A few interviews later led to her acceptance to the race in October of 2018. Since then, this 9-5 career-women has been riding and working out to prepare to ride 1000 km in less than 10 days.
The Mongol Derby is considered the longest and toughest horse race in the world. Riders race 600+ miles across the Mongolian steppe in the same fashion that past riders communicated messages across Genghis Khan’s empire. Messenger’s rode 25 miles at full pace to a station where they would switch horses and swap secrets. Now, riders in the derby will ride 25 miles on a semi-wild horse which they’ve chosen from the previous station, and make their way across the wilderness, staying with nomadic Mongolian families along the way.
“Mongolian horses are some of the oldest horses in the world. They’re really small, about 13 hh, and very sturdy, they live outside and survive Mongolian winters. Some of the horses are actual Mongolian racehorses.”
She also chatted with us about horse welfare and the importance it plays, being at the forefront of the race and an important aspect for her. She explained that a team of vets has been in Mongolia for about a month checking over each horse to determine if it’s well-suited for the race. At each station throughout the race, vets examine the horses’ heart rates, and overall health. If the heartrate is too high, the rider is given a penalty. When Rachel isn’t busy at her job, you can find her preparing for the race, studying the rules regarding the racehorse’s health, jetting to the gym on her lunch break, or heading to the barn to ride her 7-year-old OTTB, Moose.
At the gym and barn this past pony-clubber turned Dressage rider has been putting in the hours. On the mats, she works on core strength and balance, exhausting herself in order to practice safe decision-making skills when her mind and body are both worn out, something she credited to her time in Pony Club.
When asked about her goals, Roman responded:
“I hope to be more confident in my own riding and just to have an amazing experience and learn more about other cultures, not just the Mongolian culture but the cultures of other riders. Two horses ago, I had a lovely horse that had kissing spine and all of the sudden riding wasn’t fun anymore, I was always nervous and it took me like a year to realize that I didn’t like riding anymore, and that really upset me. Part of this race is getting back to that place where I’m totally confident on a horse, that its happy and fun and not stressful and worrisome.”
Roman hopes to be part of the talented equestrians from all over the globe who finish the race, all while looking stylish. (On average, less than half of the riders are able to complete the race.)
“When I was looking for helmets for the race, I wanted something really safe and really light, and I wanted the same protection that I’m used to. When I saw the Trauma Void, the first thing is that it was one of the top-rated safety helmets, that was important to me. I’ve had a concussion and didn’t want to be scared if I do take a fall. It’s vented pretty well, and I didn’t even know that it had an adjustable piece that I had the ability to adjust the fit. Since I’ve been riding in it, I’ve been really impressed in the air flow. It’s kept me cool and it doesn’t pinch my head. It also looks cool. I wanted to have a nice-looking helmet and feel confident.”
Image courtesy of Rachel Roman.
On August 7th-16th, Rachel Roman will begin her adventure on the toughest, and longest horse race on the planet to raise money for the Mongolian chapter of the Nature Conservancy, a non-profit that has always meant a lot to her, and now encompasses her career. Their goal in Mongolia is to balance the way of life between the modernization of their country, while protecting the wild lifestyle of the nomadic communities.
“If I’m going to be in Mongolia appreciating the land, then I want to be giving back to them.”
As we wrapped up our conversation, we asked Rachel if she had any advice for riders looking to do something outside of their comfort zone. Here was her reply:
“Yes- and do it, not only for your personal growth but also for riding. I hope that my doing this race will inspire people. I’m just an average person taking part of this giant adventure. Training in a different discipline has really helped me become aware of my body and strengths and weaknesses and has translated into my dressage. I'm a lot stronger, a lot more balanced, and a lot quieter.”
Rachel says that she's looking forward to the race and feels like once her rigorous training has been completed, the hardest part will be over. Ahead of her will be her favorite things: the horse and the wilderness. Follow Rachel Roman live on her website's tracker as she races across the Mongolian steppe in her Trauma Void Lynx.
To read more about Rachel Roman
To find out more about the Nature Conservancy
To track Rachel as she rides on of her 25+ borrowed Mongolian racehorses across the wilderness