Mongol Derby Day 2: Galloping Headlong into the Great Unknown

Jocelyn Pierce is in hot pursuit of the lead pack on the second day of a race that is predicated on unpredictability.

Go get ‘em, Jocelyn! Courtesy, Mongol Derby

Most days, in regular life, you wake up in the morning with a pretty solid idea of what lies ahead. You’ll drink some coffee, you’ll go to work, you’ll hack your horse, you’ll eat some food, you’ll end up back in the same bed where you started. There’s plenty of room for variation and always a few dangling question marks, but generally you know where things stand.

Not so in the Mongol Derby. You wake up in the morning with only the foggiest idea of where you’re at, much less where you’re going. And you have zero idea what you’re going to be up against in between. Maybe you’ll race the wind on some lightning-bolt of a stallion across what appears to be the set of Games of Thrones. Maybe he flies you straight to the front of the pack, or maybe he cartwheels across a marmot hole and leaves you for dead. There’s know way to know, anything can happen at any time, but the unknown is a prerequisite to adventure.

And that is what makes the Mongol Derby one of the most incredible adventures on earth. 

Riders setting out on their first leg of day 2. Photo by Laurence Squire/Mongol Derby.

Forty-five riders were up and at ‘em early on Thursday morning, ready to tackle whatever should come their way. Among them, overnight leader Devan Horn, who had the field beat by an entire leg at daybreak, but by sunset had been caught at HS8 by six other riders. Would love to be a fly on the wall in that urtuu — tense! 

Friends, enemies and frenemies … the Derby takes all kinds. At least Mike Turner of Botwana and Jocelyn appear to be having a jolly good time out there. Photo by Laurence Squire/Mongol Derby.

Hot on the leaders’ heels, a speed-thirsty pack of riders camped out between HS7 and HS8, including Practical Horseman’s own Jocelyn Pierce. Girl has her foot stomped down on the gas and doesn’t seem to be of a mind to let up anytime soon.

The weather is one of the Derby’s most volatile variables — riders can go from being at-risk for hypothermia to at-risk for heatstroke within the span of 24 hours. The same riders who were bundled up yesterday were stripping down today when the sun came out in full force. Heat makes cooling horses down more difficult and careful riding more imperative, and we saw several vet penalties as a result.

Mongolian horses gonna horse …

Taking a hit for the team: A herder kindly “takes the edge off” a horse before handing it to its rider. Photo by Laurence Squire/Mongol Derby.

… and we heard tell of several fallen soldiers today out on the steppe.

The old “rake your rider over the rocks” trick, a favorite among Mongolian horses. Photo by Laurence Squire/Mongol Derby.

Most were able to remount and carry on, but we were saddened to hear that two were unable to continue due to injury: Samantha Anderson from South Africa, who damaged ligaments in her ankle and was transported back to Ulaanbaatar for a scan, and Madison Smith from San Francisco, who dislocated her shoulder. We’re especially gutted for Maddie, as she’d returned to the Derby this year seeking comeuppance after going out on the second day of the race in 2016 as well. Finish line or not, you’re still a star in our book, Maddie!

Bring it on, day 3. We don’t know what you have up your sleeve, but forty-odd riders are ready and waiting.


Missed out on the earlier stories? Get caught up on all the action!

Practical Horseman Associate Editor Jocelyn Pierce is competing in the Mongol Derby, a 600-mile expedition considered the longest and toughest horse race in the world, Aug. 8-27. Here’s how to follow the action, sponsored by Mane ‘n Tail and SmartPak:

• Visit Practical Horseman for daily race recaps and Jocelyn updates from 2017 Derby finisher Leslie Wylie
• Follow Jocelyn’s progress live via her GPS tracker, read official reports via the Derby website, and follow @mongolderbylive on Twitter
• Tune in for Derby Dot Watch Party podcasts presented by Horse Radio Network in partnership with Practical Horseman, broadcast live nightly at 8 p.m. EST 

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