Wild ride is just
Heading back to tough race
SHORT hooves, a kind eye and something that looked like it was ready to run.
Those were a few of the features Kathy Gabriel looked for when picking a semi-wild horse for the Mongol Derby – a 10-day race that stretches 1000km across the vast country.
“But basically… I was just looking for something that wouldn’t kill me,” she joked.
This year, Kathy, who is the rural personality behind popular, and often humorous, Facebook page Experience
Australian Agriculture, pooled much of her resources into competing in the iconic race.
She was injured on day three, after a fiery ride on a bolting horse that only came to a stop with the aid of two handy Mongolian horseman, and eventually pulled out by day five from a shoulder injury.
Despite this, she is determined to save again for the $18,000 entry fee and take the risk riding half-broke foreign horses.
She has been accepted for the 2020 race and she thinks she can win it.
“Bloody oath I think I can win it,” she said.
“There is a lot of ifs and buts to this race and anything can happen, but people have won it who you wouldn’t expect. I think I have every chance of winning it. That’s what my aim will be when I head over there.”
The last time the Rural
Weekly caught up with Kathy she was working on Eva Downs Station in the Northern Territory.
She has dedicated most of her life to working with horses, and now manages a cattle property near Benambra in the Victorian High Country.
She first heard about the race when she was working in the northern beef industry and word spread that Will Comiskey, a horseman from Dingo, Queensland, won the race.
“Through Facebook I learnt of a few Territorians who competed in the derby – one was Jodie Ward from Katherine,” she said.
“I looked into it and just knew it would be mind-blowing to be part of.”
Kathy is crowd-sourcing some of the fees needed to compete. She is also hunting for a major sponsor, and when she reaches that target, her race will then fundraise for a Mongolian charity dear to her heart.
She is already hard at work prepping for the 2020 race, and thinks the skills she gained from this year’s competition, which commenced in August, will give her an edge.
“Anyone who has done the derby will tell you the most difficult part is picking a horse,” she said.
When riders complete a race leg, they walk up and down a line of about 40 horses to choose their mount. During the race they will ride between 25 and 28 horses.
“The basic thing you look for is a horse that looks fit,” she said.
“I would look at their hooves, because they don’t shoe their horses or trim them, so the shorter their hooves means they have been ridden more.
“If they are fitter they will be able to go further and faster, and, hopefully they will be quiet.”
Kathy also heeded advice she learnt from campdrafters and looked for a mount that had “a kind eye”.
It became a balancing act – trying to select a horse that looked both safe and fast. Her main goal was to complete the next leg as quickly as possible.
“If you pick a fat, quiet one, you might end up walking the whole leg, so instead of it taking two-and-half to three hours, it might take you six or seven hours.”
All horses are vet checked before they have a run, and vetted again when they reach the next checkpoint; strict penalties are given to competitors if their horses don’t pass the vet’s requirements.
Kathy said she rode some “absolutely beautiful” horses that were smooth and responsive to her directions, but she also had some wild ones.
On day three, the last horse she rode proved to be a handful.
“I picked the horse, they
INCREDIBLE RIDE: Kathy Gabriel during the Mongol Derby.
Herders waiting at a horse camp.
A Mongolian herder’s saddle.
Grazing hobbled horses.
A Mongolian stallion.
Typical horses that are ridden – strong with amazing stamina.