All The Wild Horses Club Cert; Now showing, IFI
When Ivo Darloh first heard about the Mongol Derby he wanted to participate and, having ridden horses since childhood, he was a good candidate for the world’s longest horse race, 1,000km across the Mongolian Steppe.
He passed the rigorous entry requirements, paid the $13,000 fee and took part in both 2013 and 2014, where his idea to do a video diary of the event expanded to become a feature-length documentary. Shot as both participant and observer, it gives a unique overview of an extraordinary feat and among the prizes the film has won is Best International Feature at the Galway Film Fleadh.
It’s a visually striking film, and although footage was shot over several years the feel is of one race and one set of participants. It opens with a good explanation of the background to the race, how it works and why. It’s based on Genghis Khan’s postal delivery service, a set of stages, 25 urtuus (horse stations) where the horses are changed every 40km. The riders’ race position is determined not only by where they come in, but by the health of their horse. An overworked horse will incur a time penalty.
Different personalities and motivations emerge, with some competitors almost exclusively goalbased, others more interested in the experience. Among the riders Darloh follows are Irish jockeys Donie Fahy and Richie Killoran, there on a plan hatched while Donie was recovering from a broken back just a year earlier. Via the riders too there is a great sense of how difficult the race is both in terms of the environment and in terms of the health risks — from heat and the essentially wild horses’ penchant for bucking the riders.
Even the most determined riders can’t always beat the odds and along the way some succumb to ailments — from a punctured lung to fractured vertebrae.
It’s always fascinating to see people who actually do instead of dream.