Elise Stables: Embarking on the Adventure of a Lifetime
In a mere few days Kiwi lass Elise Stables will embark on the adventure of a lifetime, riding in the Mongol Derby. Covering 1000 kms of Mongolia’s toughest terrain on semi-wild horses, it’s dubbed the toughest horse race on earth, and for good reason! We caught up with Elise to see what drew her to the race and how she has been preparing.
When did you first decide you wanted to ride in the Mongol Derby?
During last year’s Mongol Derby in August, myself and (the now ex) jockey, Mark Hills, would read the race report every morning before we’d start our trackwork. Before this, I didn't even know about the race. It definitely interested me and we joked that, “I'll sign up if you do”, not ever thinking I would actually be accepted!
What drew you to the Mongol Derby?
I've always been one for a bit of adventure and I'm not sure how much more adventurous you could get than the Derby! When I finished school I didn't know what I wanted to do so when I got accepted into the race I thought that if there was any way of finding out what I'm capable of, this was it.
Which of your skills do you think will help you the most during the race?
I think the Derby will be a bit of a mind game. I’m quite stubborn and can't leave things unfinished so I am hoping that I will have that same mindset during the race. My years of riding will play a huge part. I have ridden many different types of horses and in different disciplines so I'm hoping this will help me adapt to the wild Mongol horses a bit better. In terms of survival, camping out and finding food and water is going to be a bit of a test for me, but I have completed outdoor rescue and survival courses so hopefully they will come in handy.
How have you been training for the race?
I work in Cambridge, trackwork riding work for a few different trainers. I try to ride as many horses as I can in the morning (normally about 17 to 18) to keep me as riding fit as possible. On top of that, I have been running between 5 and 7 kms each day. I'm hoping being as fit as I can will help me fight off any sickness or fatigue during the race. I have been doing some orienteering as well, learning how to use my GPS and read maps.
What are you most excited for?
I am excited just to be out there! The landscapes I will see and people I will meet are the things that excite me the most. I am also looking forward to the experience of being with the Mongol horses - they have carried the country and its people for thousands of years, and having the chance to ride them will be pretty incredible.
What are you most nervous for?
I'm a bit nervous about the wild dogs. Almost everyone that I have talked to that has ridden the race have told me I will be chased by wild dogs. And getting lost, I'm not very good with navigation but I'm practicing!
Do you have a race strategy?
The rules of the race include only being able to ride between 6:30am and 8pm and that horses must pass a vet check at every checkpoint (40 kms apart) otherwise you incur time penalties. At the vet check the horses must be sound, reasonably hydrated and return to a resting heart rate no higher than 56bpm within half an hour of coming in. So my strategy is to be riding every minute possible - I'll be on my horse at 6:30am sharp. And to control the heart rate i may unsaddle my munt and walk them on foot for the last couple of kilometers to the checkpoint if they need it.
What do you hope to gain from you experience riding in the Mongol Derby?
I'm hoping that the race will strip me down to my most primitive self so I can see what I'm capable of. Maybe I'll have a revelation in the middle of a salt-pan or something on what I'm going to do after I come back - who knows! The riding experience and horsemanship skills I will gain will be second to none and meeting the people that work with these wild horses everyday is also priceless. It will definitely be an experience of a lifetime.
Your ride will also raise money for a charity. Can you tell us a little more about that?
I have chosen to ride the race for Catwalk Trust. Last year in 2018, rider Eion Kemp chose this charity and it seemed obvious for me to choose it too. In the horse industry, spinal cord injury and paralysis is a very real risk and the research that Catwalk does is incredible. New Zealand is on the forefront for spinal cord research and the possibility that we could get people back on their feet feels so close to my heart. I couldn't think of a better charity to support.
You can sponsor Elise and donate to Catwalk Trust on her Givealittle fundraising page.