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Wylie vs. Mongol Derby, Powered by Fleeceworks: No Stirrups on Day 3

From Eventing Nation, By  on  - 2,776 views

In August 2017 writer/rider Leslie Wylie will be attempting her most fearsome feat of #YOLO yet: a 620-mile race across Mongolia. Riding 27 semi-wild native horses. Carrying only 11 pounds of gear. Relying on nomads for food, water and shelter. On a mission to help stop deforestation.

To be held Aug. 9-19, the Mongol Derby is widely regarded as the toughest horse race in the world. Inspired by the Genghis Khan’s original “pony express,” there’s no trail or set route, just 25 GPS checkpoints/horse exchange stations to hit over the course of 7-10 days. Keep it here for weekly updates from Leslie as she prepares to embark upon the ride of a lifetime! Click here to read previous stories in the series.

LW on Day 1. Julian Herbert/Mongol Derby

Did you miss past updates? Catch up on Day 1 and Day 2.

One of the running themes of the Mongol Derby is the unpredictable nature of the horses. As Leslie Wylie detailed earlier this spring, the semi-feral Mongolian horses can range from poky plodders to near-suicidal bolters and everything in between. Mounting and dismounting in particular can be dangerous, as the native horses are prone to taking advantage of that vulnerable moment and can thunder right off to parts unknown without their riders.

Leslie’s pony ditched her today when she dismounted to adjust her tack, galloping away with her kit and vanishing over the horizon, but her spirit remains resilient. She covered about 80 kilometers today, half of that without stirrups, as her original pair are still strapped to the wayward pony, who continues to play cat and mouse with the Mongolian herders.

Day 3 Recap

The day started with decent weather (in comparison to yesterday’s icy, hurricane-like rain) and a noted lack of drama. But just after 1 p.m. local time:

 

1302 First lost horse of the day: LW on way back to U8 now; local herders enlisted to track down naughty steed.

Since the Mongol Derby is a BYOS (Bring Your Own Stirrups) event, and her stirrups were still careening around the steppe evading capture, LW rode the next 40 kilometer leg without stirrups. That’s about 24 miles. According to vet Cozy at Urtuu 9, Leslie came in “f—king beaming.” That’s our girl!

Unfortunately, Leslie’s horse has not yet been found. Until he’s located, her kit is gone. She’ll be riding without any of her additional protective layers, sleeping bag and other gear she had stored in her saddle bags. All she has with her is the gear in her backpack. We hope that includes her electrolytes!

Fortunately, Leslie’s tenacity, overall horsemanship and ridiculously good attitude did not go unrewarded.

 

HughCozy purchased camel stirrups for LW: "Mongolian steel forged w hammer and sickle." Rachet straps for leathers too. Nice one, boys.

South African Jakkie Mellet, 41, has taken over the lead, aided in part by early leaders Ed Fernon and Marie Palzer serving penalty time at Urduu 11 for heart-rate violations. Organizers report that Jakkie displayed “cool as a cucumber” horsemanship at his Urtuu changeover and is clearly riding to win. All three are currently camped with herders in gers between Urtuus 11 and 12 with only five kilometers separating the top trio.

Jakkie Mellet. Julian Herbert/Mongol Derby 2017.

Three riders — Barry Armitage, Warren Sutton and Will Comiskey — are staying in Urtuu 11 tonight, though all three will serve time penalties before being allowed to leave in the morning. Another three riders — Ceri Putnam, Sally Toye and Roberta MacLeod — have opted to hobble their horses and camp on the open steppe between Urtuus 9 and 10. Stay tuned to see if the hobbled horses are in fact still in anywhere in sight when the sun rises.

Injury and Accident Assessment

Unfortunately, Day 3 saw two riders retire from the Derby. American Rick Helson, 58, retired at Urtuu 3 and was treated for dehydration and hypothermia; he is now back in Ulaanbaatar after being discharged and is reportedly feeling well. Jane Boxhall, 51 and originally from the UK, retired at Urtuu 4 after a hard fall; fortunately, she too has been discharged and is doing fine. We send these riders our best wishes!

At the moment, the weather forecast for tomorrow looks relatively warm — around 70 degrees Fahrenheit — but also wet. (Naturally, this is all subject to change according to the whims of Mother Mongolia.) Keep your fingers crossed that Leslie’s missing kit turns up so she can enjoy the luxuries of additional layers, sleeping bag and other essentials she’ll need in the coming days.

Keep watching those dots and sending your good thoughts for a safe trip for all, including race crew and organizers, who have done a masterful job so far.

We’ll continue to bring you daily updates from the Mongol trail. You can also follow along via Mongol Derby Twitter (Leslie’s call sign is LW) for live updates. Track the riders via GPS here. Go Wylie!

Jenni Autry contributed to this report.

  • Arthur Bobinski

Wylie vs. Mongol Derby, Powered by Fleeceworks: Icy Monsoons Plague Day 2

From Eventing Nation, By  on  - 2,621 views

Fleeceworks is a proud supporter of Leslie's participation in the Mongol Derby!

In August 2017 writer/rider Leslie Wylie is attempting her most fearsome feat of #YOLO yet: a 620-mile race across Mongolia. Riding 27 semi-wild native horses. Carrying only 11 pounds of gear. Relying on nomads for food, water and shelter. On a mission to help stop deforestation.

Held Aug. 9-19, the Mongol Derby is widely regarded as the toughest horse race in the world. Inspired by the Genghis Khan’s original “pony express,” there’s no trail or set route, just 25 GPS checkpoints/horse exchange stations to hit over the course of 7-10 days. Keep it here for updates on Leslie’s ride of a lifetime! Click here to read previous stories in the series.

Leslie Wylie (LW), on the left, and Rebecca Pumphrey (RP) were both praised by veteran Mongol Derby vet Cozy for their considerate riding and handling of the ponies on day two. Photo by Julian Herbert/Mongol Derby.

If you missed it, see our update on day one here.

Wildly unpredictable weather is one of the well-established hazards of the Mongol Derby, and this gremlin came out to show its ugly face to riders on day two. “Icy cold, hurricane-like conditions” so thick you couldn’t stand or see, and rising water levels all played a role in slowing some of the riders down to a near-crawl, but our own Leslie Wylie stayed on track to complete the next four checkpoints, ultimately stopping at Urtuu 7 for a night of dry rest.

Two riders, New Zealand’s Marie Palzer and Australia’s Ed Fernon, made it to Urtuu 8 before nightfall and currently share the lead. Leslie is now tied for second place with the four other riders who reached Urtuu 7.

At the conclusion of day two, Leslie is at Urtuu 7 with four other riders, one checkpoint behind the two riders currently sharing the lead.

Day Two Recap

With riders spread out across about 60 kilometers at various points on the course, weather varied significantly at the start of the day, allowing some of the riders at the back of the pack to get going at 7 a.m., while others — including Leslie — were held where they were because of torrential downpours that reduced visibility to only two feet. This compacted the field a bit, but ultimately riders at Urtuu 3 and beyond were finally given the green light around 7:30 a.m.

 

MW about to brave the elements. Note gentle breeze ruffling her jacket. Horses bound to love that...

 

 We’ve since learned from race organizers that Leslie stayed in a ger (Mongolian yurt) near the Golden Meadows Shopping Mall of Mongolia, so she was warm and dry overnight, though sadly missed her shot at a morning pastry chain run.

People obsessively watching the red dot known as LW were anxiously awaiting movement that didn’t come for hours before finally her GPS pinged again, showing her still at the top of the pack. When she finally reached the next checkpoint, her signaler was replaced, and this has since resolved her tracking issues moving forward.

Over the next several hours, a few riders made their move. Rebecca Pumphrey, a British talent agent better known as “Pixie,” led the pack for a brief period in the afternoon and is now one of Leslie’s overnight bunkmates at Urtuu 7.

Ed Fernon — a 29-year-old Australian Olympic Pentathlete, long distance rider and avid mountain summiteer — came out of seemingly nowhere to jump into the lead alongside Marie Palzer, a 22-year-old New Zealander who works as a horse trekking company guide. The two rode the last couple of checkpoints together and checked into Urtuu 8 with just minutes to spare.

The joint day two leaders: Marie Palzer (MP) on the left and Ed Fernon (EF) on the right. Photo by Julian Herbert/Mongol Derby.

Twenty-one riders have now been given time penalties, and all but one of those riders are ar least two checkpoints back from the leaders. One rider, Warren Sutton of Australia, has a 2-hour penalty in Urtuu 7 (the same checkpoint as Leslie) and he will be held for two hours at Urtuu 11 when he arrives there. All the others have a bit of catching up to do in addition to their time penalties, but it’s still a long race to go and anything can happen.

Noticeably, the riders at the front of the pack are succeeding not only at handling the weather, the horses and the mapping, but also their timing — knowing when to attempt a leap to the next safe stop and when to hunker down out of the harsh weather conditions. It will take all these skills and more to come out on top.

We were also especially pleased to see that the vet stationed at Urtuu 7 specifically mentioned Leslie and Rebecca for their top notch horsemanship on day two.

 

1952, from vet Cozy at U7: "Very proud of LW and RP riding. They're taking good care." Well done and keep it up, ladies.

Injury and Accident Assessment

There have been a handful of hardships out there. The most serious to report is Julia Fisher, a 65-year-old psycholinguist who fell from her horse near the first checkpoint suffered a suspected cracked a rib. She retired from the race and was transported to Ulaanbataar for a full medical evaluation and chest X-ray. We send our best thoughts to her for a full and speedy recovery.

Other trouble on course from day two included some shivering horses and riders who overnighted on the steppe and risked hypothermia; a lost sleeping bag (downright treacherous in these conditions); runaway mounts; and the first marmot hole victim, who went buns over teakettle but got right back on, no worse for the wear.

 

PG looking quite dapper earlier today, especially considering he took a hoof to the head just yesterday. What doesn’t kill you, eh? 

Almost all the riders made it to a checkpoint to have a safe, dry sleep tonight, though some will accrue time penalties for riding past the cut-off point in order to make it there. There are three riders who stopped between Urtuus to hunker down overnight, and we hope very much they found some shelter. We’re sending you guys warm thoughts!

Forecasts for tomorrow are looking MUCH better, with some of the checkpoints already appearing clear, and the western checkpoints clearing up at around 2 a.m. Mongolian time. That doesn’t mean the weather can’t change in an instant out on the steppe, but hopefully it gives all the riders a chance to dry out and cover some ground.

 

 As the day carries on for us and night envelopes the riders on the other side of the globe, we find Wylie’s husband Tommy’s words very poignant: “Each dot on the map, from the front of the pack to the back, is somebody’s pride and joy — inspiring their loved ones back home and risking practically everything to chase a dream.”

It’s an incredible and diverse array of riders, and we’re crossing our fingers for safe rides for all. We send our appreciation to the event organizers and the local families and horsemen who are watching out for the riders and horses.

Go Wylie!

Jenni Autry contributed to this report.

  • Arthur Bobinski

Wylie vs. the Mongol Derby, Powered by Fleeceworks: Leslie Leads Day 1!

Fleeceworks is a proud supporter of Eventing Nation's Leslie Wylie's participation in the Mongol Derby.

From Eventing Nation....In August 2017 writer/rider Leslie Wylie is attempting her most fearsome feat of #YOLO yet: a 620-mile race across Mongolia. Riding 27 semi-wild native horses. Carrying only 11 pounds of gear. Relying on nomads for food, water and shelter. On a mission to help stop deforestation.

Held Aug. 9-19, the Mongol Derby is widely regarded as the toughest horse race in the world. Inspired by the Genghis Khan’s original “pony express,” there’s no trail or set route, just 25 GPS checkpoints/horse exchange stations to hit over the course of 7-10 days. Keep it here for updates on Leslie’s ride of a lifetime! Click here to read previous stories in the series.

Leslie Wylie leaving horse station 2 on day 1 of the 2017 Mongol Derby. Picture by Julian Herbert/Mongol Derby/The Adventurists.

The entire team at Nation Media (Eventing Nation, Horse Nation and Jumper Nation) agreed early this morning that we all slept terribly last night. Kristen had nightmares about the Mongolian steppe, while Lorraine was tossing and turning in half-state of wakefulness, imagining she was trying to remember how exactly a compass works. Our ferocious, never-pick-a-fight-with-that-one editor at EN Jenni Autry admits that even she got a little misty-eyed this morning, as we all did when we saw this:

All of us woke up to see our own Leslie Wylie well out in front on day 1 at the Mongol Derby!

The ponies set off at at 10 a.m. Mongolian time (10 p.m. EST last night) from that little green flag, and 12 hours later, that little red dot at the front of the pack is our very own Leslie Wylie.

She was the only rider to make it to the third checkpoint in time to get vetted, supply up, and move on before the official end of day one, when all riders must dismount and camp for the night. This means that Leslie will have a good head start on the competition going into day two, and also means that she’ll be sleeping on the steppe with only her hobbled pony for company.

Leslie Wylie arriving at horse station 2 on day 1 of the 2017 Mongol Derby. Photo by Julian Herbert/Mongol Derby/The Adventurists.

Kristen and I mused over whether or not sleeping in the wide open landscape of an ancient rural nation was lonely or incredible, and ultimately opted for incredible. No light pollution, no snoring competitors, and a whole new skyscape to stare at before drifting off to sleep for the next incredible day’s journey. (Not to mention the morale boost of being in the lead!)

Leslie’s camping spot for the first night.

Then we zoomed in on her camping spot for the night only to discover that she made it to at least some form of civilization, at least by Mongolian standards. We doubt the Golden Meadows Shopping Mall has a P.F. Chang’s, but it’s far better than sleeping exposed to the elements out on the steppe!

Timeline of Day One

All of the riders completed two days of training with much success, and reports on the ground say it’s a reserved and focused group of riders. Leslie is probably saving her wine for later, as we can assume from this report.

(That’s our own LW in the black SmartPak coat!)

The competitors wrapped up race preparations in prayer with the local lamas, who prayed for a safe journey for all horses and humans.

It was a gorgeous day on the steppe to start the race, with heavy rain moving through briefly in the early afternoon, but appearing to let up in the overnight hours. On the outset, it looks like the horses were ready to run, and we can’t wait to see what other ponies will make appearances in the weeks to come. According to one of the on-site vets, they’re a “strapping set” to get going!

So far, no major problems to report on course for any of the riders. There has been one reported injury so far. Pierre Germaine from Owings Mills, Maryland had to get stitches on his face, but got right back in the saddle and pushed on.

Early on, riders had the choice of following the course over a fairly intense ridge, or going a longer flatter route, and it appears the riders who stayed the course but took on the elevation change (including Leslie) made out better, arriving at the first checkpoint ahead of the long flat routers.

All of the riders have made it to at least the first checkpoint, with 13 riders bunked in at Urtuu #2,  eight riders stopped at Urtuu #3, (nine if you count the one who appears slightly lost to the south) and another dozen or so camped somewhere out on the steppe.

There were a handful of penalties assigned at the end of day one, as well: Eleven veterinary penalties were issued to riders for “speedy riding and rather daring navigation.” They will get two hours of penalty time each, where they’ll be required to wait two extra hours at checkpoint #11 whenever they arrive there. Two riders received a late penalty for continuing on 30 minutes after the cut-off time at 8:30. They had initially planned to camp, then changed their minds and gone on to station 3. They will be penalized three hours each.

According to the organizers, it’s not unusual for riders to get penalties in the first couple of days as they learn to navigate the terrain, judge their horses better, and estimate time and distance. Then usually the penalties drop off quite a bit.

With the 12-hour time difference from Mongolia to the East Coast, we get underway again later tonight at around 10 p.m. EST.

As you’re following along, here’s some things we’re learning about how the live GPS trackingworks:

  • You can click each dot to see who the participant is, how far they’ve traveled, their average speed, and if they’ve uploaded information ahead of time, some of their biography.
  • At a specified hour, all competitors — whether on course or stopped at a checkpoint — have to stop moving forward and hunker down until morning.
  • Occasionally, the GPS devices seem to be going offline and then pinging again later on. This is why it looks like some competitors are traveling in straight lines, when in fact, they’re twisting and turning through canyons, hill country, and around rivers and lakes.
  • The Mongol Derby Live Updates on Twitter are the best moment-by-moment info during the race. They’re using initials for riders to make things easier. Leslie’s call sign is LW. You can get a full list of abbreviations here.

Leslie’s progress as of 6:15 EST this morning (the red dot). Despite fan theories that she had taught her pony to fly, it’s more likely that her GPS tracker went offline slightly before pinging again, giving her the appearance of some incredibly straight direction of travel.

We’ll continue to bring you daily updates from the Mongol trail. You can also follow along via Mongol Derby Twitter (Leslie’s call sign is LW) for live updates. Track the riders via GPS here. Go Wylie!

  • Judy McSwain

Your Passport to Rebecca Farm, the Disney World of Cross Country Courses

By  on 

Welcome to Rebecca Farm. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Rebecca Farm is truly the Disney World of cross country courses. Each jump is a work of art in and of itself, no theme too farfetched, and stringing them together must feel like a thrill ride roller-coaster of color and shape.

From jumps inspired by Montana’s own unique wildlife …

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

… to creatures of the more extinct variety.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

A Rebecca Farm classic is the final Louisiana themed water complex, a nod to the late Rebecca and Jerome Broussard’s home in the deep south before they relocated to Montana in the mid-’80s.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

And the vignettes playing homage to western frontier life are so ornate, you almost feel like you could live in them.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Even ordinary tables are photogenic thanks to dramatic, crayon box hued backdrops of sapphire sky and softly billowing green.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

From start to finish, you won’t find a more creative, more breathtaking course anywhere in the world.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Playing the role of Walt Disney is designer Ian Stark, with mad genius builder Bert Wood and his dream factory working in tandem to bring Ian’s imaginings to fruition. In this cross country preview from Ride on Video Ian takes us on a tour of the course:

May all of today’s competitors enjoy a safe, fun ride. Go Rebecca Farm. Go Eventing!

For more on Rebecca Farm, and all things eventing, go to Eventing Nation.

  • Judy McSwain

Snapshots From Rebecca Farm Endurance Day

  • Arthur Bobinski

California Gurls Heather Morris & Tamie Smith Win All the Dressage Things at Rebecca Farm

By  on  - 1,568 views

To quote the great sage of our time Katy Perry: “California gurls, we’re undeniable. Fine, fresh, fierce, we’ve got it on lock. West coast represent, now put your hands up. Ooh oh ooh. Ooh oh ooh.”

Cali besties Heather Morris and Tamie Smith of Next Level Eventing were undeniable, and indomitable, in the two- and three-star divisions here at Rebecca Farm today. Ooh oh … etc.

The two are used to cheering for one another, even when they’re in the same division.

“If I don’t win I want her to win,” Tamie says, to which Heather adds, “… and vice versa.”

Heather Morris and Charlie Tango. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Both are winning today. Heather staked out the top of the CCI3* dressage leaderboard on Charlie Tango, a 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Team Express Group, with whom she won the CCI2* here two years ago.

Warming up for their test, Heather says she felt like the wheels were coming off. “I got all flustered and I went into the ring flustered and I thought it was awful, and then Tamie was like ‘It was good’ and I was like ‘No it was awful,'” she says.

Their score of 46.1 indicates it was not, in fact, awful.

Of Ian Stark’s cross country course, Heather says that there’s a lot to do out there. The pair finished second at their last CIC3* outing at Galway Downs earlier this year, and we look forward to watching them get the job done tomorrow.

Tamie Smith and Fleeceworks Royal. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Meanwhile, Tamie sits atop the CIC3* dressage throne with Fleeceworks Royal, an 8-year-old Holsteiner mare owned by Judy McSwain. The pair scored a 42.6, and unlike Heather, Tamie knew immediately that it was a good test, dropping the reins and giving “Rory” a big hug after their final salute.

“I was thrilled,” she says. “She was really wonderful … We have a great partnership and it’s been really fun to see how far she’s come.”

Tamie is also fifth in the 14-horse CIC3* division on Wishbone, and has the top two spots in the CCI2* with Sunsprite Syrius and Glock Pullman respectively.

Both Heather and Tamie have been big supporters of The Event at Rebecca Farm from the get-go, making the solid 24-hour trek from Temecula, California, to Kalispell each year to contest the event, usually with a big crew in tow.

“The changes every year are huge, and just when you think it can’t get any better it always does,” Tamie says. “Leave it to Sarah and Jerome (Broussard) to make it that much better every time. It’s a special event.”

Rebecca Farm CCI3* Dressage Top 5:

Rebecca Farm CIC3* Dressage Top 5:

Rebecca Farm CCI2* Dressage Top 5:

Rebecca Farm CCI1* Dressage Top 5:

Much more to come. Go Eventing!

#RebeccaFarm: WebsiteScheduleRide Times & Live ScoresNAJYRC Ride Times & Live ScoringLive StreamEN’s CoverageEN’s Instagram

From Eventing Nation.