Forty two international riders have set off on the 2023 Mongol Derby, each vying to win the 10-day long-distance challenge, billed as the “world’s toughest horse race”. Riding semi-wild horses, participants will swap steeds every 40km, covering a total of 1,000km of Mongolian steppe.

The 12th edition of the race brings together riders from 11 countries – the USA, UK, Spain, Kenya, Sweden, Germany, Pakistan, Australia, Ireland, Philippines, and Canada – from former eventers to firefighters.

Hailing from a variety of equestrian backgrounds, the riders are united by their love for horses and challenging adventures. Among this year’s contenders, is Trinity Nelzen, who is following in her late father’s footsteps, who triumphed in the Mongol Derby a decade ago.

The riders set off on Thursday (3 August) under cloudy and cool skies, with the horses feeling in high-spirits.

“The feisty horses had their own ideas about what constitutes a good time, causing a few spills and thrills which added spice to an already charged atmosphere at the start line,” said a Mongol Derby spokesman. “Just a taste of what is to come over the next 10 days as these riders will change horses at each of the 28 horse stations: no two rides will be the same which is about as close to a certainty as we can get in this race.”

However, the opening of the ride wasn’t without reward, and racers were treated to stunning vistas and wildlife-spotting opportunities, including roaming gazelle and deer.

“They crossed rivers, skirted mountains and rode across vast open spaces without a fence line to be seen. They can expect more of this feast for the senses as their journey of 1,000km will take them through the diverse and incredible landscape that Mongolia has to offer.”

Images by Mongol Derby

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