Tryondailybulletin.com - Full Article
By Judy Heinrich
October 2 2017
Regular readers of Appointments will remember that we recently featured endurance rider Marianne Williams of Tryon, who was heading off to compete in the Mongol Derby. Deemed “the longest and toughest horse race in the world” by the Guinness Book of Records, the Derby gives riders up to 10 days to cover 621 miles across high passes, open valleys, wooded hills, floodplains and the expansive grassland “Steppe” that covers much of Mongolia. And they do it all on a changing cast of semi-wild Mongolian horses who are switched out every 25 miles, first-come, first-served.
Derby organizers are blunt in telling would-be competitors that they stand a high chance of being seriously injured during the race. And that’s what happened to Marianne, who fortunately lived to tell the tale.
“I had been riding for four days, and had already covered about 350 miles,” she recalls. “The variety of terrain was just amazing. We would be riding in the desert but looking at snow-capped peaks. One day we’d have 80-degree temperatures and the next we’d have 30 mile-per-hour winds and sleet hitting you on the left for two-thirds of the ride and full in the face for the rest. And we rode through herds of wild horses, goats and sheep along the way.
“There were probably 40 horses to choose from at every station, with a mixture of good, poor, and some just plain evil. I had one that kept wanting to throw me off – it did throw me off twice. Then I had a stallion when I was riding with a group of five people, and he and I went out front and led the group the whole day, with the reins down on his neck.”
But as unpredictable as the horses could be, it was a much smaller animal that ended Marianne’s ride: a Mongolian Marmot, a relative of our very own domestic groundhog. Actually many marmots were probably involved, since it was a tunnel system they’d built which collapsed under Marianne’s horse. Both horse and rider fell, and Marianne was knocked unconscious and had her left clavicle broken in four places...
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