WATCH: An Inside Look at the World's Longest, Most Dangerous Horse Race

Jo Piazza
Managing Editor
August 15, 2014

Horseback riding is one of the world’s most dangerous sports, and Mongolia might be one of the more dangerous places to do it. For those reasons alone, the Mongol Derby could be one of the craziest adventures voluntarily undertaken in the world. 

This isn’t your average horse race. (Photo: The Adventurists)

And yet, people pay more than $13,340 for the privilege to do it. 

Billed as the longest and toughest horse race in the world, the Mongol Derby recreates Genghis Khan’s legendary 1,000 km postal system, with riders changing horses every 40 km and living with herders or camping under the stars.

It sure isn’t easy to follow in the footsteps of Ghengis Khan. (Photo: The Adventurists)

To stand a chance of finishing, riders must balance survival skills and horsemanship.

The race ends on Friday August 15. All riders are expected to finish the race in 10 days or to quit the race altogether. This year’s winner, Sam Jones, is a mining operative from Australia and finished in just eight days.

The winning lady, Sam Jones.  (Photo: The Adventurists)

Jones, 40, rode alone for most of the race. She is the sixth derby winner, only the second female champion, and the first from Australia

Related: The Perfect Adventure Travel Bag

At the end of the day this is a race against yourself.  (Photo: The Adventurists)

What did she win? 


“When people start the race, they generally think they are going to try to win, but by the end they are just trying to finish. The biggest prize is bragging rights,” explained Joolz Ingram, one of the founders of The Adventurists, the group that organizes this race and other out-of-the-box adventures around the world.

Related: 9 Ways to Survive Dating an Adventure Dude

Mongolian horses are anything but tame.  (Photo: The Adventurists)

Each year, the Adventurists rent more than 1,200 horses from local herders. Mongolian horses are small, strong, and fast. They can withstand temperatures between minus 40 degrees Celsius and 40 degrees Celsius and can live on very little water and terribly bad food. Simply put, they’re badasses, and you need to be a badass to ride them. They’re rarely tied up, and many of them simply roam wild along the Mongolia steppe.

Related: Your Adventurous Bucket List for 2015

The race is open to all qualified riders.  (Photo: The Adventurists)

These riders experience their fair share of cuts and bruises and the occasional broken bone. They are required to have comprehensive sports medical insurance, and for good reason. This year, there were two medical evacuations, one for a broken clavicle and the other for a broken hand. One rider was kicked in the face by a horse.

Injuries are common and completely expected.  (Photo: The Adventurists)

The Adventurists are purveyors of excitement and adventure, and the group organizes chaotic, bold undertakings around the globe, including the Ice Run, which involves riding a vintage motorcycle and sidecar 2,000 km along a frozen river in the Siberian wilderness, and the Rickshaw Run, a  3,500 km pan-Indian adventure in what the group describes as “a 7 horsepower glorified lawnmower.” 

A different kind of race with rickshaws in India.  (Photo: The Adventurists)

“We are the world’s greatest purveyors of chaos is how we like to put it,” explained Ingram. “We like to encourage people to do things a little bit outside of guided tours and package holidays. The idea is that when things can potentially go a little wrong, you are experiencing life more.”

If you want to apply for the 2015 Mongol Derby, you can throw your hat in the ring here. The number of riders in the race is limited, and spots are offered only after an interview. 

Want more like this? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter so that we can inspire you every day.