Monday, 10 October 2011

Living the dream

For as long as I've wanted to ride the Trans-Siberian railway (over 10 years now), I've wanted to go horse-riding in Mongolia. The thought of galloping across the steppe astride a half-wild Mongolian mare... well, it's been a dream of mine for years.

Which is why, within two hours of arriving in Ulanbataar, Sammy and I were in a car heading out to the countryside - to a tiny ger camp in the Bogd Khan Uul Strictly Protected Area.

Rush hour on the steppe
Sammy and I got our own beautiful little ger all to ourselves...

Home sweet home
But as gorgeous as the camp was, and as extraordinary as the views were, I was there for one reason, and one reason only: to saddle up, and head into the hills.

Mongolian horses are incredible creatures - left to mill around in herds much of the time, and still very much wild creatures at heart, but tamed just enough to accept a saddle and a rider from time to time.
You can ride me, but first you'll have to catch me...
They're also tiny. Not Shetland pony tiny, but pretty small nonetheless. Which means that anyone over about 6 foot tall looks... well, let's just say it - looks completely ridiculous, when teetering on top of such a slender creature.
I think I might be taller when standing up...
But none of that matters - because every ounce of these little horses is pure, go-faster Mongolian muscle. When they gallop, it takes your breath away. Not least because you have (at best) a limited say in what direction they go...

So here's a 30 second video, kindly taken by an amazing Mongolian rider named Pujhai, of me finally living my dream - galloping across the steppe, at the speed of a crazy-strong Mongolian mare. No two ways about it, I look like a total dork. But my goodness - did the reality ever live up to my dreams...


  1. OMG do you even know how to ride? Are these horses trained to have idiot tourists on thier backs?

    Love the Ger - glad you lived the dream. This is quite a trip - very different to going to the South of France!

  2. I love riding horses! Especially in new places - have ridden across Moroccan beaches and Malawian plains... Mum took James and I for lessons when we were little - though it was all buttoned-up old ladies refusing to let you do anything but trot for ten hours of lessons. I much prefer the Developing World approach to riding lessons -
    - Get on horse
    - Nudge horse in ribs
    - Hold on tight...

    Of course, that didn't stop me having some, er, gravitational issues... Stay tuned for an update on that!