Erin vs The Derby

And so begins my wildest adventure yet...

I have been selected as one of 40 riders to compete in the longest and toughest horse race in the world, the Mongol Derby. In August 2019, I will embark on this insane trip-of-a-lifetime. The race is just over 600 miles across the Mongolian steppe, tracing the route of Genghis Khann’s 1224 postal system. Here’s the catch… we have 10 days to complete the race on half-feral Mongolian horses with only 11 pounds of gear. For those who don’t already know, yes, I am crazy.

We are likely to encounter every and all types of terrain and weather from open ranges to rivers, rocks and rolling hills and from blistering heat to ice cold, rain and hail. Then there are the horses, semi-broke... getting bucked off is almost inevitable when you're spending 13-hour days in the saddle with these power-houses. But I laugh in the face of danger (10 points if you got that Lion King reference).

An endurance ride of this scale calls for quite a few seriously sturdy horses. I will be riding approximately 25 different (half-feral) diminutive and fearless Mongolian horses through the 620 miles of Mongolian wilderness. Here's how it works:

From the starting line, each rider covers about 22-28 miles to the checkpoint at which your next steed is waiting for you. There are 25 different horse stations or utruus that riders must navigate to. Once you and your horse arrive at the urtuu, the horse must pass a thorough vet check, making sure it was a safe and healthy leg of the race. Next, our altruistic Mongolian horsemen help in the attempt to saddle up your next mount and hold it down while you pray that you can actually get (and stay) on the bucking bronc... Once/if you're on, you do your best to point it in the direction of your next checkpoint and hang on, hoping you don't get tossed, lose your kit and have to walk the remaining 22 miles on foot.

Why TF am I doing this?

Here's the deal- every year I try to complete a challenge, do something totally outside of my comfort zone, i.e. 2018 I competed in my first body building competition, 2017 I learned how to play polo and tried my hand at horse archery, 2016 I ran my first half marathon. And so it goes. This is cheesy and embarrassing but in my 9th grade history class (S/O Mr. Scott) we had to watch a movie for a project and I chose The Shawshank Redemption (which is still one of my favorite movies) and one specific line really resonated with me... "Get busy living or get busy dying" - Andy Dufresne... and that's how I have chosen to live my life.

So here we are. 


Enough about me, let's get down to business. I am using this insane race as an initiative to raise money for local Therapeutic Riding Programs which offer equine-assisted activities and therapies for individuals with special needs. As a kid working away at the barn, I spent many hours volunteering for our local therapeutic riding organization and watched as kids and adults with special needs lives were changed by horses, right before my eyes. They are truly incredible animals and I feel that this is my time to give back. Running an equestrian program, often times operated entirely by volunteers is no easy feat. That is why I am giving 100% of proceeds after the cost of the race and expenses to these programs.

So where is all your hard-earned cash going?

The Mongol Derby costs a whopping $14,229.27, not including my flight, gear and insurance.

Crazy, I know, but the Derby cost helps give back to Mongolian families whose unmatched generosity with their beloved horses and their homes makes the race possible. Along with the families, part of this entry fee goes to Cool Earth, a charity that works alongside indigenous villages to stop rainforest destruction. Here's a tough pill to swallow: Half, that's right, HALF of the world's rainforest has been lost over the past *40 years*. The rapid depletion of trees lowers levels of carbon dioxide (not to mention, also destroys the homes of millions of adorable rainforest creatures) and increases the effects of global warming. Cool Earth is working tirelessly on the frontlines of deforestation to stop that trend. 

Here's the remainder of the breakdown while you let that rainforest info sink in:

The Horses- riders compete on anywhere from 25-27 different horses, plus 3 for training, all of which are managed by around 150 nomadic Mongolian herders 

The Support- a full team of vets, medics, and the race crew (to ensure the race is run smoothly and safely)

Pre-race Training- three days of medical briefing, veterinary briefing, technical training, and getting to know the Mongolian horse breed, both on the steppe and in the classroom.

But that's not all,
With the help of the amazing race crew, you get to follow me on this journey with live tracking. Double bonus, you'll probably get to see me eat sh*t a time or two.

All joking aside, I will be absolutely indebted to you if you are able to contribute to my cause and the charitable mission. One million thanks! <3

  • Anonymous 
    • $50 
    • 26 mos
  • Melissa Rose 
    • $25 
    • 26 mos
  • Siobhan Griffin  
    • $25 
    • 26 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • $25 
    • 26 mos
  • Constance Campbell 
    • $25 
    • 27 mos
See all


Erin Nagle 
Petaluma, CA
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