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Kelsey's Mongol Derby for Blackburn

$24,500 of $20,000 goal

Raised by 108 people in 9 months
I have done some weird and adventurous things in my life, but this one is by far the craziest.

On August 8 to 17, I will be one of 40 riders participating in the Mongol Derby, which is the world’s longest and toughest horse race and is contested on the backs of half-broke Mongolian horses across 1000 km of the Outer Mongolian steppe. Over 10 days, we riders will have to navigate our way through 25 horse stations using GPS, maps and our wits (there is no marked path) in a course that is a recreation of Chinggis Khaan’s world-first long-distance postal system set up in 1224. We are likely to encounter all types of terrain and weather–open valleys, river crossings, rolling hills, heat, cold, rain, hail–not to mention being bucked off, extreme chafing from 13-hour days in the saddle, and being chased by wild dogs. We will carry just 11 pounds of kit with us and won’t have access to showers while out on the course.



Now, why in my right mind would I want to do this, you ask?

Well, first of all, let’s be clear, I wouldn’t exactly say I’m in my right mind!

Second, I have always set out to live the most interesting life possible. The Mongol Derby appeals to me because it offers a chance to immerse oneself for a brief period in one of the last truly nomadic cultures on earth. And, considering only about half the riders each year finish the race, it is a terrific challenge that few can boast to have accomplished.




Third, and most important, I’m going to use the Mongol Derby as an initiative to give back to Thoroughbred racehorses by raising money for the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s Second Chances Program at the Blackburn Correctional Complex . Blackburn, based in my home city of Lexington, Kentucky, sees minimum security inmates rehabilitate and care for off-track Thoroughbreds. Not only does the program provide a respite and a life after racing for the Thoroughbreds, but it gives back to the local community by providing inmates with a renewed sense of responsibility and skill set that they can take with them when they leave the prison. Read about recent Blackburn success story Z Camelot in the TDN , and also about my visit to Blackburn .



Working in the Thoroughbred racing industry has allowed me to live the most incredible life, and I owe everything to these animals. I can’t think of a better reason to do this.

So, the financials. As you can imagine for such an epic adventure, the Mongol Derby is not cheap. The entry fee of $12,995 will cover all costs once I arrive in Mongolia, including the use of horses, tack, food, pre-race training and a tracking device so you can follow me from the comfort of your lounge chair. It also goes toward the race crew, medics, and the local Mongolians who are so kindly allowing us to use their horses. It does not include flights to and from Mongolia, equipment I’ll need to purchase for the adventure, travel insurance, etc. The funds raised will be split halfway between Blackburn and covering costs of the trip. However, if and when 50% of the funds raised goes beyond the $12,995 entry fee, all remaining money raised goes straight to Blackburn.

So, for all these many good reasons, I will be absolutely indebted to you if you can contribute to my cause.
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Hello Mongol Derby donors and supporters! First of all, apologies for not posting an update sooner; I’ve actually really struggled to write something about the experience that you would be able to read within the time it took me to ride the race, there is that much to talk about, and I’m honestly still digesting it all two weeks after finishing the ride.

I have a few projects in the pipeline, first a video project that will hopefully come out early September where I answer everyone’s Mongol Derby questions. So if you have any of those, please email/text/call/carrier pigeon/smoke signal...pony express?! them to me. The other is a big written feature in the TDN Weekend that will come out in December. I’ve already posted a bunch of my GoPro videos on Facebook and Instagram, and I’ve made them public on Facebook so you can check them out.

In a nutshell, I finished the Mongol Derby on August 16, riding 29 horses over 1015 kilometres (630 miles) in 7 1/2 days. I finished 16th of 36 finishers, 44 total riders. I was very fortunate to have no falls and no injuries, although I battled sore knees from day two onwards and had some disagreements with the Mongolian diet at times! The Mongol Derby was brutally awful, and equally the most amazing thing I’ve ever done. I never imagined those two things could be so wholly combined. I met so many crazy, inspiring people and even more amazing horses; I saw the most spectacular landscapes in the world the best way possible, atop galloping horses; I had some incredible cultural experiences with the Mongols and was reminded that “less” really is so much more; I learned how much overcoming physical adversity is in the mind (A LOT of it); and I experienced the greatest thrill and feeling of accomplishment in my life when crossing the finish line. The only feeling that’s been equal to it for me is the day I got accepted to Flying Start; I can’t separate them.

I have dreamed about the Mongol Derby every night since finishing, so I’ve ridden about another 1000 kilometres in my sleep (maybe that’s why I’m still so tired?!). I’ve spent a lot of time pondering what I could have done differently, but that’s another beauty of the experience; there are so many variables out there that the Mongol Derby teaches us that we just have to let go and what will be will be. That isn’t an easy thing to do.

Thank you all again for your support; the kindness I’ve seen during the fundraising aspect of this journey has been equally as life-changing as the race itself. Keep an eye out for my upcoming media updates and please do get in touch if you have any questions–I LOVE talking about the Mongol Derby!

Love,
Kelsey
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Hey awesome donors! Before I take off tomorrow I wanted to say a huge thanks again for your support—it means more to me than I’ll ever be able to express! If you want to track my journey through Mongolia on August 8 to 17, check out the following link, and be sure to click through to their Twitter page, too—you may just see a photo of yours truly looking all badass and awesome! (That’s code for dirty, starving and exhausted)

https://blogging.theadventurists.com/map/adventure/mongolderby18
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What's in the saddle bag? I've spent eight months obsessing over what will be included as part of my five kilos (11 pounds) of kit for the Mongol Derby. Check out what's coming with me in eight days!
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$24,500 of $20,000 goal

Raised by 108 people in 9 months
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