Wylie vs. The 2017 Mongol Derby

$11,098 of $12,995 goal

Raised by 107 people in 31 months
Rider/writer Leslie Wylie has done some pretty crazy crap in the name of #YOLO, inspiring equestrians and non-equestrians alike around the world with her go-for-the-gusto stories. Tens of thousands of readers have tuned into the websites Horse Nation , Eventing Nation and Jumper Nation to vicariously ride along on her harrowing/hilarious adventures.

From foxhunting with British nobility (see busted nose in photo above) to tolting Icelandic ponies on the side of a volcano to finding herself amidst a drug lord scuffle during the Rio Olympic test event , with Leslie you never quite know what is going to happen next. For her next trick, however, she's giving us a little advance warning -- and she is asking for our help.

In August 2017, Leslie will be attempting her most fearsome feat yet: a 620-mile race across Mongolia. Riding 25 semi-wild native horses. Carrying only 11 pounds of gear. Relying on nomads for food, water and shelter. On a mission to help stop deforestation. 

The Mongol Derby is widely regarded as the toughest horse race in the world. Inspired by the Genghis Khan's original "pony express," there's no trail or set route, just 25 GPS checkpoints/horse exchange stations to hit over the course of 7-10 days.

Make no mistake: in Leslie's lengthy history of bad ideas, this is hands-down her worst one yet.

Of 40 international starters, selected from hundreds of applicants, historically only about half finish the race. Last year a couple folks got airlifted to Hong Kong with serious injuries, and the winner doesn't even remember a couple days of the race because she was concussed from being trampled. A couple years before that eight riders were held up by motorcycle bandits. Even the luckiest riders come home with horror stories of being bucked off, chafed by 13-hour days in the saddle, chapped by the elements, and chased by dogs.

Why would anyone in their right mind want embark on this sort of journey? Well, for starters, let's be clear: Leslie isn't quite right in the head.

(And also, sometimes literally in over her head.) 

But this time around, at least, her insanity is for a noble cause. Each Derby competitor's $12,995 entry helps give back to Mongolian families, whose generosity with their horses and their homes makes the race possible, as well as Cool Earth , a charity that works alongside indigenous villages to halt rainforest destruction. Not-fun fact: Half the world's rainforest has been lost over the past 40 years, and Cool Earth is working on the frontlines of deforestation to stop that trend.

Riding feral ponies on a mission to save the world/make life in general less boring ... sounds like just the job for Leslie. But to get it done she needs a support crew, and that's where you come in. The race is expensive -- $12,995 entry fee + $2,500 airfare + gear + insurance + training + rabies shot + inner thigh reconstructive surgery + etc. -- and Leslie is calling upon your love and support. 

Want to ride vicariously alongside Leslie on her Mongolian adventure? Pledge your support toward her entry and the big-hearted charitable mission it represents, and she'll pack you in her saddlebag -- metaphorically, at least.

Donation perks: 

Any donation: Regular updates on Leslie's Road to Mongolia and her undying gratitude! 

$25 & up: Above, plus a postcard from Mongolia.

$100 & up: Above, plus a very special Mongolian treasure and a shout-out on EN, HN and JN.

$200 & up: Above, plus she will name a Mongolian pony after you, whisper your name in its ear as they gallop across the Mongolian steppe, and send you a lock of its mane, photos, and a handwritten diary entry from their leg of the Derby.

$500 & up: Above, plus she will leave one of her horses to you in her will. In the event that she doesn't die, other surprise benefits to be determined. 

Corporate sponsorships are also available and include ad space on EN, HN and JN, product reviews and usage during the Derby, your logo on her stinky Derby attire, donation to additional charity, and much more. Email Leslie at wylie@horsenation.com for details.

Any donations received in excess of Mongol Derby expenses will be donated to Cool Earth.
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I leave for Mongolia in four days, what?!? Things have been a whirlwind of late, most recently whisking me away to Montana for 10 days split between covering The Event at Rebecca Farm and going on a five-day pack trip in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area with Swan Mountain Outfitters. It was an incredible experience, which I'll get to work writing about as soon as I catch my breath, and the perfect pre-Derby final boot camp. I knew the Derby was going to be an adventure, but I had no way of knowing what an adventure the leadup to this race was going to be in and of itself!

While I was off the grid I handed the reins of my "Wylie vs. the Mongol Derby" column to my husband Tommy. He's a talented writer, an intrepid thinker and obviously the most supportive partner a tornado like me could wish for! Here are the links:



I've got a lot of writing to catch up on and I can't wait to bring you all along as the final countdown to the race begins. Thank you all for your generous support, and for believing in me. Let's do this thing!

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The Derby is less than a month away, and many miles to go between now and then! This week's column is part II of "Don't Mess with Texas," recapping the grand finale of my (attempted) 100-mile endurance adventure with Derby veteran Devan Horn. Next up I'll get around to recapping my inspiring weekend with the "Steel Magnolias" of the 2017 Mongol Derby in Tryon, NC -- so much going on, I'm going to have to start doubling up on updates!

Eventing Nation: http://eventingnation.com/wylie-vs-the-mongol-derby-powered-by-smartpak-dont-mess-with-texas-part-ii/

Horse Nation: http://www.horsenation.com/2017/07/07/wylie-vs-the-mongol-derby-powered-by-smartpak-dont-mess-with-texas-part-ii/

Jumper Nation: http://jumpernation.com/wylie-vs-the-mongol-derby-powered-by-smartpak-dont-mess-with-texas-part-ii/

Thanks so much for all your support: Between you guys and corporate sponsorship, I ALMOST have my entry fee covered, which goes to benefit Cool Earth, a charity working with indigenous communities to stop rainforest destruction. So if you can pass the word along, please do! You guys are making this happen, each and every one of you, and you better believe that I will never, ever forget your kindness.

'17 Derbyist Liv Wood and I in Texas!
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Hey friends!

It's been a whirlwind past few weeks. I got back from covering the Luhmühlen CCI4* in Germany and then a couple days later was headed off again to Houston for a weekend of training with two-time Derby veteran and all-around superhuman Devan Horn. I chronicled that adventure in last week's column (see links below), to be continued this week.

Jumper Nation: http://jumpernation.com/wylie-vs-the-mongol-derby-powered-by-smartpak-dont-mess-with-texas-part-i/
Horse Nation: http://www.horsenation.com/2017/06/29/wylie-vs-the-mongol-derby-powered-by-smartpak-dont-mess-with-texas-part-i/
Eventing Nation: http://eventingnation.com/wylie-vs-the-mongol-derby-powered-by-smartpak-dont-mess-with-texas-part-i/

Then this week I loaded up Princess and we headed to Tryon, NC, where four fellow Derby competitors were convening for a retreat. I had a jump lesson with Amy Barrington in the a.m. then had a lovely ride in South Mountains State Park with the Derby crew in the afternoon -- Princess loved it and they may have convinced me to a 25-mile endurance ride at Biltmore in September?! More on those incredible and inspiring ladies soon.

Thank you all for your support! It means the world to me. Have a fantastic 4th of July weekend!!!

Go Riding,


My best"Man from Snowy River" impression
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Dear sweet supportive friends,

Well, the past couple weeks have been ones of highs and lows, literally. It started with a two-day, 30+ mile backpacking hike with my friend and fellow slightly mad horsegirl Tally in the Smoky Mountains. It felt good to be surrounded by such quiet beauty, and it was useful exercise in putting one foot in front of the other, over and over again, even when the going gets tough.

Later than week, I had to call on that same mentality to weather a different challenge, this time emotional rather than physical. My sweet retired event horse Esprit colicked, badly. Laying him to rest was at once a difficult decision, because of how much it hurt, and an easy one. He owed me nothing, and I owed it to him to make sure he got the happy, comfortable final chapter of his life he deserved and a peaceful send-off when it came his time. He put his head on my lap and I talked to him and thanked him for everything he'd given my over the years. I reassured him that he was OK, and I could see in his eyes that while he didn't know what was happening he trusted me. We couldn't have asked for a more perfect goodbye.

We buried him on the farm beneath a beautiful morning sun, and I spent the rest of the day nearby, taking Princess for a bareback trail ride and gathering up my things for River Glen Horse Trials the following day. There was never any question in my mind about whether or not I should compete -- of course, it would have been a disservice to Esprit not to. Princess was perfect, and I was surrounded by friends and family all offering their hugs and support. To all of you who have sent love my way this week, thank you. We've all lost animals we loved deeply, and the embrace of your understanding means more to me than you know.

Tuesday of this week, I put one foot in front of the other yet again, flying out to cover the Luhmühlen CCI4* in Germany for Eventing Nation. Cross country is tomorrow; here's wishing everyone a safe, successful ride! And, of course, go U.S.A.!

I hope you enjoy my latest "Wylie vs. the Mongol Derby" column. Writing it brought a little much needed joy and humor into my life this week! Here are the links:

Eventing Nation: http://eventingnation.com/wylie-vs-the-mongol-derby-what-could-possibly-go-wrong-part-ii/
Horse Nation: http://www.horsenation.com/2017/06/16/wylie-vs-the-mongol-derby-what-could-possibly-go-wrong-part-ii/
Jumper Nation: http://jumpernation.com/wylie-vs-the-mongol-derby-what-could-possibly-go-wrong-part-ii/

Mountaintop, nailed it!
Saying goodbye to my sweet Esprit
Princess giving pony rides at the show
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$11,098 of $12,995 goal

Raised by 107 people in 31 months
Created December 27, 2016
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Travis Atkins
11 months ago

Impressive story Good Luck !

Janice Johnson
23 months ago

been watching you on the steppes. IT has been thrilling. I am pretty much a pauper but had a bit of good fortune today. Maybe more later

Pam White
23 months ago

Thank you for allowing us to share in your amazing adventure!!! So proud!

Diana Gossett
23 months ago

Thanks for sharing your adventure! Good luck on the rest of the race!

Sharon Pound
23 months ago

Such fun watching your adventure! You're a rockstar!! -- Larry and Sherri

Will & Kirby Scott & Taylor
23 months ago

You are so inspiring Leslie & we cant wait to hear all about it! Will and Kirby

Rita Cochran
23 months ago
Joy Dorsch
23 months ago
Emily Hill
23 months ago

From Darren, Emily, Rilynn and Carson :) We love you & are proud of you!

Rhonda Crabtree
23 months ago

Go Luck my friend!

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