originally posted by Katherine at 23rd August 2012 at 18:58
Race Day 6:
We were ready to go bright and early, sad to leave the lake setting, but looking forward to putting in a good day. We were on track to finish in the 10 days, slow going notwithstanding, and it was with this in mind that I set out a bit ahead of the others, giving me and my horse time to warm up. George had started out with one horse, been bucked off, and had taken it back to get a horse a bit more agreeable. Ivo had also been thrown, had his horse run off but had it returned by some herders. It seemed that Ivo, George and Ronald had all chosen challenging horses; mine seemed like a plodder so I kept at my steady pace, only to be passed on the trail by everyone early on.
Crossing that bridge when we got to it
Ivo, George and Ronald
“Oh well, may as well enjoy the scenery,” I thought, watching everyone grow smaller in the distance as my horse struggled to keep up. But they slowed at a bridge crossing, allowing me to catch up and we rode on together until we reached a flat stretch of land occasioned with swampy ponds and many insects.
What happened next will live forever in my memory: George, Ivo and Ronald, on the faster horses were a bit in front of us; I was headed for a road a bit to the right, along with Erik and Anne. I glanced over to where the three men were stopped, looked away, and then looked back to see a mini rodeo taking place. It was difficult to determine who was off what horse, but when they all came to a stop, we could see one black horse and one piebald running off, one horse still at the scene, and all three men on the ground. I kicked “Plodder” into gear and rode to within 20 feet or so, slowed and dismounted as I didn’t want to spook the remaining horse. It was Ronald on the ground, with George and Ivo attending him.
“Don’t come any nearer with your horse,” Ivo warned. We all regrouped, handed off the horses to Anne, and I went to lend my assistance to Ivo and George. As fate would have it, they were both skilled in emergency first aid and it seemed Ronald was already in good hands. Ronald’s horse had bucked him off, and from the looks of his helmet he had landed straight on the top of his head. His “911” button had been activated; until the medics arrived, we did our best for him and I remember thinking that the poor guy not only had an injury, he had one in the most wretched part of the course. There were flying ants and mosquitoes buzzing around, the sun was blistering hot and the wind was sapping the energy out of everything.
Tending to Ronald - the best care this side of UB
Erik meanwhile had cornered Ronald’s horse which by this time was standing trembling with the saddle under his belly, his foot through a stirrup. He cut the reins, slowly undid the stirrup leathers to allow the stirrup to fall gently, and then undid the girth before jumping out of the way. The horse bolted but came to a standstill next to George’s horse, and the two of them didn’t budge much in the next 5 hours it took for us to deal with the situation.
Patiently waiting...and fending of insects...and waiting...
Anne seeks shelter from the sun and bugs in the Mongol Derby-mobile
I have to commend the medics Kate and Deb who arrived within the hour – they are among two of the most professional people I have ever encountered. We all took turns assisting them whenever possible, and by the end of the incident, they had Ronald professionally packaged, reassured, and in the best care possible considering the remote location and difficult circumstances. Off they all went, Ronald stabilized and in the back of their jeep, for a long trip to UB.
We all looked at each other: “Well, off we go again I guess” was the general consensus. By this time, our horses had been standing hobbled for 5 hours in the insect-o-rama (we had the benefit of bug spray, although they had tails and manes and were accustomed to this environment) but it was still an uneasy start for all of us.
Ivo had more issues with his horse (he was renamed “The Black Bastard”) and he ended up swapping places with the herder who came along on Unenburen’s motorcycle, allowing the herder to ride his horse while he sped away as a passenger. We all looked at him in envy as he disappeared down the road…
And although the herder picked the most direct route to the next horse station, it was through a semi-swampy area, populated with muskeg-type turtle bumps and uncertain footing. I was riding alongside Erik when his horse, evidently having had enough of this day, the insects, and the trying terrain, picked the only flat stretch in 20 feet to try to lie down and roll. “What the - ?” Erik yelled as his horse suddenly did a belly flop, and jumped off before any further harm could come to any of us. The horse ran off, was returned once, but continuing to be uncooperative, would not allow Erik to remount, so off Erik trudged with the horse in tow.
It had kind of become a circus, with horses acting all goofy, getting loose – at one point I was beside the herder (who was still riding Ivo’s horse) when I noticed a “What on earth is going on now?” look on his face; I turned in the direction of his gaze and saw Erik, who had tried to remount his horse, doing a “crack-the-whip” imitation on the end of his lead rope. He managed to hang on while running in great leaps behind his horse, but finally lost it and did a face plant as his horse ran away. At this point, considering all that had happened, I think I had become delirious and started to laugh. I laughed so hard I almost peed my pants. The herder was totally disgusted by now, rode back to help capture Erik’s horse while I tried to maintain some dignity and control of my horse. Then he rode away from us, no doubt hoping to ditch the crazy people who had invaded his land.
Erik looking totally disgusted in losing his horse (again)
It was the longest 20km of the entire 1000 I think. We all ended up remounted one way or another, and limped into HS13 – lucky 13 – to find a ger full of people. Jess and Lucy were there, having been stopped due to some unfortunate gastro bug that Jess had contracted; Aimee was nursing her injured back; with the other 5 of us we made a rag-tag bunch.
“That’s it – you’re being moved to HS15” we were told. End of the race, end of the line so to speak, as according to the rules, if you were moved up more than one horse station you were officially disqualified. After the day we had just had, there were mixed feelings all round. On one hand it didn’t seem quite fair, as we could have still ridden the rest of the way, but considering we were the slowest group going and the organizers couldn’t afford to spread out their back up teams and resources any further (the front runners by this time were at least a day ahead of us) it was something we couldn’t argue with, for the greater good of everyone involved. Quite frankly, I had no great desire or energy to spare for another leg; and if it was a question of ride fast or stay as a group, I'm sure none of us would have left the scene with Ronald no matter what the stakes anyways. We were only grateful he was in good hands and hoped and prayed the next few days for good news.