This week I caught up with Cornish Dairy Farmer, Paul Richards, to hear about his latest adventure. In August, Paul is competing in the Mongol Derby. A race regarded as the world’s longest and toughest horse race.
1. So Paul, what is the Mongol Derby and why have you chosen to take on this enormous challenge?
Why I’m doing it is a good question! I came across the Mongol Derby on YouTube while looking for something else. I followed it online for the last two years and thought,”if only if I was younger”. I then realised that some of the riders where older than me, so I thought why not! I put my application in last September and… I got a place! Only 9 of us are from the UK , with a total of 42 riders from 11 different countries worldwide taking part.
I think I entered expecting to get a letter saying, “thank you for your application but you are too old!”
The race is run in Mongolia, it’s a wonderful country where people are still living in a very traditional way and spiritually as well. There is great respect for the horse and a traditional way of life, something which we all know will not last for ever. So, the chance to go there, ride lots of horses, experience the wide open space, in a country as big as the whole of western Europe, is what I’m most looking forward to.
2. What has been people’s reaction when you tell them about what you are doing?
‘Bloody Mad’ is what most people think, especially at my age of at 59, but life is to live to the full and that is what I intend to do. I intend to finish not win, there is a lot of competitors under 35 that want to win, but just finishing is a win in my eyes. It is going to be very tough at times and we will all experience highs and very lows. This is what I’ve been told by the riders I’ve spoken to that rode in the last few years.
3. How have you been preparing for the 1000km race?
We have had a lot of help from the organisers on what to expect. Fitness is very important. Some say it is 80% fitness, 10% riding skill and 10% luck. Navigation is going to be a very helpful skill as well, as the only way to navigate is by GPS – no maps or road signs out there at all. I have been riding as much as possible and walking. I have also been going to Bornfit in Camborne twice a week, working with a one to one trainer. This has really helped my fitness and losing the weight. I’m having to loose 16 kg, going from 96kg to 80kg. This has been the most challenging thing of all.
4. What will you be taking with you? Is there any special equipment?
I have got my own saddle, which is very comfortable to ride in. I use this on a 14.2hh pony that I have kindly been lent to get the hang of a smaller horse, as Buddy my Hunter is 17.1hh… a bit bigger!
I can only carry 5kg of luggage with me during the race, so that means no change of clothes! My sleeping bag, mat, and survival bag weighs 2.3kg. Safety bits which are essential is another 1.6kg and a small camera weighing 560 grams. We also have to carry 3 litres of water whenever we leave a horse change over station. The reason is that dehydration is a big threat to the riders as the temperature can vary from -2 at night to +35 in the day. Hand held GPS navigation and spare batteries are also essential .
5. Tell us a bit about the horses you will be riding?
The horses we will be riding are tough and wild. They are very hardy, given the climate they live in and they are also not well schooled, in fact some have not been ridden much at all! I’m told they have incredible stamina but some have real attitude, which can be a challenge as you can’t force them to do anything! They like to travel in groups rather than on their own.
6. What are going to be your biggest challenges during the race?
One of the biggest challenges is going to be the weather as it seems to be like Cornwall, very changeable and very fast in doing so. Navigation is also vital to not get lost. We all carry tracking devices for safety reasons so they can see where we are, but they are for emergencies only (not if you are a little bit lost or have a head ache and need a Panadol).
Wearing the same clothes for 10 days will be a first for me. I just imagine what I feel like after a day’s Hunting in the winter. Try to imagine 10 days like that, but with a lot of sweat and dust as well to add to the mix. Not a good smell.
My wash bag is a tooth brush and wet wipes to try to clean up with in my sleeping bag at night!
7. Have you got any race tactics?
My race tactics are to finish and be the first Cornish man in the world to complete the Mongol Derby. There has been a Cornish girl, Charlotte Treleaven, who rode in it a few years ago and she came in 7th. If I could be in the top half of finishers that would be ideal. Of the 43 starters there is only one half to two thirds who finish. Looking at averages from previous years, around 24-30 competitors will finish, of which 3-4 will be in hospital! I’m riding on my own (not as part of any team), so I have called myself “Team Poldark” a good Cornish name I thought. For those who are interested I can be tracked online once the race starts on the 9th of August 2017.
8. Tell us a little bit about the charity you have chosen to support, and the reasons for why you have chosen the Children’s Hospice South West?
The charity I have chosen is Children’s Hospice South West. My reason is quite simply, the thought of losing a child. There is no words to describe it and I have been very lucky with two children now in their 30’s and a grandson of 3 years old.
How To Sponsor Paul
Paul is going to ride 1000 Kilometres on wild horses on the Mongolian Steppe. He will traveling across open plain, forest and desert. He will need to cross large rivers, swimming some of them, whilst risking life and limb.
You can sponsor Paul by visiting his online donation page at: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/PaulRichards15