Becs was asked in May 2022 if our Traditional Training Breeches would like a trip to Mongolia to be put to the ultimate test in the notorious Mongol Derby - how could she refuse?!
Kate Mactaggart, a business woman and mother of three from the Scottish Borders and her friend Alice Gully were one of 40 competitors to be selected for the gruelling Derby from thousands of competitors. Incredibly raising over £40000 for the Doddie Weir Foundation whilst completing one of the most daunting races in the World (with our breeches!).
Read on to find out about Kate's experience in Mongolia, the preparation involved and what drove her to sign up to the longest and toughest horse race.
With this years race already under way it surely brings back some incredible memories of last year? What made you want to take part in the race and how did you prepare yourself mentally and physically? Where did your horsey background begin?
It's very surreal to have been watching the preparations and now the race itself from the comfort of the UK!
I grew up with ponies, went through the Pony Club, Evented to Advanced and Point to Pointed for a few seasons but ever since I found out about the race (about 10yrs ago) it niggled at me, wanting to know if I had the confidence and ability to race 28 different, semi-feral Mongolian, ponies 1000km across the steppe.
I probably prepared myself more physically than mentally. That really meant getting myself as fit as possible. I did a lot of cycling and Kettlebell sessions. We had some young thoroughbreds in, in the run up to the race, so backing them was good practice but I didn't do many long distance rides, unlike a lot of the other competitors.
We know you hunt, so are used to long hours in the saddle, but did you suffer any related injuries during the race? An absolutely incredible feat to cross the finish line, in what condition did you end in?!
I hunt with the Jedforest and have experienced plenty of long days in the saddle, in all kinds of weather but nothing prepares you for what Mongolia can throw at you. Somehow I managed to avoid any saddle sore issues, I think mainly due to your great breeches!! But one girl I rode with suffered desperately from raw skin on her thighs, she ended up heavily bandaged.
What were the horses like? Did they take some getting used to? Tell us a little about the race?
The ponies I experienced were generally pretty amazing! No more than 14hh, they were incredibly tough, sure footed and in the most part pretty genuine, once you had the saddle on and they had given a bit of a rodeo show, , if pointed in the right direction they put their heads down and covered the ground with surprising ease. The trot could be a little jarring but at least you were going forwards! There were one or two that weren't so keen on a 30km race!
We could ride from 7am to 7pm. You wanted to try and get at least 3 horse stations done in a day, sometimes easier said than done! You could ride beyond 7pm but you would be penalised with time in the morning and generally you only did this if you were close enough to a horse station. You had the option of staying at an organised horse station in a Ger, sleeping on the floor, or of 'camping out'. This could involve asking a herding family (not involved in the race) if you could stay with them and they might tie your horse up or it could be hobbled (this might mean they were 2km away when you came to look for them in the morning!) There were also corals occasionally that you could make use of and pen your horse up and find some shelter. There wasn't a huge amount of luxury, especially when you carry a max of 85kg, including yourself! We all took some snacks but the food wasn't bad (hygiene was interesting!). The horse stations always had some sort of sustenance, mainly a very solid dough ball or noodle soup with fatty lamb in it. Very few vegetables, lots of black or milky tea and occasionally their prized Airaig (fermented mares milk).
You raised a huge amount of money for the Doddie Weir foundation, why did you choose that charity?
My uncle played rugby with Doddie and I have known him for quite a few years now since living in the Borders and Alice lives just over the hill from him. He had been through the Buccleuch Pony Club, which my children are now part of and I just felt that taking 'myname'5doddie' half way across the world could only help make more people aware of the amazing work he was doing to bring awareness of MND and raising money to help find a cure. People were incredibly supportive of our challenge and of the challenge Doddie was going through. And we can't thank them enough. To raise over £40k was beyond our wildest dreams.
Can you describe your highlights of the run up, taking part and the aftermath of the race? Would you do it again? Will you be following the progress of the race this year?
The whole experience seems such a dream, I can't really believe I did it! I will always be hugely grateful for the opportunity to ride across some incredible country, on some unique ponies, meeting a huge range of really interesting people from around the world, experiencing the most generous hospitality from people that live so simply and having the most fantastic support team of vets and medics in the background if anything should happen. It was humbling and exhilarating and at times terrifying. Would I do it again? No!!! But I wish this years race all the very best experiences and am already glued to watching the dots cross the Steppe more efficiently than me!!