If not now, then when?
Why did I sign up for the race?
I’ve always had Mongolia on the top of my bucket list since I was very little (more on this on a future post).
Of course, part of my dream has always been to visit Mongolia on horseback. Mongolia is one of those countries where riding is a must and where horses are deeply intertwined in the culture, even to the present day.
Anyway, back in November I was on a flight to go to Shanghai for work when I watched 'All the Wild Horses'. From steppe to mountain ranges, it documents the Mongol Derby horse race and follows the racers on their own journey to the finish line. Right then, right there, I decided that this would be something I would regret if I didn’t do it and that I should apply as soon as I had the time.
So, at the end of my business trip, while I was waiting for my flight back to Singapore, I applied online. For some reason, I felt this was the best thing I had done for a while. It was a small application fuelling me with energy, dreams, and hope.
Now, this is only part of the story. What made me willing to spend 10 days on the back of multiple horses through Mongolia’s countryside?
As long as I can remember I wanted to ride horses, but I wasn’t able to as a kid. One of the best birthday gifts I hold dear to my heart was a horse ride by the beach when I was around 8 years old (other amazing gifts by my parents include dictionaries, oh the nerd!).
Fast forward to when I was a teenager and I was riding regularly with a friend, as she was helping out with her neighbour’s horses. He was happy we would get them to exercise, but he was always complaining he had to retrain “Eglantine” after every session with me. “Use your seat” to guide her, he used to say. I obviously had no clue on how to do that. Even though I was riding a bit, I never learned the ‘proper way’.
Then, about 3 years ago, I asked my husband (read: I dropped some very subtle hints) to go on a horse-riding weekend – ironically for my birthday. We did and I got hooked again. The freedom, the horse’s character, the self control, the challenges, the focus… all in one, it just felt amazing. Mostly I was astonished at the fact that I could have so easily forgotten about this feeling. I went on a search to find a place where I could go riding freely and I was able to visit a stable 6 months later in Malaysia where I could easily go every weekend.
Since 2017 I’ve doubled up my lessons, going once in Singapore and waking up at 5am every Saturday to go to Malaysia. I still don't have any formal or official certificate, but I do jumping and dressage on a non-competitive basis.
C’mon, what did really possess me to apply?
About 9 months ago, I had a very serious car accident. I was in the back of a van with my husband and, although we both came out with only a few scratches and bruises, the fear of speed and loss of control were real. The van flipped over a few times at what seemed to be the end of the road for us (no pun intended!). I can now joke about this and it’s mainly because horses have been the best therapy I could get, building my confidence back, cantering away all 'virtual' scars, and teaching me to differentiate real from manufactured fears.
After the car crash, I really understood the saying that the only things which are sure in life are death and taxes. Waiting for a better time or postponing things that are close to our hearts makes absolutely no sense. The ‘All the Wild Horses’ documentary (which trailer I invite you to watch) appeared about 3 months after the accident and resonated so strongly and deeply with me that I was drawn to the race.
The connection with the horses, the wilderness, the competition, and the bond with the other participants… I want to experience it all and that is why I’ve signed up.