Former international pony dressage rider Katy Willings’ latest update on her progress training for the Mongol Derby

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I am just back from a decent run round Hyde Park. Googlemaps says 10kms, which feels about right. The sun was still out and strong so I worked up a good sweat and thoroughly enjoyed having no watch on, no train to catch, nowhere specific to be.

Tonight was supposed to be a riding night, but events conspired and I found myself in London, with, wait for it, a spare couple of hours. Lloyds had still failed to send me a new cash card after purse-theft last week, and having hammered the credit card in the interim and maxed it out completely (oops!) I was once again at a financial impasse, and, facing imminent nationalisation or stealing the money from our house kitty which is supposed to be for tin foil and loo roll, I … stole a tenner from the kitty for the train home. I felt guilty though! And it turned out that I couldn’t get any horses lined up for this evening anyway.

Actually, I don’t mind. I am sat out on my little balcony for the first time, the herbs are looking plush and miraculously the wifi seems to stretch out here. I have just eaten my first meal not in front of an offensively cumbersome excel model since the weekend, and it tasted all the sweeter. Now clean and showered, and ready to slog my guts out all over again tomorrow- weights circuit #2.

This week has mainly been about non-equestrian reconnaissance. As my Dad likes to remind me, time spent in reconnaissance is never wasted, and there are a great number of contingencies which I can cover off right here in SW9. So, from the top…

Learning Mongolian: yes, I have been trying to get some useful language under my belt. It was recommended to me last night that I learn the Mongol for “call your dogs off!”. Apparently this is by far the most useful greeting when approaching a nomad’s ger, (yurt) as the advanced welcome party is likely to consist of a slavering rabid dog, trained to attack me, and no doubt then eat me and do something very resourceful with my skin, hair and teeth. So, repeat after me “NOKHOIGOO!!”

Also bound to come in handy are:
Morior – on horseback
Moriig avav – “he took the horse” (I can see me using this one in a plaintive voice when trying to explain how Dunwoody beat me to the finish by 8 days…)
Mal sureg targan tavtaiyuu? – “I hope your animals are fattening nicely?” (an excellent civility for once you have safely negotiated the rabid dogs and are installed in the ger)
Naash ir! – “Come here!” (to the horse)
Ta naash ir! – “Will you PLEASE come here!” (to the more sensitive horse who prefers a more formal tone)
Zail! – “Go away!” (wolves, mosquitoes, snakes, bears, crocodiles, tigers, etc. Actually I need to do further reconnaissance on the exact critters I will be up against. May not be crocodiles, for example)
And, if it all gets a bit too much, there’s always “Khaan bain ve avtobusny buudal?” – “where is the bus station?”. More of a back-pocket phrase, that one.

I have a few things to add to my kit list which I hadn’t really thought about, hobbles being the biggie. I need to be able to secure my steed overnight should we find ourselves alone under the stars, especially as I will probably be stuck in a bivvy bag, or maybe even a super-high tech tent (if you have one of these and I can borrow it, please get in touch!), and hence not in a position to go chasing after the neddy if he makes a bid for freedom. Logically, we are riding out from each station on a horse belonging to the nomads at that station. Ergo, home is always going to be behind us. Up to 25 miles behind us at times. That’s a pretty long run, so I really, really don’t want to let them run away. Quite how I am going to wash is a bit of a mystery, and I suppose the horses are going to have to get used to me using the facilities with them on the end of a lead rein. Not sure if this is in keeping with their magical status in Mongolia.

I will also need some sort of charger/solar cell thingy. We will be using GPS, most likely switched on all day, and it would be a bit of a disaster if they ran out of juice. Apparently thanks to their Soviet landlords throughout most of the 20th century, the mobile phone coverage is actually pretty good, and if I can get my mitts on a local SIM card in Ulaan Batuur before we transfer to the start line, I am all set to blog from the steppe. Hell, I can send you some video footage of me wowing the locals with my Wuthering Heights rendition after a bowl or three of fermented mare’s milk.

Actually there are more hazards than I could possibly list in one sitting (some more problematic than others. Mum asked me this week what I was going to do about the sunburn. “umm….take sunscreen?” I ventured. This seemed to cover that one off) so this might have to be a serial feature: Willings’ Worry of the Week. I feel a new blog category coming on…

In other news, Maggie Pattinson, endurance guru, has come up trumps again, and I will be making my debut, courtesy of the South East Riders Endurance Group, in a pleasure ride near Ashdown Forest, bright and early on Sunday morning. Pleasure ride it may be but I will be going at endurance rhythm and pace with another of Maggie’s protégées, Caroline, who is kindly lending me a horse. Have been told to wear sensible knickers. Hmm, that might have to be a job for tomorrow lunchtime…

Katy

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