Last week, H&H reported on the international row that had broken out over concerns that the welfare of 700 horses taking part in the 1,000km race would be compromised (news, 23 July).
But since then, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has stepped in to offer elite veterinary assistance to organisers, via the Mongolian government.
On Friday, 24 July, Ian Williams, head of non-Olympic sports for the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) met with Mongol Derby organisers on a “fact-finding” mission for the UAE.
“The UAE expressed a wish to provide high-level veterinary care, so we wanted a full briefing on provisions for the horses,” he told H&H.
“It hasn’t been finalised, but the UAE would like to provide a mobile equine hospital, along with international endurance vets to assess the horses before they race, and as they arrive at the urtuus [stations].”
Starting on 22 August, 25 riders will race nomadic horses for nearly 1,00km across Mongolia.
A UAE vet will shortly travel to Mongolia to assess the horses that have been chosen for the race.
Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent of The Adventurists, which is organising the race in conjunction with Mongolian organisation the Tengri Group, said they were “thrilled” with the offer of assistance.
“It’s an amazing offer — the event can essentially stay the same for the riders, but the horses will be looked after like kings,” she said.
“We’re adding little bits into the race to make it more compliant with FEI rules, but it’s not going to be an FEI event.”
Ms Bolingbroke-Kent added that all the international vets will work alongside Mongolian vets, a collaboration organisers hope will leave a lasting legacy.
The Long Riders’ Guild — an organisation of long distance riders that people can join once they have completed a continuous ride of at least 1,000 miles — has hit out at what it calls an “alarming alliance” between the FEI, UAE and The Adventurists, claiming the FEI is paying “salaries, flights and expenses” for top-notch vets.
Mr Williams said the Long Riders’ claims were completely unfounded.
“We are offering no financial assistance whatsoever — we have looked into the facts for the UAE, so they can provide support for the horses, and then stepped back again,” he said.
“We have been aware of the Mongol Derby for some time, but we have not been working with organisers.”
The riders will arrive in Mongolia on 17 August, in time for a pre-race assessment with champion jockey Richard Dunwoody on 19 August. One rider, Katy Willings, is charting her training on www.horseandhound.co.uk/mongolderby
This article was first published in Horse & Hound (30 July, ’09)