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Australian team wins extreme endurance horse race in Mongolia

Donna Coutts, August 17, 2018 7:50AM Kids News

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Mongol Derby riders crossing the Mongolian landscape. Picture: Twitter @mongolderbylive media_cameraMongol Derby riders crossing the Mongolian landscape. Picture: Twitter @mongolderbylive


Reading level: green

An Australian team has won one of the world’s toughest and most dangerous endurance* races.

Australian Adrian Corboy and his Australian-based, English teammate and workmate Annabel Neasham have won the Mongol Derby, crossing the finish line first after seven days and 1000km of hard and fast horse riding through the remote* wilds of Mongolia on semi-wild Mongolian horses.

Incredibly, Mr Corboy only found out he was racing a few days before the event. Both riders work with Australian horse trainer Ciaron Maher, who was planning to race but broke his leg while horse riding.

Mongol Derby 2018 winners embrace as they finish media_cameraMongol Derby 2018 winners Adrian Corboy and Annabel Neasham. Picture: Twitter @mongolderbylive

The race is an extreme* physical test. Often, only half the riders who begin the race can finish it. This year, at least nine riders couldn’t finish due to injury, including broken collarbones* and dislocated* shoulders. They also had to navigate* across giant sand dunes and freezing mountain passes. They don’t ride their own horses, but ride local horses, which they change every 40km at checkpoints.

media_cameraThe Mongolian landscape is very challenging to ride. This is a view of the Altai Tavan Bogd Mountains, which are the highest in Mongolia. As well as mountains, there are glaciers and sand dunes. Picture: istock

A rider who once competed in the Mongol Derby described, in a quote in the The Times newspaper, the semi-wild Mongolian horses that make the race so unique. “Seventy five per cent are downright* dangerous,” said former jump jockey Chris Maude, “while the other 25 per cent refuse to budge.”

Mongol derby riders 2018 riding across the landscape media_cameraMongol Derby riders crossing flat grassland in Mongolia. Much of the race is on sand dunes and through frozen mountains. Picture: Twitter @mongolderbylive

The Mongolian horses are small and fearless and have been used in that part of the world for at least 1000 years, since Genghis Khan* ruled.

“They’re incredibly tough horses,” Ms Neasham said.

The Mongol clan chieftain Temudgin (Asano Tadanobu, second from right), who becomes known as the fearless conqueror Genghis Khan, with his clan leaders, in a scene from Sergei Bodrov's "Mongol". In cinemas June 19, 2008. A Hopscotch Film release. For more info ph: 02 8303 3800. media_cameraMongolian horses are tough but can be difficult to ride. These same style of horses have been ridden in Mongolia for at least 1000 years, as far back as Genghis Khan. This is a scene from a movie called Mongol about Genghis Khan. Picture: supplied

“People say when they finish, they could easily do another 1,000km,” Ms Neasham said in The Times. “Well, I think I’m good with this.”

Mr Maher said in a video interview for horseracing news site that his colleagues told him Ms Neasham found the start of the week hardest and Mr Corboy found the end of the week hardest.

“My knees were (wrecked) after half a day,” Ms Neasham said.

“Didn’t like the food! I tried to embrace* the culture. I ate enough that I wasn’t hungry but that was the toughest thing. And not showering. As soon as I got off the horse I had a shower.”

Australian Olympian Ed Fernon won last year’s race.

Mongol Derby media_cameraAustralian Olympian Ed Fernon, who won last year’s Mongol Derby. Mr Fernon competed in the 2012 Olympics in the Modern Pentathlon event, which includes horse jumping. Picture: Adam Yip


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endurance: doing something difficult for a long time

remote: a long way from cities and towns

extreme: severe; very difficult

collarbones: thin bones across top of chest connecting shoulder to breastbone

dislocated: out of the joint

navigate: find your way

downright: total, complete

Genghis Khan: warrior and founder and leader of the Mongol Empire in 1100 and 1200s

embrace: hold or accept



1. How many days and how far was the race?

2. What sort of horses do they ride?

3. Does everyone finish the race? Why or why not?

4. Who won last year’s race?

5. Using the glossary, who is Genghis Khan and why is he mentioned in the story?


1. Medal presentation.

Imagine you are presenting the medals to this years’ winners of the Mongol Derby. Write a speech that explains what the race is all about and highlights what makes this race unique, and so difficult. Finally present the medals to the winners, introducing a little about them and how they came to compete in this race.

Now imagine you are the winners and need to give a short acceptance speech. In your speech explain, why you competed, what you got out of the experience and what you found difficult.

Time: Allow 20 minutes

Curriculum links: English, Health and Physical Education

2. Extension: Can you solve these problems? You will need some information from the article to help you.

What was the average distance (in kilometres) that the winners travelled each day?

How many times would riders need to change horses throughout the race?

If there were 60 horses to choose from, how many would be dangerous? How many would refuse to budge?

Time: Allow 15 minutes

Curriculum links: English, Mathematics


After reading the article, with a partner, highlight as many connectives as you can find in pink. Discuss if these are being used as conjunctions, or to join ideas and create flow.

HAVE YOUR SAY: What would you most like about doing this race? What would you least like? Why?
No on-word answers. Use full sentences.

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