Proposed Mongolian Horse Race Raises Welfare Concerns

A planned horse race over the Mongolian Steppes has raised the ire of several equestrian groups concerned about the welfare of the more than 700 horses that will take part in the 1,000-kilometer Mongolian Derby.

The League of Adventurists International Ltd., the British-based adventure company organizing the competition, describes the race as "the longest, toughest horse race in the world."

The Adventurists said in a press statement they are working closely with V.E.T. Net, a non-profit animal health care organization for Mongolian veterinarians and nomads organized through the Christian Veterinary Mission.

But members say that isn't so.

"We want to make it clear that V.E.T. Net has nothing to do with this race," said Johnny Haffner, DVM, a V.E.T. Net member who has worked extensively in the area.

"We were very concerned with the way the race was organized. It seemed a total disregard for horse welfare, the Mongolian people, and their spiritual honor for the horse," agreed Tom Juergens, DVM. "Any V.E.T. Net trained Mongolian veterinarians taking part (are doing so) of their own volition."

The Adventurists say welfare of the horses involved is the utmost concern. "We are not going to release all details of how we are running this race as we would be giving away a blueprint of something we've put months of work into," said company representative Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent. "However, the horses belong to nomads and are being selected by high profile Mongolian horseman and undergoing a training program. Each horse is only ridden for 40km. The riders are experienced horsemen and respectful of the horses."

The Long Riders Guild also lodged a complaint regarding the race with the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), the governing body of international equestrian sport. Richard Johnson, FEI director of communications, said the race is not subject to FEI rules or FEI Code of Conduct, so the group has no jurisdiction to intervene.

About the Author

Sharon Biggs Waller

Sharon Biggs Waller is a freelance writer for equine ­science and human interest publications. Her work has appeared in several publications and on several websites, and she is a classical dressage instructor.

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