Richard Dunwoody, the former champion jockey, has this week been sending back photographs from what bills itself as the world’s longest and toughest horse race.
In 2011, Dunwoody signed up to a nine-month photojournalism course at the Spéos Photographic Institute in Paris. Now, he is the official snapper for the sixth Mongol Derby, which sees 48 riders using a total of 1,200 horses, taking on the gruelling 600-mile-plus course across the Mongolian steppe.
On Sunday the riders, the majority of them women, representing 15 nationalities met in Ulaanbaatar for three days of training ahead of the start on Wednesday.
The youngest rider is 20-year-old Luke Berry from the UK; the oldest, at 60, is Barbara Smith of the United States. Another retired National Hunt jockey taking part is Chris Maude, who rode in eight Grand Nationals, and other British riders include Robert Skinner, a successful amateur jockey who last year won the Grand Military Chase, and Jamie Peel, a professional polo player who competed in both the British Open and Gold Cup. Five members of the Household Cavalry are also among the riders. There is also an Icelandic fire stunt rider, a Swedish martial arts expert and a German surfer.
The Mongol Derby is a recreation of Genghis Khan’s ancient communication system – a mammoth network of horse stations that relayed messages across the Mongol empire at devastating speed.
Event organisers The Adventurists have established a network of 25 horse stations manned by local herders.
The riders change their semi-wild horses at each station, set approximately 25 miles apart. Overnight they stay with the local nomadic herding families at the horse stations, or camp out on the steppe under the stars.
Each rider has to raise a minimum of £1,000 for charity, including £500 for the official race charity Cool Earth.
The race can be followed live on Live Tracking Map and on Twitter (@MongolDerbyLive)
Dunwoody’s images and updates, which will be sent back from the remote racecourse with satellite communication equipment provided by the British company, AST Systems, can be found here.
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