British Columbia

Training for the Mongol Derby requires endurance — and lots of horses

Kelsey Opstad lies in bed at night, unable to sleep, as she ticks through the list of everything she needs to do before she leaves for Asia in a week.

Kelsey Opstad rides horses at Prince George facility from morning till night in preparation for big event

Kelsey Opstad has been training in Prince George since May to prepare for the Mongol Derby. (Kelsey Opstad)

Kelsey Opstad lies in bed at night, unable to sleep, as she ticks through the list of everything she needs to do before she leaves for Asia in a week.

Opstad, who is from Anchorage, Alaska, has been training at the B.C. Appaloosa Centre in Prince George since May in preparation for a 10-day horse race in Mongolia.

"I picked the B.C. Appaloosa Centre for the sheer number of horses," said Opstad, explaining that she can work with lots of younger, less experienced horses at the centre, which will more closely mimic the horses she'll be riding across the Mongolian plains.

The Mongol Derby, now in its ninth year, is a 1,000-kilometre equestrian endurance race. It is intended to recreate Genghis Khan's famous postal system.

Riders travel for 10 days to different checkpoints, 36 kilometres apart, at which point they switch horses. In all, racers ride 30 different horses.

"The horses that are in the Mongol Derby, they call them semi-wild. The horses are not penned up, they just roam free in herds," said Opstad.

"They have a good relationship with people, but they definitely are not as tame as the horses that, I think, we are used to on this side of the world."

Ride and repeat

To train, Opstad says she's been riding as many horses as possible at the centre in Prince George, for as many hours as possible. Typically, she rides around six different horses a day.

"We wake up in the morning and ride horses until the sun goes down," said Opstad.

Opstad believes it takes a certain kind of person to ride for 10 days in changing weather while eating foreign foods and riding strange horses.

"I like to think that it's because I'm an Alaskan. I feel in my element being in the middle of nowhere," said Opstad.

You can listen to the full story below;

With files from Audrey Mckinnon​

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