Year 13 St Peter’s student Elise Stables has been selected as the youngest ever New Zealander to ride in the Mongol Derby — the longest, toughest horse race in the world. Riders cover 1000km of Mongolian wilderness on semi-wild horses, changing steed every 40km. It is the rider and horse against the world, and up to the rider to navigate and survive the wilderness.
“I am honestly so excited, but I think everyone thinks I’m nuts,” Elise laughed.
Elise thought she wanted to go to university to study equine science and agribusiness but changed her mind after visiting Queensland University in August. Undecided on her career path, Elise thought she would take a year off to travel. This just isn’t the typical overseas experience 19-year-olds dream of.
Elise was riding horses before she could walk and now works at a racing stable in Cambridge. She has almost a year to prepare for the big event.
Elise has to be as fit as she possibly can. She is training for the event by running, swimming and of course, riding. She was given one of the mongol saddles to train in by a friend that had previously done the derby.
“The saddle is the weirdest thing to ride in, it almost feels like a kitchen stool and your legs go straight down unlike a normal English saddle,” she said.
There are no packed lunches, no beds to sleep in, and no marked course. Horses are regularly vet checked throughout the race.
“I’m still not sure what to expect. I have heard so many stories, but it’s a lot to wrap your head around. It is a life or death situation,” Elise said.
“You get an SOS tracker you can activate, but you have no idea how long it would take for anyone to find you – if they can find you. We will literally be stripped down to our most primitive selves, and I’m really interested to see what I’m capable of.”
Her family were initially against the idea but became supportive once they realized how passionate she was.
“I just adore the charity I have chosen to raise money for as well,” explained Elise.
There is no prize for Elise should she win the derby, but instead her entire venture is devoted to raising funds for the CatWalk Spinal Cord Injury Research Trust. There may be a breakthrough in the science of spinal cord injuries soon, and Elise wants to be a part of it.
“The researchers are trying to alter a gene to dissolve the scar tissue in the spine, as that’s what prevents the nerves healing because the scar tissue cannot be penetrated,” she said.
An entry to the Mongol Derby is just over £10,000. This includes a donation to CatWalk. But Elise doesn’t do things by halves and wants to raise as much money as she can for the incredible trust. To help Elise in her journey, donate here.