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Posted on July 11, 2019
Claire here, I have recently returned from a second trip to Mongolia and it didn’t disappoint. Previously, I was lucky to visit the Orkhon Valley and the Bayan Gobi area which lies further west of Ulaanbaatar. You can read my previous blog here. This time I was visiting the Arburd Sands area, south west of Ulaanbaatar and the Khan Khentii region to the north east of Ulaanbaatar.
This blog is based on my latest trip and answers eight questions which people considering Mongolia as their next riding holiday often ask me about:
1. What are the horses like?
The horses although small in stature (around 12 hh – 14 hh) are strong enough to carry fully grown men. The Mongolians are very proud of their horses and never call them ponies despite their small size. They have incredible stamina and can easily cover 100 kms in a day.
The horses live out in herds all year round and have evolved to withstand the harsh Mongolian climates which can fall as low as -40°C in winter.
I was partnered with a small chestnut gelding whom I named Thomas although by naming him, I was breaking Mongolian tradition as they only refer to horses by their colour. He was extremely careful, responsive and speedy when I asked him. I was amazed at how nimble these horses are negotiating steep climbs and drops, boggy ground and river crossings. Thomas took everything in his stride and felt solid as a rock.
2. What is the tack like?
The saddles for visiting guests are made locally and are a more comfortable version of the traditional Mongolian saddle.
I found the saddle really comfortable.
The style of riding is different to what you may be used to. Mongolians tend to stand in the stirrups for anything faster than a walk. They also tend to neck rein. The stirrups we used were wider than traditional English stirrups providing more support for standing in the stirrups over longer periods of time.
Don’t worry – you won’t have to ride in a traditional saddle like this – although our guides looked very comfortable in theirs.
3. What will the food be like?
Mongolia is not well known for its culinary diversity so I was just blown away by the delicious, varied, flavoursome food amazingly created on simple stoves in the middle of nowhere.
Delicious salads with creative dressings; never the same taste twice. We had beef, chicken, vegetables, pork and traditional Mongolian dumplings called buutz to name some of the food we had. In fact our chef had competed in Mongolian Masterchef two years ago.
4. What is the pace of the riding like?
5. What is the area like where I will be riding?
6. What is the accommodation like?
This depends on whether you choose to do one of the camping trips or to join a luxury ger trail.
On the Mongol Horse Trail and Gobi Steppe Trail, the first and last nights are in a hotel in Ulaanbaatar, then you stay in tipis for the camping section and at a semi-permanent ger camp for the last nights. The Mongol Horse Trail finishes at Jalman Meadows (semi-permanent ger camp) whereas the Gobi Steppe Trail finishes at Arburd Sands (semi-permanent ger camp). You sleep in cot beds whilst on the camping trails and in made up beds at the ger camps and hotels.
On the Big Skies Trail and Steppe Nomad Ride, your first and last nights are also spent at a hotel in Ulaanbaatar. Whilst on the trail, you stay each night in comfortable gers complete with made up beds and stoves. Towards the end of your trail, you spend two nights at semi-permanent ger camps. The Big Skies Trail finishes at Jalman Meadows and the Steppe Nomad Ride finishes at Arburd Sands.
7. How does my luggage get moved from place to place?
These rides are not vehicle supported; your luggage and all the camp supplies are transported by yaks (in the forested, hilly area)
or camels (in the sandy, semi-arid area).
8. Is Mongolia right for me?
If you are adventurous, open minded to different cultures and love long hours in the saddle this would be a great match for you.