8 things to know about Mongolia before you go

Posted on July 11, 2019

Claire Douglas

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.

Mongolia, 8 things to know about Mongolia before you go, In The Saddle

A herd of Mongolian horses grazing in the Khan Khentii area.

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.

Mongolia, 8 things to know about Mongolia before you go, In The Saddle

Myself riding Thomas.

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.

Mongolia, 8 things to know about Mongolia before you go, In The Saddle

The locally sourced saddle that we used complete with seat saver.

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.

Mongolia, 8 things to know about Mongolia before you go, In The Saddle

A traditional Mongolian saddle.

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.

Mongolia, 8 things to know about Mongolia before you go, In The Saddle

One of our delicious starters whilst camping – strawberry, feta, walnuts and apple salad.

4. What is the pace of the riding like?

On the Mongol Horse trail and Big Skies Trail in the Khan Khentii area, the pace is dictated by the terrain – lots of ascents and descents – although there are canters where possible.

If you prefer a faster ride we recommend the Gobi Steppe or the Steppe Nomad trails, located south west of Ulaanbaatar. Here the terrain is much flatter allowing for longer, fast canters.

Mongolia, 8 things to know about Mongolia before you go, In The Saddle

Steep terrain in the Khan Khentii area

5. What is the area like where I will be riding?

These two areas are dramatically different scenery wise.  On the Gobi Steppe or Steppe Nomad trails, you ride in semi-arid landscape with dramatic rock formations and sand dunes.

Mongolia, 8 things to know about Mongolia before you go, In The Saddle

Rocky formations of the Zorgol Hairkhan mountains area.

On the Mongol Horse Trail and Big Skies Trail you are surrounded by open green expanses of rolling hills, forests and rivers.

Mongolia, 8 things to know about Mongolia before you go, In The Saddle

Forested area of the Khan Khentii region.

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.

Mongolia, 8 things to know about Mongolia before you go, In The Saddle

 

Mongolia, 8 things to know about Mongolia before you go, In The Saddle

The exterior and interior of a ger at Jalman Meadows

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.

Mongolia, 8 things to know about Mongolia before you go, In The Saddle

The kind of gers used on the trail

 

Mongolia, 8 things to know about Mongolia before you go, In The Saddle

The bathroom tent used on trails

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)

Mongolia, 8 things to know about Mongolia before you go, In The Saddle

Yak cart

or camels (in the sandy, semi-arid area).

Mongolia, 8 things to know about Mongolia before you go, In The Saddle

A camel cart

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.

For more information on the Mongolian rides or to book your place please call Claire on +44 1299 272 243 or email claire@inthesaddle.com

3 responses to “8 things to know about Mongolia before you go”

  1. Margaret Douglas says:

    Enjoyed reading about your trip Claire. Was really interesting. Would certainly have made me want to book a trip if I was into horse riding!

  2. Wendy says:

    Hi how many hours a day in the saddle, what do guests do in the evening? And are there any big drops to ride along such as high cliff ledges?

  3. Claire Douglas Claire Douglas says:

    Hi Wendy, the hours of riding vary depend on which itinerary you choose. For our rides in the Orkhon Valley, these vary from 2 – 7 hours per day whereas on the Mongol Horse Trail, Nomad Trails and Gobi Steppe Trail, these have 4 – 7 hours per day. There are some ascents but you don’t tend to ride on high cliff ledges with big drops. I can send you more information by email if you like? Claire from In The Saddle.

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