Just Chaps thanks Iain Paterson for sharing his experience:
Well where to start, what an experience! I don’t think I will be able to tell you about every part of this race or you will be reading for as long as I was riding but I will do my best to give you an insight into what was the most incredible experience of my life.
So, to start, base camp. Rockethorse racing had put in a huge effort to erect a small village on the banks of the river. Two large marquees held the eating and kit areas and a neat row of tents served as rider accommodation, straight into the wild! We were to be based here for two days to meet our horses, be briefed on the route and learn how to swim a river with a horse. Through these days we would also meet the vets, farrier, support crew and organisers, as well as our fellow riders.
Day one of training, the first thing was a briefing on the route from race organiser Barry Armitage, the Mongol Derby veteran talked us through the many challenging aspects of the course, and there was a lot to talk through! He told us of steep rocky descents, difficult swims and perilous goat tracks, all of which we took in with excitement but all the while not quite believing it could be that bad…. Long briefing over it was rime for the horse draw, we had already been randomly assigned our numbers by Barry (I was number 7) and we drew our horses name out of a hat in number order. I drew Hazzan and tried to think which of the assorted horses matched the name! Once everyone had drawn their horse crew members scuttled off to attach our race numbers to the appropriate horse so that we could find them! We continued being briefed until lunch when we were finally allowed to go and find our horse! Hazzan turned out to be a neat grey stallion, one of two available for this leg and I was pleased, he looked strong and fit and not too small. After lunch it was time for our first ride, a small solo hack to the beach where we would attempt our first river crossing with our new mounts. Apart from being a bit tense when I got on, Hazzan and I got along quite well and the ride went by with little incident for most riders. Dinner this evening was a traditional Braai which was incredible, I have never eaten so well at a horse event!
Day two of training started bright and early as we were to be on the horses by 6am in order to make use of the tides to allow us to swim our horses relatively easily, this would be the first time most of us had swum a horse, so the organisers wanted it to go smoothly. We all waded across the first river then back again to build the horses, and our own, confidence then, we took it in turns to swim across a lagoon back in the direction of camp. There is nothing quite like that moment when the horse’s feet lose touch with the sand and you slip out of the saddle into the water next to him. The water was pleasantly warm, and the swim was over in a flash. Back to camp for a final few briefings and we had some downtime before dinner to relax and go over the maps again. A good carbohydrate-based braai and it was off to bed, ready for the real adventure to start the next morning.
Tune in tomorrow when the adventure begins.