Race day morning came after an eternity -a completely sleepless night. Riders all weighed out their saddle bags, and lucky for me I was under weight and able to take some supplies from riders who had to forfeit over foodstuffs to make weight. It helped that I had brought a luggage scale in my packed bag and was well prepared – and prepared enough for most of the camp who also borrowed it the previous day.
And then came the wait – it seems to be the Mongolian (or at least Mongol Derby) way – hurry up and wait. The start was scheduled for something along the lines of 9:00 am, but that time came and went without even an invite to get our horses. It had on the schedule that we would have our horses drawn for us (the previous night) but as we approached the horse line, it seemed like chaos – no drawing, people were just taking horses. Had I known it would be a freeforall, I would have gone over earlier. Despite being one of the firsts to weigh out, I was disadvantaged in having half the horses already chosen. No worries, there was still plenty to choose from once I figured out we were now at dog-eat -dog for horse selection, but I had to move fast. Of course, having not slept at all, I was a little grumpy about the deviation from the plans.
I saw a stallion on the line still, having really wanted to ride a stallion while I was there (particularly for the big mop of a mane to grab in case things got hairy over the start line), I chose him right away. I approached…. and he wanted NOTHING to do with me. Perhaps the fact that I was sending off grumpy vibes. I attempted to get close for a while, but realizing more horses were being picked off the line and I was losing an opportunity, I went for the palomino beside him… who also wanted nothing to do with me. I bounced back between the two for a bit, then, exasperated, went on to the next horse – a chestnut, who was tiny as can be. Looking down the line, I was pretty sure he was the smallest on the line. But he let me near him! Ok little buddy, you will do.
I grabbed his rope and led him over to my saddle. He seemed much more interested in grazing than walking. I guess a good sign, he should be pretty quiet. I should have never thought that! The moment I tried to saddle him, he started fussing pretty badly. A few herders came over, and with a group of them and a few attempts where my saddle ended up on the ground, he was saddled and bridled and ready to be mounted. As gracefully as I could, I put my foot in the saddle, and lifted up. Just as I was about to swing my leg over, the little red demon reared. I allowed myself to slide off the back and to the side, but landed on my butt due to his size – no time or space to get the legs under me! No problems, not hurt. A herder got on him and after some running and fussing, came back over.
I was asked if I wanted a different horse. No way! I wanted this jackass, he wasn’t going to get the better of me. Even if I had to make him walk the whole way, my stubbornness won out and I got right back on him. We warmed up in the her of riders milling around, him bobbing up and down at the walk, jig jogging and trying to burst out from under me several times. He would not shut up… calling and calling, and darting at the other horses with pinned ears.