After finding water and sinking into the ger, I replenished myself with some rice and milk tea with sugar. I dipped my tongue into my electrolytes (which had turned from tabs to powder) and drank my full camelback AGAIN. I spoke with the medics about my situation. We agreed that it was best to leave my safety vest behind – the risk of heat stroke was much greater than crunched body at this point, and is a lot more difficult to treat than broken bones.
I took my time at the ger, fully allowing myself a turnaround. When the thought of riding again didn’t completely disgust me, I started forming my gameplan. Wendy was also in the ger, recouping and not so eager to leave quickly. We decided that we would ride the next leg together, and given the time (I think it was 3:30?) we expected we wouldn’t make it to HS3 that night (and we really didn’t want to camp out feeling this crappy on day 1), so we lagged a little knowing we only had to get to HS2 before the cutoff. We figured it was better to make sure we were ok, and try and catch up the next when we were feeling better.
When the time came, we picked our horses… I think there were a whole 4 to choose from at that point. We asked the herders which ones went well together, and we were given 2 pintos. They told us that the horses were brothers and would go fast together. Ok, that’s fine. It has 4 legs, get me on it!
We started off a a decent trot, the horses practically riding on top of each other. We soon caught up to another pinto, it was Luke (UK) and we decided to make it a pack of pokey pintos. None of them really seemed to want to go very fast. Fortunately, we weren’t in much of a hurry.
Our first goal was to find water for the horses (we were told in training that the horses may not get water for hours after we ride, or even before, because the whole herd has to be taken off the line and herded to/from the water source – there is not always water at the gers). The GPS said that there should have been a well about 1km off the main path to the left, so when the path started to bend, we continued straight and headed for the water. About that time, a herder riding what I am pretty sure was one of the remaining horses from HS1, and ponying the other came along the path. I gestured to him a drink, pointed to my horse and pointed where the well was, gesturing a shrug after. He shook his head and motioned for us to follow him. Ok, I’m sure this guy will take us to water… why not?
After 20 minutes or so, it became apparent that we weren’t being taken to the well. Oh well! (pun intended) he is definitely taking us to the horse station, which considering these are probably his horses, we will go for it. We were clearly going too slow for this herder’s taste so several times he looked back at me and made a whipping gesture. Again, his horses, so as terrible as I felt about whipping a horse, I picked up my lead rope and swung it around… gently tapping Dudley on the rump. Nothing.
The herder, watching me with a big gap-toothed grin, repeats the whipping motion… VIOLENTLY. Eek, I really don’t want to whip this horse, but I want to obey it’s owner’s wishes. I give the lead a bit of a whirl and a good size smack on the rump. Success! Dudley is alive!
After a while of whipping at that level (the effects did not last very long from each whip) my shoulders started to ache, and Dudley apparently became numb to the whipping. Luke and Wendy were having the same issue with their pokey pintos. I listened to Wendy politely cooing “Chu Chu” at her horse, continuously through the whole ride. It may be hard for you to imagine, but I will always remember that sound. Something about Wendy is so cute, maybe its her accent, her wide brimmed hat, or her sunscreen… but she seems like she is going for a ride in the park (no matter how sore and desperate she may get). It is so wonderful, and thinking of her Chu Chu-ing for 10 days makes me grin every time. Anyway, we were all pretty desperate to get our horses moving and the herder kept motioning for us to whip our horses harder.
Several points, he would bring his 2 horses behind ours, and give our horses a really good poke or smack with his herding stick… and we would be rocketed forwards in a pokey canter for a minute or two before they decided to call it quits again and drag us along at a plodding walk or stop to eat grass. It must have been amusing for the herder to watch us, and he genuinely wanted to help us ride like Mongolians. So I tried….
I followed his motion, and feeling like a bit of a cowboy, I circled my lead rope around my head like a lasso, building momentum to unleash Mongolian fury on the Dud. One good smack and he will know I mean business, that’s the rule of horses right? I brought the rope down with all of my might… and to my horror, felt a tug on my head. I watched my GoPro be WHIPPED TO THE GROUND.
I don’t think I could do that again if I tried. Seriously, how do you whip a camera off your head?
I stopped and pondered my options. Thankfully the herder came back to see what my issue was, and had a good laugh when I gestured to my head and pointed to the camera on the ground. I think Dudley would have allowed me to mount again, but thankfully I didn’t have to. PS this story really seemed to perk up other riders who would laugh into hysterics, even on their worst ride day when I shared it with them down the road. So if you are ever having a bad ride…just think of this.
We got herded along for a little while longer, and we either caught up to, or were caught up by Katharine and Jess K. My brain was pretty foggy at that point, so I am not sure where they came from, but we somehow turned into a group of 5 stragglers. I think it was about that time when I ran out of water again (with an hour still to go before we hit the horse station). The herder eventually left us on our own, and we pushed as hard as we could to keep the horses moving AT ALL.
Of course, at least being delirious and sick again… everything was hilarious. At some point, I noticed the tail on horse that Luke was riding – it was one big mat! Seriously. And as it trotted, it came forward between the horses legs and banged back and forth like a giant… well ummm… male feature. I had to take a video. It is pretty shaky and you have to look right at the correct spot and time to see it, but it was worth going for the video!
The light was fading very slowly, and we could see the horse station off in the distance. Having not had water again and my lack of sleep caught up and hit me hard. My horse also did not want to move… he wasnt about to carry me forward if I was a sack of potatoes. I was feeling faint and also did not want to faint off my horse. I decided to get off and lead Dudley. Yeah… about that… he didn’t lead. Just planted his feet and said “No freaking way lady!” So I got back on… thankfully he allowed this, and I put my face into his stubbly mane. Ok, I am just going to sleep up here tonight.
A real low point.
Luke and Wendy looked on with curiosity, but understood. We were all there. Thankfully we came into the horse station at a walk around 8pm, so no time penalties for our ridiculously slow leg, and sleep was on the horizon with the setting sun. Of course, the horses did NOT need to wait for the pulse to return. They were just lazy and smart enough to know we were too tired to make them work. Clever little jerks they were! Ok I cant say that, I really can’t blame them considering how awful shape we were in.
I grabbed whatever food was handed to me. I think it was mutton soup, I think I got halfway through it before my body said “nope! bedtime!”. Took a sleeping pill to keep me there, laid out my sleeping bag and just before I was completely out, I heard my favorite quote of the derby by Roisin:
The Mongolians must think this is the comedy event of the year. A bunch of foreigners show up, dressed like space troopers, and walk their finest race horses for 1000 kilometers.