Horse trainer takes on toughest race in the world

A HORSE trainer is taking on the toughest horse race in the world – a 1,000km route across the wilderness of the Mongolian plain – to raise money for charity.

Richard Allen, of Barley Mow Lane in Clothall, is taking part in the Mongol Derby to raise money for Mercy Corps – a charity which works to alleviate suffering, poverty and oppression by helping people to build secure, productive and just communities.

Each year about 1,000 semi-wild Mongolian horses are selected and trained for just 20 or so riders who take part in the Mongol Derby, with riders changing steeds every 40kms.

The race starts on August 6, with participants only permitted to ride between 6am and 8pm, and is expected to last eight to 10 days.

Richard, 51, said: “We won’t know the route until the last minute.

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“We have to take a handheld GPS and they download the coordinates and then you are on your own.

“There is a 10km-wide corridor and you have to stay within that.

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“I’m worried about getting lost because I’m not very good with technology. I can just see myself as a bumbling idiot trying to read a GPS.

“I’m also slightly more worried about falling off than I would normally be.”

Another concern for Richard is the staple diet of mutton broth and fermented yak’s milk. “For a vegetarian like me, it’s a challenge, but it’s a great offence if you turn it down,” he explained.

Richard, who has taken part in endurance horse races before, must carry supplies with him, including a lightweight sleeping bag for sleeping under the stars.

He has been training horses for endurance racing for 20 years. “It takes a long time,” he explained. “It can take two or three years to make them fit enough to race over 160km in one day.

“The trick is making the cardiovascular system fit without compromising the legs. The harder they work, the more likely it is they will develop lameness.

“The idea is for a horse to be able to canter for an hour-and-a-half and recover in a minute.”

To sponsor Richard, visit

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