Hey there! My name is Kelsey Eliot. I like to think of myself as the “everyday equestrian.” My equine resume is modest, but my experience is scrappy and practical. I’ve been trail riding since I was about 8 and from there my passion has grown. I’ve guided riding tours in Iceland, I’ve played arena polo for the past three winters, and recently I started competing in Limited Distance endurance rides all over the eastern United States, which has left we wanting more. Way more.
So I entered the Mongol Derby, a 1000km (621 mile) horse race across Mongolia on semi-feral horses with no marked trail. If that sounds crazy to you, that's because it is! This race has only about a 50% completion rate and riders often suffer from illness, heat exhaustion, and broken bones.
As one would expect, this ride requires the best, most durable, most comfortable gear there is. Here’s the top five things I’m planning to take with me:
Tipperary Sportage Helmet: you will almost never see me on a horse without a helmet and the Mongol Derby is definitely NOT the place to be without one. I’ve been using their helmets for several years and find them to be very lightweight and comfortable, plus they are a very economical price.
Keen Terradora Mid Hiking Boots: The Mongol Derby, endurance riding, and trail riding all call for a good, sturdy, comfortable pair of boots that are not only good for riding, but able to take me cross country on foot as well. I am in love with these boots. Slimmer shaped than a traditional keen boot, they are very lightweight for a hiking boot and required no breaking in. When I discovered that my half chaps fit over them comfortably, I abandoned all other riding boots.
UV protective buff: these are super versatile little things. Wear it as a neck gaiter, a hat, a face mask...they’re great for taming that helmet hair at the end of a ride, too.
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer jacket: I live in upstate New York and ride year round. The winter weather is volatile and I need to stay warm! This jacket weighs only 6 ounces but packs as much heat as a ski coat, especially when you’re being active. It’s perfect for both home and Mongolia; the weather out on the steppe will be unpredictable and being able to stow this jacket with ease will be key.
Franco C Saddlery Mongol Derby Saddle with Tucker Trooper fenders: this is a two-for one. The saddle is custom made for the derby to fit the Mongolian horses. There’s almost nothing to this saddle—exactly what endurance needs. The seat is only 13.5 inches. The fenders I have picked out myself, to fit easily into the slots on the saddle tree. An English leather would rub a hole in my leg for 1000km, so the fenders are key and will also help provide stability.
Bonus Item! Kroop's 13-five Goggles, they've got silicone on the inside of the band so they don't slip on your helmet and you're less likely to lose them if you end up in a sticky situation. I just bought them for the derby but so far I love them!
I'm still working on dialing in the rest of my kit and have a number of items left on my list to acquire. If you are able to help me with this, head on over to my gofundme page! gofundme.com/kelseydoesthederby You can also follow my journey on Facebook and Instagram.