I’d like you to meet my heroes –Baagii and Saraa of Horse Trek Mongolia. Somehow, inexplicably, in 2022 I will be leading what looks to be the longest horse riding charity expedition in history across Mongolia with them. And, together with endurance legend, Heidi Telstad, I will be hosting a brand new extreme endurance adventure. The like of which Mongolia has never seen!
Author: Julie Veloo
10 years ago, recently having moved to Mongolia, Saraa was my Mongolian language teacher. Meanwhile I was a “regular” housewife who had never ever ridden a horse. Baagii taught me to ride – at 50 – because I really wanted to understand the Mongolian culture. It seemed to me that the only way to do that was on horseback. Since learning nearly 10 years ago now, I have traveled in excess of 30,000 km. I rode across more than 11 provinces on horseback adventures with Saraa and Baagii and their team. This experience is culminating in the epic 3,600 km / 84 day “Blue Wolf Totem Ride” and the associated 10 day wilderness endurance adventure – “The Blue Wolf Totem Experience”. Here is a little of the story of what it’s all about. How it came to be, and why it’s important.
Horse Riding Across Mongolia With “Horse Trek Mongolia”
Mongolia. The word stirs the imagination to the exotic and evokes images of thundering herds. Galloping herders in brilliant, flowing traditional costumes, star draped night skies and miles and miles of endless rolling steppe. It calls to the heart of adventure. Horse riding across Mongolia is a dream for many equestrians but the logistics of searching out and finding a reputable, reliable company, well trained horses, astonishing route plans and a long history of excellent, authentic rides is another story. Enter my good friends and great local hosts, Baagii & Saraa of Horse Trek Mongolia.
Blessed to be born in Mongolia with its vast unfenced distances, excellent horses and the knowledge of centuries of nomadic horsemen flowing through their veins, Baagii and Saraa started their trekking business way back in 1993. Since then they have taken hundreds and hundreds of riders from around the world with them. All of them experienced amazing, safe horse riding adventures across Mongolia. And, in the process, Saraa and Baagii have built the premier long distance trekking company on the planet for people looking for authentic, wild adventure. Think about this… Where else could you ride with people who not only have this extensive experience but who also have scouted, planned and organized wilderness horseback expeditions for the upcoming two years? These expeditions will cover in total an excess of 15,000 kilometers! And will accommodate upwards of 300 people riding across nearly every province in Mongolia?
Saraa – From Language Teacher to Logistics Expert
Saraa the logistics genius of the team, began her adult life as a professional Mongolian culture & language teacher. Furthermore she is an expert in traditional Mongolian script. But running the logistics of Horse Trek Mongolia and their epic, record breaking rides took her away from her teaching career. Now she spends her time far out into the wilds of Mongolia. Whether on horseback and at the helm of the team setting up and breaking down camp and delivering delicious Mongolian or international cuisine for their riders, Saraa is always in the thick of the action. She makes sure that their guests are having the best and most authentic experience possible.
Baagi is Used to Horse Riding Across Mongolia
Baagii, born in Terelj National Park to a nomadic family has been riding and caring for horses since before he can remember. Until now he has been taking people on treks into the wilds for almost 30 years. He has an excellent eye as to which rider suits which horse (and vice-versa). Therefore he is the epitome of consideration in his role as the head guide and co-owner of Horse Trek Mongolia. Together with their three sons, two of whom have spent time in Canada learning English and studying tourism, Baagii and Saraa have set out to share the majesty of Mongolia with people. They do this by crafting unique and interesting rides for riders of all levels. Certainly they’re always committed to offering a truly authentic Mongolian experience.
To understand the importance of Horse Trek Mongolia as an organization you need to understand the following. The vast majority of adventure companies in Mongolia are owned by foreigners. The local herders are only working as wranglers and in other supporting roles. Horse Trek Mongolia (in Mongolian Sodon Morin Aylal) is different. This small but mighty company is truly a Mongolian run family business. It supports in excess of 65 people from local herding families as guides, cooks, camp hands, wranglers, translators, drivers and support staff. All of the money from all of their rides stays in Mongolia. It supports not only the herders and support staff but local businesses, artisans, transportation companies. Most importantly, all of their rides have a serious charity component for seriously disadvantaged Mongolian children.
Horse Trek Mongolia – Humble Beginnings
The road to their world-class long distance trekking expertise began in 2013. After hosting the International Equestrian Club of Outer Mongolia for 2 years, they expanded their business. So they created the longest annual charity endurance ride on the planet, the 700 km / 10 day Gobi Gallop. This annual event gave them the opportunity to learn how to manage horses, people and logistics for top level international endurance events. While still staying true to their heritage and they deliver an authentic Mongolian experience for their guests.
The Gobi Gallop
The Gobi Gallop highlights not just adventure or endurance. Most importantly it showcases the traditional skills and year-round training regimen of the local herders. Furthermore it emphasizes the amazing strength and endurance of the Mongolian horse. Taking on 70 kilometers a day with only two horses per rider for the whole distance, the Gobi Gallop is a charity ride unlike any other. As each horse covers the entire distance, managing their fitness and endurance is paramount.
Baagii along with his head guides Sumbee and Lhavgaa (who is also our traditional vet) are masters of their trade. They are not only training the horses for these traditional long distances. But they also manage their health and fitness on an ongoing basis as we ride. At the end of the Gobi Gallop, Veloo Foundation undertakes a stunning, star studded gala and charity auction. This not only celebrates the amazing riders of the Gallop. More so it helps raise money for the projects undertaken by Veloo Foundation.
Charity is an Important Part
Over the past 8 years through the Gobi Gallop and their other charity rides, Horse Trek Mongolia has raised in excess of 575,000 USD. This money supports Veloo Foundation’s Children of the Peak Sanctuary Project. This extraordinary total raised by a small family business certainly makes Horse Trek Mongolia not only a premier long distance trekking company but also an excellent corporate citizen and a huge part of the success of Veloo Foundation’s work in Mongolia. We are all very proud that the Gobi Gallop is wholly owned and run by Mongolian people. Most importantly all of the money from ride fees and charity components stays in Mongolia and helps local people.
In addition to their endurance adventures, Saraa and Baagii also run a whole suite of “regular” treks. They focus on Mongolian culture, history or wilderness (or all three!) for people looking for an authentic Mongolian experience. They donate fully 20% of the tariff from these treks to children’s Charities in Mongolia including Veloo Foundation. The foundation runs a number of programs. This includes 2 kindergartens and a summer camp for the children and families who scavenge to survive.
Blue Wolf Totem Ride – Longest Horse Riding Event All Across Mongolia
Building on this already extensive trekking expertise, in 2022 Horse Trek Mongolia is set to expand their already impressive repertoire of adventures by taking on two new epic endurance and cultural rides. The first is what looks to be one of the longest charity rides in history. The 3,600 km / 84 day “Blue Wolf Totem Ride”.
Named the “Blue Wolf Totem” as homage to the personal totem of Chinggis Khan (Genghis Khan), the ride honors the traditional creation myth of the Mongols. This 3,600 km, 84 day adventure leaves on May 2nd, 2022. It will zigzag across the vast majority of Mongolia. Fifteen lucky Expeditionists along with their guides, translators, medical support team and crew will traverse from the desert to steppe to Taiga and then across the high alpine routes to eastern border where the Eagle Hunters rule. Designed to visit a multitude of historical, cultural and historical sites, riders need to commit to the whole 3,600 kilometers and 84 days. They can look forward to experiencing the fullness of Mongolia like no one since the time of Chinggis Khan has.
Logistics of Horse Riding Across Mongolia
Like the Gobi Gallop, there will be 2 horses per rider. But these horses will be changed several times during the ride. That means it is likely that the ride will involve in excess of 200 horses from across this wild land. Expeditionists participating will be able to ride on Mountain horses, Desert horses, and Steppe horses. So they can see the difference in horses bred for the wilds of far north Reindeer people and those who undertake the challenge of the wild high flying eagle hunters of western Mongolia.
Experience All Aspects of Mongolia
The expeditionists will visit the lands of the 5 major ethnic groups united under the flag of Chinggis Khan. Furthermore they will witness not only the living history of the silk road, but the magical history still found in the tranquility of the open steppe. This comes in the form of deer stones, people stones, kherigseers, ruins of ancient cities and the soaring. These are magical spiritual sites built high up on the mountain tops where Mongolians for centuries have believed the spirits of the land live. They will witness shaman rituals, visit revered energy spots and Buddhist temples. More so there are hundreds of mythical spots highlighted by local herdsmen. They pointed us in their direction when asked “What in your area is truly magical?”
There will be some of the most impressive petroglyphs on the planet, storied caves that have sheltered local heroes and monks fleeing oppression alike, battle sites from the time of Chinggis Khan and everything in between. In short, The Blue Wolf Totem Ride will pack as much of the magic of the entire history of this land that is now known as Mongolia into it. And all the while, every step and each footfall of the horses will be raising funds for the Mongolian children who scavenge to survive. This once in a lifetime ride really does embody its hashtag #AdventureForGood.
Blue Wolf Totem Experience – 10 days of Horse Riding Across Mongolia
The second major new adventure for 2022 has arisen from the requests of people swept up with the magic of The Blue Wolf Totem Ride… but who don’t have 84 days to spend riding across the wilds. In answer to their requests Horse Trek Mongolia working with Heidi Telstad, famed Mongol Derby winner and Blue Wolf Totem Expeditionist, has come up with an excellent alternative: the Blue Wolf Totem Experience. To share the spirit and challenge of the Blue Wolf Totem Ride in a serious 10 day endurance adventure, Horse Trek Mongolia will be setting up a collection gers for our very own base camp out in the wilds of Hintee province, birthplace and home of Chinggis Khan. This region is home to a vast and rich history from the bronze age to the silk road to modern day… all strewn across the steppe.
Riding out of the custom ger camp, riders will have a chance to experience the true highlights of Mongolian history and culture in comfort and style. The adventure will include not just several days of stunning endurance rides. In addition you’ll be in the midst of a herd of 500 or so horses. And you’ll watch Mongolian cowboys practice their skill (and giving riders a shot!). You’ll be riding with an eagle hunter and his eagle. You’ll be watching and experiencing traditional Mongolian mounted archery. Additionally, you can visit a wild and wonderful Monastery and the place where Chinggis Khan was crowned as leader of the tribes.
Where ever you go there is something to see
Deer stones, kherigeseers (bronze age monuments) and people stones show up along the way as we ride. More so you’ll see wilderness, traditional music concerts, amazing deels made by Veloo Foundation’s sewing centre and the 13th century village. Furthermore you get the chance to try your hand at a urtuu style 100 mile endurance ride.
A 100 Mile Endurance Day – Just Like the Mongol Horde
The Blue Wolf Totem Experience will include many endurance days on horseback visiting these sites. But the highlight will be the opportunity to undertake a 100 mile day. Thundering across the wild steppe on Mongolian horses, riders, in the style of Chinggis Khan’s legendary message system, will race as a group from horse post to horse post. Riders get a chance to see what it’s like to ride a full 100 miles (160 km) in a day. And they will relive the experience of the famed Mongol Horde… at least the riding part of it.
In addition to all of these exciting riding opportunities there will be traditional feasts, open air concerts with traditional instruments, excellent food, historical interpretation, equestrian photography lessons and sessions. As an added bonus, there will be seminars with and a chance to ride with Heidi Telstad. As famed winner of the 2016 Mongol Derby and Blue Wolf Totem Expeditionist, she will be hosting all the riders.
The Blue Wolf Totem Ride is currently sold out with applications being taken for the waiting list only. However, more information about the Blue Wolf Totem Experience and how to join us for this amazing adventure can be found on the website for the “Blue Wolf Totem Experience” or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
More About the Charity Efforts
Find out more about the Veloo Foundation and the children that Saraa and Baagii have helped over the years with their amazing charity rides. So please visit www.veloofoundation.com.
Do you want to learn more about Mongolia? Well, we have exactly what you where looking for! So go and find all our resources, stories and Interviews in our Mongolia Archive.