“THE most noticeable thing about Mongolia is that it’s so vast, there’s nothing in it.” So said charity fundraiser Nicky Hall from Selkirk.
The optometrist undertook a 10-day challenge with the British Horse Society riding in central Mongolia to raise money for horse welfare.
She told us: “Coming in on the plane you see the hills and the odd dirt track and the spot of a town and that’s it. ”
The 14 fundraisers rode small locally bred Mongolian ponies. Four horsemen, camp staff and a guide accompanied the group on the week’s ride in the Tov region of central Mongolia, south west of the country’s capital Ulaanbaatar.
After a day in the capital, the group travelled to the Gobi Steppes, taking more than four hours to cover about 65 miles in an old Russian bus along dirt roads.
They slept in a ger, a type of tent, and otherwise camped but the weather was hostile in The Land of the Blue Sky.
“We had thunder and lightening storms. When it’s windy and wet, it makes it quite cold”, she said.”
Nicky and Northumberland friend Bridie Stanford-Bennett, were unlucky, for Mongolia has an average of 260 sunny days a year.
The ponies they rode stand at only 13 to 14 hands high but they’re tough. Nicky commented: “They’re semi-wild. The horsemen wanted to do most of the things with them - they tacked them up. They don’t treat horses like pets as we do here. The ponies are used to running in herds and we had to be careful. ”
She was on a younger pony for the first day but he was too unsettled: “It had been wet all night and the ponies were a bit cold-backed. After a bucking fit when I nearly came off, they changed him the next day.
“The ponies had lots of stamina. We were covering the best part of 20 miles a day and if we had a canter we were going for ages. We were giving up before they did – they go all day.”
The ride ended in Bain Unjuul, the home village of the horsemen, where the fundraisers savoured the annual Nadaam festival, the largest Mongolian festival of its kind, which includes displays of archery, horse riding and wrestling.
Nicky went on: “It was a good trip. The highlight is being out there in that open expanse, I suppose you are a bit in awe of it. You got the idea of the distances Mongolians have to cover to go anywhere. We got to visited a family in a ger which gave us an idea of how the Mongolians live.”
The Mongolian adventure was Nicky’s second fundraising challenge with the British Horse Society – she rode in Peru last summer, raising almost £1,000.
She told us: “It was another memorable adventure, experiencing a different culture and way of life, while raising £225 for the British Horse Society Welfare fund. I would like to add a big thank you to everyone who supported me.”