A Christiansburg woman hopes to be a part of the world’s longest horse race.
Hanna Bartnick is preparing for the 2018 Mongol Derby, the longest, toughest and most dangerous horse race in the world.
The 1000 km (621 miles) of unmarked plain, steppe, swamp, river, desert and mountainous terrain spans across 13 countries.
All of this is completed on unfamiliar and “semi-wild” Mongolian horses in a matter of just 10 days. These conditions test the skills of the equestrians, with little more than half of all riders finishing the race during any given year.
Bartnick discovered the Mongol Derby on Facebook.
“I was browsing through Facebook when I first came across a video showcasing the Mongol Derby. I was instantly intrigued and put in an application to be a rider. How could I not? I have always thirsted for new adventures, especially when they involve horses. After an interview, I was selected as one of the few picked from a pool of hundreds to compete in the 2018 Mongol Derby and help represent the U.S.,” Bartnick said.
In the Mongol Derby, riders stay in the saddle for up to 14 hours, switch to a fresh horse every 40 km, and either camp out in the wilderness at night or with the local nomadic herdsmen.
According to Bartnick, wild dogs, unruly horses, severe changing weather, unforgiving terrain along with dehydration and utter exhaustion make for a pretty exciting journey based on Genghis Khan’s postal route originally established in 1224.
Bartnick’s story leading up to this endurance race got started 13 years ago. At the age of eight, she stepped in her first stirrup and has been riding ever since.
“I consider myself a first-generation equestrian as no one else in my family has ever taken an interest. I have competed in multiple disciplines from dressage to hunters to jumpers, however my specialty has always been starting young horses under saddle,” she said.
While attending Virginia Tech, she competed on the “hunter team”, and was on the university’s horse judging team, which gave her the opportunity to travel to many states, including Tennessee, Texas, Ohio and Oklahoma to judge top horses in the American Quarter Horse industry.
In the past year, her goals have significantly changed, all preparing for this big race.
“I want to compete all over the world in the most physically demanding horse races I can find. Already lined up on my roster for 2017 are over 10 AERC endurance races on the east coast of the United States that range from 50 to 100 miles that are to be completed in a single day on a single horse. I have been training one of my own horses relentlessly to pursue this goal,” she said.
That plan includes qualifying for the highly acclaimed Tevis Cup, a 100-mile endurance race in California that draws a large, competitive crowd.
“I have also applied for a rider position in the 2017 Race the Wild Coast, another international race that takes place on 350 km of remote South African coast. With these races under my belt, I will be in prime condition, mentally and physically, to take on the Mongol Derby in full force,” Bartnick said.
“The American Endurance Ride Conference’s motto is ‘to finish is to win’ and this is the mindset I will try to have going into the Mongol Derby. However, I feel that just getting there will be a huge endeavor in itself.”
But in order to compete in the Mongol Derby, she will have to find some financial support. The entry fee alone, which does not include airfare, is $13,000.
She hopes to raise some of that amount through individual donations from friends, family and fellow equestrians. Bartnick is also currently seeking different gear sponsorship’s through a multitude of outlets.