Riding Horse Trails in Mongolia with Stone Horse Expeditions
What to expect and how to prepare for Riding Horse Trails in Mongolia
With the riding season approaching fast, this article answers questions about some practical aspects of our horse treks, for guests already signed up for a Stone Horse Expedition, and for those still contemplating a great riding adventure in Mongolia. The article should help you make decisions about what to bring for the trail and get ready for your riding adventure in Mongolia !
Saddle Bags for Essential Items on the Trail
Your horse will carry a set of saddle bags for clothing, snacks and other items you want accessible during the day out on the trail. The set consists of two side bags and a top bag. You want to put wind and water proof clothing and an extra layer for warmth in your saddle bags. Also hats – both a sun hat and a warm hat – and gloves. The water bottles we provide, snacks, sunscreen, camera, a toilet kit and anything else you need during the day. When packing your saddle bags, place the heavier items in the side bags and try to put equal weight in each side bag. Put lightweight items, such as rain gear or a sweater in the top bag. If you tie a coat to the top bag, tie it well! You don’t want to lose it, and horses don’t like anything flapping around or falling off. We will show you how to pack, and many of our guests leave with new skills in knot tying! The saddle bags are secured to the saddle, and they should also be nice and tightly fastened so they don’t bounce around when trotting, or during a bit of cantering.
Packing and tying the saddle bags, and taking them down at the end of the day is the only thing you have to do. Our wranglers brush and saddle your horse in the morning, take care of him after the ride to get him ready for grazing and for the night.
You and Your Trail Horse
We match horse and rider, selecting your saddle horse from our herd of over 20 working expedition horses. You will first meet your trail horse at the staging area when we pack and saddle up, fix saddle bags and adjust stirrup length before you get on your horse for the first time. You have time to get comfortable in the saddle and feel your horse a bit before we set out. Once the whole trek is underway, it doesn’t take long and the whole horse team gets into their routine and the order they’ve worked out. Don’t worry if you are an inexperienced rider. You are about to learn from your horse. Relax, but be assertive at the same time. Your horse wants you to tell him where you are going together, and you need to let him know that you both are going to move along nicely with the rest of the group. You will get the hang of it soon, and each member of the Stone Horse team is there to watch out for you and give you tips and a hand if needed.
All our trail horses are really easy going characters, but keep in mind they live in wolf country and they are suspicious of anything that in their mind might be a wolf – like our dog suddenly coming crashing out of the shrubs, or anything flapping down his flanks or at his belly. Usually it’s a split second and they have realized there’s no reason to worry.
Approach the horses as any horse – not from behind without him being aware of it; and get on and off him from his left side. If you are not used to getting in a saddle, we show you the best way. You don’t need to be an athlete, but a bit of flexibility and strength helps.
Natural Horse Keeping makes for great Trail Horses
During the day, you have ample opportunity to get to know your equine partner. You will learn a lot about horses on
your tour if you are a novice or rider with little experience. And most likely, you will get to know a pretty relaxed yet responsive horse. Growing up and living in a herd, and getting used to people from the earliest age, makes Mongolian horses typically calm and happy horses; while the free grazing in great natural pastures and the year-round outdoor life makes them very tough at the same time. Your perfect companion for a trail ride in Mongolia. Young fillies and colts are used to being tethered, and in summer are used to the daily milking of their mother, after they’ve had a drink. So they are very used to human contact and see their mothers tolerating being handled by people.
Mongolian horses are relatively small, most are in the 14-15 hands range. But the old saying “Praise the tall – saddle the small” is really true for them. You will come to appreciate your Mongolian trail horse when we are out there, crossing passes, fording rivers and trotting through endless fields of wildflowers, following ancient trails in the forest steppe.
While you won’t be tacking up your trail horse, do spend some time with him on the ground if you feel like it.
Riding Horse Trails in Mongolia for a Great Riding and Nature Experience
Our tours are NOT the Mongol Derby! A lot of times, the horses walk. Just because of the terrain we go through and because the emphasis of our horse riding tours is on experiencing the landscape and environment. When the terrain allows, the horses also trot a lot – a great way to make good distance. The horses naturally gravitate towards that gait to move along steady for long distances. There is ample opportunity to canter across the open grasslands for those who want, and those who wish can enjoy a bit of a gallop on the open and even ground of some of the big valleys and mountain slopes along our route. So there’s plenty of opportunity to enjoy riding at all levels. But we certainly don’t encourage, or favor ourselves, to chase across the steppes and risking injuries to the horses and making less experienced guest riders uncomfortable. There is enough time and terrain for riders of all levels to ride to their liking. Also keep in mind that the tour lasts 8, or 12, days of riding, and even the great Mongolian horses need to manage their energy and endurance.
Landscapes and Wildlife
All riding expeditions with Stone Horse are in beautiful scenery through great Mongolian landscapes. The 8 day ride in Gorkhi Terelj National Park offers days of riding in fairly open country – grasslands that are in bloom with wildflowers from late June to August going through successions of yellow, white and blue shades that are replaced in September by the warm colors of autumn. The Gorkhi Terelj ride leads way into the backcountry of the National Park, to camp sites below grand rock formations where we have spent nights looking at a great starry sky and listening to wolves howling. The park is known for its picturesque landscapes often dominated by rock formations rising from the forest steppe.
The ride into the Khentii Mountains takes us beyond the grasslands used by herders, over a high alpine pass, and deep into the Northern taiga forest of the Khan Khentii Strictly Protected Area. The wilderness landscape here is marked by impressive massifs towering in the distance beyond dark forests; the remote valleys we reach are dotted with lakes and wetlands. Here we have seen moose, and bear sign, and I always remember the raven calling high in the sky breaking the stillness of this great wilderness. In both parks we have a good chance to see roe deer, and golden eagles are not uncommon.
In the Saddle with Stone Horse Expeditions
A Day in the Saddle
A typical day is about 6 hours riding, with an hour or more lunch break at scenic spots – either high points with great views or perhaps near a stream or river. Lunch spots are picked to offer shade, good views and a natural surface to set-up a picnic spread as well as for good grazing for the herd. Sometimes horses are re-packed or their loads or saddles adjusted. It’s not uncommon that we take some more time after the mid-day meal, to read, explore the location, or have a snooze.
Lightweight Saddles for Riding Horse Trails in Mongolia – Stone Horse Saddles
Most saddles we use on our expeditions are purpose built in our own saddle workshop. They are lightweight and
robust, and look pretty good too. They have long strings to tie saddle and cantle bags, and clothing if needed. The stirrups have foam pads to make prolonged riding easy on your knees, and they are fitted with safety cages to prevent a rider’s foot from getting caught. Our Stone Horse Saddles are comfortable for horse and rider, we build them lightweight for the sake of our horses who do a great job in all terrain in the back country.
Trail Riders with Stone Horse Expeditions
Who comes on Stone Horse Expeditions? Who will I ride with?
Stone Horse Expeditions attract people from all walks of life who share a sense of adventure, curiosity about culture and environment, and a love for the outdoors. Some are advanced riders, some are on horseback for the first time. Some are experienced horse people, most are not. Most guests pursue some sport or active live beyond their professional lives, but most are not competing athletes, just in reasonable good shape! Ages of our guests to date have ranged from 12 to 70. You can prepare yourself easy for this trip of a life time. Ask us about it.
For more information on expedition gear, also check out our list of recommended clothing, or download our E-book on the same subject (see right side bar).
Experience Riding Horse Trails in Mongolia! Chose your trip: