Safety and Comfort of Horse Riding in Mongolia
10 Points to enhance Safety and Comfort of Horse Riding in Mongolia
In a recent tweet linking to a blog on the popularity of Horse Trekking in Mongolia among women adventure travelers, I used the photo (left) from our 2015 late August Stone Horse Expedition into the Khan Khentiie Wilderness in Mongolia. It’s a snapshot of Shiyan, a two time Stone Horse guest from Singapore, on “her” trail horse “Tseerd”, named for his color pattern that resembles that of a Mongolian gazelle.
Both rider and horse are very photogenic, and the August wildflowers and our pack horses running alongside only added to the beauty of the image that very well depicts the feel of a horse trek in the late summer landscapes of Mongolia.
Upon reviewing my post, I realized that the photo also greatly illustrates the points that we pay great attention to for enhancing safety and comfort in riding – so that guests can focus on enjoying the ride!
Shiyan gained a lot of riding experience on two treks with us over the last two summers, and her posture shows it – pretty relaxed, but sitting straight in the saddle, her foot in the stirrups with heels down. Also Tseerd seems relaxed, jogging along with his equine team mates. It’s what we like to see on our trips – horse and rider relaxed and comfortable. Let’s look at the features in the equipment we provide that help achieve that.
1 – Comfortable Saddles of high Quality with a good Seat
I learned saddle making with an experienced saddle maker/instructor in New Mexico, and trained to pay a lot of attention to building a good seat, for balanced riding and for comfort of rider and horse. I worked for several years to develop Stone Horse Saddles – lightweight Western style trail riding saddles that are a perfect fit also for Mongolian horses.
2 – Safety Features on Horse Trekking Saddles – Safety Stirrups
Our saddles are fitted with endurance stirrups. Padded treads make a big difference on long rides to prevent your foot hurting. Most importantly though, they are fitted with safety cages to prevent a foot being caught should a rider come off the saddle or while getting on or off the horse.
3 – Comfort for the Trekking Horses – Saddle Fit and Pads
Stone Horse saddles are lightweight, around 22 lbs, yet have all the features that make a Western trail riding saddle comfortable for the horse who carries saddle and rider for extended daily hours and for multi-days of riding. The saddle tree is a good fit for Mongolian horses, the proper angle to sit on the horses’ back and keeping the weight off the spine. It is long enough though to distribute the weight better compared to that of the very short bars of the saddle used commonly today in Mongolia.
Moreover, the bars are “Arizona bars’, meaning they are not straight pieces of wood, but they are shaped to fit on the horse’s back, with the front end sitting in the pocket below the withers. Needless to say, they are fitted with genuine sheep skin on the underside. That, and the additional blankets/pads we put between the horse’s back and the saddle combine to good protection for the horse.
4 – Crupper and Breast Plate
Our horse treks explore great back country, and every trip has its share of some steeper terrain and passes to go over. For the comfort of horse and rider, cruppers and breastplates, – running from the back of the saddle under the horse’s tail, and from the front of the saddle around the horse’s neck, – keep the saddle in place when going up- and downhill.
5 – Helmets
Back to the photo – the rider wears a helmet. For obvious reasons, a helmet remains the best and most important protection in case of a fall. We provide helmets and strongly encourage our guests to wear a helmet.
6 – Half Chaps
We also provide half chaps. They protect the rider’s legs. And it allows guests to be comfortable while horse trekking without having to buy riding boots. With half chaps over your hiking boots you have the perfect footwear for a horse riding expedition, functional in the saddle as well as on the ground, and suitable for the different terrain and weather you might encounter.
7 – Saddle Bags for the Day on the Trail
We provide saddle bags for our guests, consisting of two side bags and a top bag. These are to carry water, snacks, clothing and other items, such as cameras, the rider wants accessible during the day. They allow to have drinking water, raingear, sun hat, sun screen handy when needed during the day. For tips on what to bring and how to prepare for a riding tour with Stone Horse Expeditions, download our FREE E-book.
8 – Camping Gear, well equipped Camp kitchen, good Food – and a few Items for Wilderness Trekking in Style..
You don’t see the details of our tented camps and camp kitchen we carry, nor the food and wine that is brought along. But it is all traveling along with the trek, packed by our wranglers and carried by the pack horses that you see running along in the photo. They know their jobs and mostly trot along with us… they can take snack breaks at their discretion as long as they keep up with the group. And they do, we could probably send them ahead to the next camp, they know the route very well, as does our whole team of experienced expedition horses.
Not on the pack horses, but in our saddle bags, we carry well stocked FirstAid kits and a satellite phone. These items, and our long term experience in remote wilderness expeditions, work experience in emergency medicine and training in wilderness first responder procedures, add to the foundation of our expedition safety.
9 – Well trained Expedition Horses
The horse on the photo is “Tseerd”- his Mongolian name reflecting the color of a Mongolian gazelle. His color pattern and long mane make him look great year-round. Among wildflowers in summer, against golden larch forest in autumn, and in a snowy landscape under the winter sun.
Like for several others of our guest riding horses, we received reservations for Tseerd and other equine team members by returning guests who have come to know and like him. A nice thing for us to see; we own all our horses and care for them year round. Spending the time we have with them on the trail and relying on them in remote back country, we have enormous respect for them as sentient beings and experienced expeditioners. We know them all well and match horse and rider. And it is a joy for us to see riders getting to know, enjoying and liking their horse.
Mongolian horses grow up natural in a herd and in natural surroundings without confinement – their lifestyle is similar to that of their wild ancestors. Yet they are acquainted with humans from birth – mares being milked in Mongolia introduces the young foals to human interaction. Growing up and living free, Mongolian horses seem to have none of the conditions that may afflict horses that spend their time alone in a paddock or locked up in a barn. Unlike their cousins in Western countries, Mongolian horses do not need to learn skills for the trail.
With the above as a foundation, our care and close interaction year-round and years of experience on our expeditions, our horses are known for being well-mannered and responsive, yet strong. “Tough and willing” is a good expression to describe them. Horses like that are an important safety feature, probably more so than any piece of equipment.
10 – Horse and Rider Communication
As a company owning and caring for our horses – rather than renting horses for the season or a tour – we are able to match riders and horses. The introduction of horse and rider before we set out on the trail is a good start for the horse-rider team to get to know and like each other. The rider’s attitude and aptitude, to relax and to let the horse know what’s expected from him are an important aspect. We want to give credit to both horse and rider here. On the featured photo you can see a great horse-rider team, with both of them relaxed and good communications among them. We look forward to seeing them traveling together again!