Morgan Tait

Morgan Tait is the NZ Herald's consumer affairs reporter.

Kiwi rider follows hoofsteps of Genghis Khan in charity ride across Mongolia

A New Zealand woman will race 1000km across Mongolia on horseback next month - and hopes to complete the mammoth charity ride in less than a week.

Bay of Islands horse trainer Chloe Phillips-Harris, 25, will traverse Genghis Khan's old postal messenger route for 13 hours each day, racing 34 other riders from around the world as part of the annual Mongol Derby.

The race - the equivalent of galloping from Cape Reinga to Wellington - comes with a maximum luggage weight of just 5kg and riders must change horse every 40km.

"You use the nomadic people's horses ... so a lot of it comes down to picking the right horse and horsemanship and managing the horse when you're on it," Ms Phillips-Harris said.

"It's 26 horses all up so being able to get on and know your horse straight away and not get bucked straight back off is going to be a big challenge."

Ms Phillips-Harris has been riding since a child, and fulltime since 2007. She sat her riding exams in Germany and worked for the country's top breeders before setting up her own business, CS Equestrian in Kerikeri, but the longest endurance ride she has done is 30km. She will also have to adapt to the foreign horse culture.

"They are not like New Zealand horses, they are really different. They are really small and really tough and really, really wild compared to what I usually ride every day.

"Mongolians only ever approach and get on their horses from one side; you can't go near it from the other side of the horse."

Handling wild horses is not completely foreign for Ms Phillips-Harris, who often musters wild horses from the Kaimanawa Ranges.

This year, she trained a horse to pull a wakeboard through the shallow surf along a Bay of Islands beach.

"Mongolia is the last place on Earth to have truly wild horses. There's just over a million people there and there are more horses in Mongolia than people.

"It's just the biggest adventure you can have on a horse."

The race raises money for rainforest trust Cool Earth and a charity of each rider's choice.

Ms Phillips-Harris has chosen non-profit equine organisation Kiwi Care Team, with which she has travelled to the slums of India and Egypt providing aid and education for locals who rely on working animals.

The event begins on August 4, and Ms Phillips-Harris can be followed on mongolderby.com.

- NZ Herald

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