The Horses and Riding
How far we ride in a day, the saddles we use and the horses we ride.
It is difficult to describe a typical day, as they vary so much. Around six hours is about right for most people. We often set out at the start of the day with no clear idea of where we might end up, but ideally we like to make camp no later than four in the afternoon. That gives us plenty of time to relax at the end of the day. If you haven't had enough riding by then, there is always the opportunity to ride out from camp in the evening, perhaps as part of a foraging party looking for local herders to trade with for milk and yoghurt.
The amount of time you can comfortably spend in the saddle depends on the pace too. Six hours of walking makes for a very long day. A mix of walking, trotting and cantering, with galloping for the confident riders, eats up the miles and makes the day fly by, and is our preferred way to travel.
We have rest days along the way, such as at the abandoned mountain spa in Zavkhan, where you can hike, fish, ride some more, soak in the baths or just read a book. If we feel the group is up to it, we will offer you the chance to try completely new routes some days. You do need to be prepared for some longer days when doing this. On a 'normal' day we would cover around 30-50km, depending on terrain.
Not the saddle on the left! They are strictly for Mongolians and masochists. We use the much more comfortable style of saddle on the right, also used by local people. The bridles are basically similar to what you might have used in the past, and the horses respond to western-style neck-reining. We have wranglers to look after the horses and help with saddling up, but you are welcome to help (we will show you all you need to know).
Mongolians ride very short, like a jockey, so we have our own stirrup leathers, meaning that you are still able to walk at the end of the day.
There is often a fear that a ride with Zavkhan Trekking will be like a pony trek back home. You know the sort of thing - tired old horses following nose to tail, the only sign of life when they turn for home. No riding faster than a slow canter. Stay behind the leader at all times. Etc.
That's certainly not us! Our horses are forward-going and fun to ride. If you would like something challenging, we can oblige. If you would prefer to be able to enjoy the scenery, we have horses for that too. We always have spare horses along on the trek, so you can swap from day to day, depending on your mood. There are plenty of opportunities to gallop, if you are confident. However we do have rules relating to riding safely, particularly in ways that impact on other riders.
If you would like to bring your partner, but they don't want to be riding every day (or at all), there is still plenty to do. Our Zavkhan Multi trip is aimed at riders with less enthusiastic partners, but it would still be possible to come on any of our trips. Accompanying the driver in the support vehicle is a great way to experience the local culture, as he visits his friends and family along the way. There is usually somewhere to dangle a line, and we all appreciate a fish supper at the end of the day! There is plenty of hiking to be done, and bird-life to be spotted. Talk to us about other options for your non-riding partner.
Do you have a question that we haven't answered above?
If so, please don't hesitate to contact us.