Girl Forward

A Tale of One Woman’s Unlikely Adventure in Mongolia

I knew when I heard about the Gobi Desert Cup that I was taking a calculated risk. The adventure was not only worth it but it also taught me a lot about myself.

I don’t like to set limitations and yet as the Timid Rider I often find myself doing just that in many aspects of my life. I battle with overcoming this inner monologue and stepping outside of my comfort zone. Mongolia was WAY out of my comfort zone. But is that what my motto #beBold is all about?

#beBold

I’m an incredibly visual person as Debbie Loucks of Horsemanship Radio recently pointed out to me in an interview. Often I am an observer and learn by watching others, especially when it comes to horse riding. So to have the unique opportunity to not only view a distant world, but immerse myself in it, I was awestruck from the beginning. Often, a camera will capture special views or moments but it sets the photographer apart. The equipment creates a certain amount of distance. For example, I once met a retired FBI forensic photographer who told me that the camera allowed him to photograph evidence of often brutal scenes without giving him nightmares he would likely otherwise have had. This is an extreme example of course, but I can understand. The photographer, through his or her lens, is set apart.

Photo courtesy of ©Gobi Desert Cup.

Throughout the adventure, I was torn between documenting the race (something I was employed to do) and experiencing it for myself. It was a delicate balance to uphold. Wonderfully, I had help with an assistant and because I was also interviewing riders and writing about the adventure, I became immersed in a truly unique way.

Riders on the horizon. Photo courtesy ©Heather Wallace/ Gobi Desert Cup.

If you are wondering, “What in the world is the Gobi Desert Cup?” I am happy to give you a little information. This is an annual equestrian adventure and endurance race held in Mongolia. A selection of riders race across the vast terrains of the steppes over six days, six Mongolian horses, and 300 miles. It is a true test of horsemanship as well as physical and mental fortitude. But this is only part of it. The event is designed to tour this ancient land as the nomads have done for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. On their journey they will be fully immersed in a culture that is slowly disappearing before our eyes.

The people of Mongolia are warm, generous and welcoming. They are incredibly proud of their land and the beautiful country and proudly showcase their culture for the travelers. While I never had a secret desire to travel to Mongolia before the opportunity arose, I found myself falling in love with the people and the land. It is truly like stepping back into a simpler time.

A traditional ger, portable home for nomads.

I am spoiled by air conditioning, electricity, refrigeration, high speed internet service, and everything I want at my finger tips. I have First World problems and First World complaints. Stepping into a developing country completely landlocked and set apart put some things into perspective for me while also challenging me, and showing me that I am more capable than I knew. From the beginning I was tested and while I wasn’t always successful, I did learn. And I was bold and race a horse!

Girl Forward Heather Wallace

Girl Forward is the story of my own journey as a Gobi Desert Cup Official and observer in Mongolia. Do not doubt that even set apart from the riders I did not have a life-changing and enlightening experience.

Buy my book today to read my whole story.

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