Horse Riding in Mongolia
The fence free riding experience on the Mongolian steppes, the clear air, altitude and sunshine is a thrilling experience. Added to it is the exuberant company of the Mongol horsemen, singing about the beauty of the countryside as they gallop on.
A lot of travelers ask about horse riding. If you just want to do a day trip and you think you can manage pretty well on your own, head over to Turtle Rock in Terelj National Park, where you’ll find lots of young boys renting horses for around $5-10.
Self organized trip or go with a tour operator?
You could do either. If you are the sort of person who gets satisfaction from organizing your own expeditions, and the challenges associated with this, then by all means you could organize your own trip.
If you don’t mind going with a tour operator and having your trip planned and organized by someone else, then go with a tour operator. There are many quality operators listed in the LP and pretty much all of them can organize a horse trek for you.
Going on an organized tour vs. organizing your own trek does not necessarily save you money. There are some budget tour operators (mainly the ones based out of UB guesthouses), that can organize a tour for people on a shoestring budget. You won’t have to buy lots of equipment because they will have the saddles and horse tack already. You usually get what you pay for. So if you take the more expensive tours run by the bigger operators you will probably be getting better food, better equipment, and more experienced guides/translators. Having an experienced guide can make a world of difference if you want to learn something of the country. The inexperienced guides may only be Ulaanbaatar college students who will only have a limited knowledge of horses and how to take care of them.
Even if you are determined to travel alone and without support I would highly recommend going on a ‘test run’ near Ulaanbaatar for a couple of days (or more). You can do day trips in Terelj national park, get some tips from the locals and test out your equipment before charging out to the countryside.
If you are a novice and want to learn a bit more about Mongolian horses and go for some day trips near Ulaanbaatar, hook up with Steppe Riders (www.stepperiders.com) which does a good job in instructing horse care and riding techniques. They will teach you how to hobble and saddle horse, how to feed your horse and caring for wounds. These are all good things to know if you plan on doing a multi-day trip. Steppe Riders can organize those too. It’s run by a local family that lives near Zuunmod.
Setting off on your own
Bring your own equipment or buy locally?
If you are serious about making a long trip, I would recommend bringing as much equipment as you can from home, especially saddles and stirrups. Other tack, such as bridles, halters, bits etc. are less important, you can buy those locally.
Mongolian saddles are just plain uncomfortable. You can buy Russian style saddles but I am not too fond of these either. Bring a nice western saddle and you’ll be sitting pretty. Local stirrups can also be uncomfortable so you may want to bring your own. Some western-style tack is available for rent from local tour operators but you really don’t want to count on this because there isn’t much available.
Prices for a low-range saddle and stirrups starts from $300 and goes up from there. Remember that you can probably sell the stuff when you finish your trip and you’ll get most of your money back. Tour operators in UB will buy it and so will Mongolian herders. Equipment also makes a great gift for guides or friends in Mongolia.
Other necessities: Good topo maps. These are available from the map store in UB. You won’t be able to get good maps outside the country but if you really need maps before you arrive in the country, try to request them through Shop Mongolia (www.shopmongolia.com).
Handy tip: Local knowledge can be OK, but can just as often be wrong or misleading. Mongolians are poor when estimating distance. Someone may say a town is 20km away when in reality its 40 (or vice versa). Use your maps and GPS, and take all local info with a grain of salt.
Posted by: pktan
Having spent a few months in the amazing Mongolia for the past few years, PkTan is fascinated with this beautiful, complicated country. He love advising travellers to Mongolia and have developed this site to share all his knowledge of Mongolia with everyone.