Mongolia has to be on every horse lover’s bucket list. It is a magical land with horses at the center of their culture. These horses are strong and fast and incredibly fun to ride. AdAstra was invited to visit the Genghis Khan Polo Club this summer and play in their annual Genghis Khan Polo Cup, it was an adventure not to be missed!
When we arrived in Ulaanbaatar we were tired but excited to begin the journey out to camp. The six hour drive takes you across the country and through the infamous Gobi desert. There seems to be one roads that cuts through the mountains across the whole of Mongolia.
The occasional group of colourful houses pop up at the side of the road but no one appears to live in them. Horses, goats and yaks gather together in herds with a cluster of Gers (Yurts to you and I) set up like little villages, you know that if you were to pass tomorrow they would have move on to a new location.
Eventually we turned off the main road and started the journey through the mountains. The drivers seem to be able to navigate their way through the countryside with no maps or roads. We finally arrived at camp, the colourful Gers sat above the valley that stretched out below. The smell of delicious food mingled with log burning fires as we walk through the camp discovering where we would sleep. After such a long journey we were all looking forward to a hearty meal and a good night’s sleep.
The next morning we had our first experience riding the Horses and playing a chukka. The first thing you have to get used to is how close to the ground you are. For me this was great!
Secondly these are herd animals, in the winter they are wild and have to survive the hash Mongolian Winters. They want to keep close to each other…much closer than I felt comfortable with. Once you’ve got the hang of this you have to get used to the fact that the practice field has no boundaries. You can fly along without ever stopping. It’s spectacular! As often happens I was teased for not going very fast! But it was ok, I had my steady steed…Sheep! He was incredible and kept me safe for the duration of the week. We galloped through the mountains on long rides and scored goals on the field! I was in polo heaven!
We played chukkas in the morning and evening. We went on a couple of exceptional long rides, high up into the mountains and ate picnics looking over the stunning countryside. There were opportunities to visit the local towns and see the ancient Temples or give archery and sword fighting a try! We squeezed all this in before the 3 day tournament at the end of the week.
We took 2 female players to the GKPC with AdAstra founder Katriona Shrives, Celine Lawrence and Francesca Smith. We were the only female players attending the tournament. There were also 4 very talented Mongolian female players.
We decided to have a ladies tournament while we were there. Lizzie Odegaard who was working for the GKPC for the summer joined our team and we took to the field.
It was one of the best games I played when I was there. The girls all pulled together and worked as a team passing the ball and scoring goals. It was an equal game ending in a 3 – 3 draw. All the girls came off smiling and feeling like they had a really good game! It was such a success we have decided to have a ladies cup next summer.
We will be taking 2 – 3 teams out to Mongolia in the summer of 2017 for the ladies cup. We’re heading out at a very important time in the Mongolian Calendar and they’ll be lots to see and get involved in. We’ll be immersed into the culture and will really get to see the traditions of these wonderful people!!