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2019 Mongol Derby: Rider Feature 2 - Saffers Ride Mongolia

*One day to go!*

As the riders have weighed in and are now at start camp completing their training I thought it would be appropriate to feature a team who were happy to announce their weights to the world - Saffers (that's South Africans for anyone not from the English speaking world South of the equator) Ride Mongolia, or Vasin Govender (78kgs), Sampie Mokoakoe (53kgs) and Wiesman Nel (84kgs).  Excellent sharing, chaps.

Sampie Mokoakoe
Sampie has worked as a horse trainer at the Moelmanshoek Private Game Reserve for the last six years and as a guide on the Extreme Horse Riding Trails in Lesotho (a landlocked mountain kingdom in the middle of South Africa).  When digging around online, I found this video and was tempted to post it with no further explanation for why I would put a cheeky fiver on Sampie:

Professional horse trainer, jockey weight, used to riding across anything, rides from his seat leaving the horse's head alone... and how many other riders can boast a starring role in a promotional video in which they frolic in a waterfall?  

But it isn't just that.  If you google "Sampie Mokoakoe" you'll find a whole string of ultra marathon results.  My Afrikaans is a bit, errr, rusty but my jaw nearly hit the floor when I clicked on to the Lesotho Ultra results for 2018.  Sampie came fourth.  Considering he came 11th in 2017, fifth in 2016 and 10th in 2015 it is safe to say that he is good shape - this is a man who can run 50 mountain kilometres in 6 hours, 23 minutes and 51 seconds.

Safe to say he's in with a chance, I think.  But will he just have too much fun?  Will he pass a waterfall and be UNABLE to resist the urge to frolic?  Only time will tell, but I am really looking forward to finding out.

Wiesman Nel
Wiesman is a FEI registered endurance rider, as well as a well-known and well respected breeder and trainer of endurance horses operating out of his... yep, you guessed, private game reserve in South Africa - Moelmanshoek. 

In fact, in a "gosh what a small world we live in" sort of way, Moelmanshoek Endurance Horses provide, prepare and look after the horses ridden in Race the Wild Coast, another multi-day horse race down the Wild Coast of South Africa from Port Edward to Kei Mouth.  Plenty of Derbyists go on to ride in this race and you can have a look at highlights from the 2018 edition here:

Hard not to see Wiesman as a serious entrant, too.  Will South Africa's own "malboro man" go all the way?

Vasin Govender

A keen mountain biker, rider and pilot (of late, thanks to a sabbatical), Vasin spent 25 years at Accenture in South Africa, ending as a Managing Director.  I take my hat off - that is no small achievement.  But will it help him in the middle of the Mongolian steppe in blistering heat when he's been bucked off for the third time from his only way of reaching the next station?

It is hard to predict how riders with little experience will do on the Derby.  It should be a recipe for disaster in the form of broken bones or worse, but somehow... it isn't necessarily.  I won't get into the argument of whether horsemen are born or made, but a bit of natural ability combined with a lot of determination can often beat experience on the Derby, at least (as I talked about in a an earlier post.  The challenge for Vasin is probably going to be whether he can keep up with Sampie and Wiesman; that and whether his sense of humour is good enough for them to help him along a bit... it looks like the three met on one of the Moelmanshoek trail rides, which is promising.  They've already spent seven days in the mountains on horseback together.  Why not seven days in Mongolia?


Anyway, I wish Saffers Ride Mongolia the very best of luck.  They're a firm favourite of mine and look certain to do well in the Mongol Derby Fun Trumps whatever happens.  You can follow them on Instagram (@saffers_ridemongolia), facebook (https://www.facebook.com/saffe...) or here on my blog.

If, like me, you're starting to think that next year's holiday might be a warm up jog followed by a spot of trail riding in Lesotho I wouldn't blame you.  Or if the idea of swimming alongside your horse along some of the world's most stunning coastline appeals, Rockethorse Racing are your friends.  Enjoy!