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, 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 road that cuts through the mountains across the whole of Mongolia.
The occasional group of colorful houses pops 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 (or Yurts) set up like little villages. You know that if you were to pass tomorrow, they would have moved to a new location.
Eventually, we turned to the main road and started the journey through the mountains. The driver seems to be able to navigate his way through the countryside with no maps or roads. We finally arrived at the camp, the colorful 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 horses and playing 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 winter, they are wild and have to survive the harsh Mongolian cold. 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 okay, I had my steady steed. 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 three-day tournament at the end of the week.
We took two 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 four 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. 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 two to three 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 there’ll be lots to see and get involved in. We’ll be immersed in the culture and will really get to see the traditions of these wonderful people!
The Genghis Khan Polo and Riding Club was established in 1996 in order to revive polo in Mongolia and provide training and support for a young generation of Mongol riders who have extraordinary equestrian skills. Polo was a training method of the Mongol cavalry in the middle ages but then was forgotten.
Every year, the club hosts a summer camp at its home on Mongke Tengri hill in Mongolia’s Orkhon National Park. The camp has one exhibition field and three polo training fields with 80 polo and riding horses available for guests and endless riding possibilities into all directions, no fences.
The club has personal trainers for riding and polo lessons, and also organizes horse treks through the pristine wilderness of the Orkhon National Park to nearby high altitude lakes, hot springs, and volcanoes. Other camp activities include hiking, kayaking, fishing, archery, and mountain biking.
The polo season begins in late June and lasts until the end of September. A total of 30-40 guests may be accommodated in comfortable Mongolian Gers (yurts) at the camp. Families with children are most welcome. The camp has European management and a cuisine and bar of international standards. The climate at the camp at an altitude of 1500m is comparable to an Alpine summer mountain climate with warm days and cool nights.