Racing the Mongolian steppe
DERBY: Taroom's Sally Conway is preparing her mental and physical resilience ahead of taking on the Mongol Derby - the most gruelling, rugged and longest horse race in the world.
In two weeks Conway will swap southwest Queensland for the harsh environment of Mongolia, where she will ride semi-wild horses across 1000km in 10 days - tracing the ancient messenger route established by Genghis Khan.
The intrepid adventurer first heard of the Mongol Derby in 2017 while she was working at a safari lodge in Kenya.
A visitor to the lodge had completed the derby and Conway - along with an English friend - decided to do it together.
"Then things in Kenya actually went pear-shaped, we were involved in the Laikipia land invasion where basically our ranch, the safari lodge we were working on, got completely taken over so I came back to Australia and she went back to England,” Conway said.
"Not long after that my aunt committed suicide, and so I decided that I was still going to do it and do it to raise money and awareness for mental illness.”
The decision sparked an application process that included medical approval, proof of Conway's horsemanship, and a written submission of why she should be selected from riders throughout the world as one of the race's 40 competitors.
"I definitely think that the reason as to why I'm doing it - that's definitely helped me get into the race,” she said.
"They really appreciated that I was doing it for a cause, not just for the sake of doing it.
"I'd always wanted to do something to shine a light on mental illness in rural areas and then my aunt really tipped the scales.”
Known as the toughest horse race in the world, Conway is prepared for her own strength to be tested in more ways than one.
"It really looks like a true test of physical strength, horsemanship, and mental strength - particularly mental strength - having to be resilient day after day,” she said.
While safety procedures are in place, the race is designed to be as authentic and isolating as possible, leaving riders with the feeling they're truly alone navigating the Mongolian Steppe.
"Once you're out there there is no help, you are on your own,” Conway said.
The two charities Conway is raising money for are the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the Rogue and Rouge Foundation, a group that facilitates mental health workshops and seminars across the country.
To find out more or donate, visit Conway's website: scconway1.wixsite. com/ridewithme