You don't have to stay at the urtuus and to get ahead in the race it can be tempting to leave an urtuu late and camp out between them. This is something to think carefully about though, as it raises issues about the horse's welfare, your welfare and that of the families on the course. Done well, camping out can be a great race strategy. Done badly, it can be a complete disaster.
Don't camp out because it's something you want to try- if you're not an experienced camper it is likely you are putting yourself in unnecessary danger and it is common that we get calls for help from riders who have decided to camp out and then realise it's a bad idea. In 2016, two of our riders showed their inexperience for camping by not properly extinguishing their fire. They ended up burning a family's winter shelter down.
If you camp out you may end up staying with non-Derby families. While many of these people are very kind and generous please remember that they are not part of the event, so you are essentially taking food from their tables.
Photo- Richard Dunwoody 2016
Find a suitable camping spot- Look for somewhere close to water with decent grazing. If your horse is not watered and/or has no where to graze, it will wander off. This is where more of the unexperienced campers slip up- you can't just pitch up anywhere.
Treat the horses as you would treat your own. We will roam the steppes last thing and you are liable to have your horse vet checked where you drop anchor for the evening. The same recovery parameters apply here as at the horse stations; it is no more acceptable for you to leave the horse dehydrated overnight, or still blowing hard an hour after you have stopped, as it would be at an urtuu. This is a new rule for 2018 and beyond; you can no longer gallop hard for 30 minutes and camp out privately with 11 hours to recover. Expect the same 30 minutes you would get at an urtuu.
Go in a group- Safety in numbers. This is a good idea for both the safety of your horses and of yourselves. The horses are less likely to wander off if tied together and being in a group means you can take it in turns to watch them.
Graze your horse for an hour in the morning. Our vets will be very vigilant of gut sounds and the hydration of the horses that have been in your care overnight.
Staying with a non-Derby family can be a good alternative to sleeping out- they can provide you and your horse with more security. But remember- these families aren't policed by us so be cautious.
Don't camp near a soum (settlement)- it's possible you will attract the wrong kind of attention and you could find yourself in a sticky situation.
Don't expect a good night's sleep.