The veterinary support network.
No horse may return from their destination urtuu until it has been cleared as fit to travel by one of our Mongol Derby vets. After being ridden on the Derby every horse undergoes a mandatory vet check. Any horse requiring treatment, or further observation by our vets, can be held at the urtuu. All vets are equipped to deal with all manner of veterinary issues and briefed to treat proactively, on the basis that they will not get recurring access to the horses as they might be accustomed to in a western veterinary hospital setting. This interview with our head vet in 2011 is a really interesting insight into horse welfare on the Derby.
Emergency response system
As well as the mandatory vet checks at every horse station the emergency response system allows riders who are concerned that their horse is sick, or injured, can summon help to their location between horse stations. Riders receive full briefing on how to summon this assistance at pre-race training. Any emergency, horse or rider related, takes precedence over ordinary race business during the Mongol Derby. This means that an urtuu could be out of action whilst the vet attended to an emergency away from his station. No horse will be left waiting for emergency treatment just to keep the race running.
The role of the referees
A couple of key crew members are roaming the course during the Derby looking at actual riding standards on the Mongol Derby, not just who is where and who is winning. They have the authority to impose a veterinary penalty on horse welfare grounds, or indeed to outright disqualify an abusive rider. They also have the authority to hold a rider at an urtuu who they feel is physically unfit to continue. Fit to continue means fit to take care of a herder's precious horse. Delirious, asleep at the wheel, hypothermic or heat struck riders are as much a danger to their steeds as to themselves.