Missouri Native Heads To Mongolia

2922 days ago.

Erik Cooper leaves Friday for Mongolia.

As of the last census, there were 311 million people and change living in the United States. Only five other Americans are heading to Mongolia with Erik. These six Americans will see a side of Mongolia that most people in the world don’t see. That’s because few are as crazy, talented or whatever else you want to call it. This group will join 29 others from around the world in trying to complete the Mongol Derby, the world’s toughest horse race.That’s not the greatest lead for this post. I don’t blame you if you quit reading, although you’ll miss out on something you probably haven’t read elsewhere.

What makes it the “World’s Toughest”?  Well, it says it on the website and it’s in the Guinness Book of World Records. It’s 1000 km across Mongolian wilderness. It isn’t exactly a guided tour on horseback. The “route” is actually an “un-route”. You get a GPS loaded with coordinates of the stations that are spread across Mongolia. It’s on you and your horse to get between the stations. You then will change horses for the next leg. I forgot to mention that the horses are semi-wild Mongolian horses. The aren’t exactly kept in a barn and raced around an oval. The race begins on August 10th and usually takes 7-10 days for riders to complete.

It’s unfortunate that the race starts on the August 10th.

The Troy Buchanan High School Class of 2002 has their 10-year reunion on the 11th. I don’t think I have seen Erik since that May day on the TBHS track when we graduated together. We’ll all be following his progress on the Derby website.

Through the magic of Facebook, I have been able to reconnect with Erik and find out about this great adventure he is undertaking. Here’s the interview:

What motivated you to do this? When did you decide to?
I’ve always been pretty good at riding horses, since I was born and raised on a horse farm. Always had a dream (among several others) of being a jockey and also doing some crazy adventure…….low and behold my buddy Dustin sent me the link for the Adventurists (the ones who put on the Mongol Derby) and I discovered the Mongol Derby. First step was applying, then a phone interview, then finally the big decision came (all of this was in 2 week increments) and it was a yes. That was last November.

What do you hope to accomplish with this?
I’m riding to win the whole thing, but even to finish is a feat unto itself. We’re each riding about 30 different semi-wild Mongolian horses, these horses are broke to ride and are trained for this race. But. They live free of fences on the steppe so their attention/sense to danger are more heightened than that of our domesticated horses kept in stables and pastures. This is the Guinness Book of World Records for Longest, Toughest Horse Race in the World, so first I want to finish it and second I want to win it!

What are you doing outside this?
The past 5-6 months this race has been pretty much my sole focus, training, researching, etc, but work-wise, I run the doors of some of NYC’s hottest restaurants/lounges as well as design some crazy furniture pieces: I.E. giant tiki hut tree house bed and do retail sports apparel marketing for a company called CIP-Marketing (Adidas).

How long have you been riding horses?
Since I was born.

Favorite horse-riding memory?
Racing horses bareback riding through the fields around our farm in the summer time.

What else would you like people to know about you? the race?
I’ve never competed in a horse race before, let alone any big equestrian event like this. So this has been a giant undertaking from just growing up with horses and riding for the pure fun and thrill of it, to riding in the toughest horse race in the world. I’ve trained with a previous competitor in the Mongol Derby on her endurance race horses through the California desert, trained with polo players on the east coast, and have been training on my own in Missouri, now before I leave for the race. The race covers 650 miles across Mongolian wilderness, following the ancient postal route of Ghengis Kahn, us as jockeys are only allowed to carry with us 11lbs of essential survival kit (not including water). Just deciding what should be in this kit is a headache in itself. So to make the decision, I consulted 2 Americans who competed in the derby before. I was able to track them down on the Internet. They told me what they brought that was essential and what they brought that was useless. Then I put my own items I thought I would need on that list, and forwarded it to my other horse friends and adventure friends to get their opinions as well.

Throughout the race, we will be living with the local nomadic people, relying on them for shelter, food and advice (insert language barrier!). Their diet consists primarily of old sheep cooked in sheep fat with noodles…I’m bringing special antibiotics just in case. We will be riding from sun up to sun down through rain, hail, lightning, herds of wild horses, camels, across rivers and dodging quicksand and marmot holes. The journey will be self-guided, no flags telling you which way to go, only the uploaded coordinates on your GPS and your wit decide which way to go. Also, you must be trusting in your horse of the moment, this is its home, not yours, so you will not want to be in full control.

–Wait…Giant Tiki Hut bed?  Here it is:

We’ll miss Erik at the reunion, but for competing in the Mongol Derby, I guess he gets an excused absence.

Post brought to you by Mills Properties.
Pictures provided by Erik Cooper



Ryan is a weird dude. He doesn't cook, yet owns a plethora of kitchen gadgets. He rationalized buying a SodaStream while unemployed. He counts Step Up 2: The Streets as one of his favorite movies along with Footloose, Rent, Grease and Paul Blart: Mall Cop. He loves Mizzou but only wants them in the SEC so he can tailgate in Nashville. He owns a ShakeWeight and AbLounger, but still loves him some John Donut and Billie's Fine Foods. You can get more of Ryan at iLoveSoulard.com or just check the stool on the far end of the bar at iTap in Soulard.

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