"Iqarus has been an incredible partner for the Mongol Derby - the world’s longest and toughest horse race. We operate in some seriously remote regions, often hours off road from the nearest help and in a country without full medical provision. Working with the team at Iqarus has helped us to deliver a world-class event with world-class remote medical assistance.” Tom Morgan - Founder of The Adventurists.

Background

The Guinness Book of Records states that the Mongol Derby is the longest and toughest horse race in the world. The 2018 race, the 10th in its history, featured 17 men and 27 women from 12 countries, who bravely rode across 1,000km of Mongolian Steppe aboard the region’s famously tough semi-feral ponies.

Documented in history, these ponies carried the all-conquering Mongol warriors across routes first used by Genghis Khan’s mighty messenger system that connected half the planet. Fearless, sturdy, semi-wild and unbelievably tough the Mongolian ponies have changed very little over the centuries.

The Mongol Derby takes place in some of the remotest terrain imaginable. Riders can be 24 hours from definitive care and injuries in the past have ranged from broken bones including ribs, pelvises, wrists, collarbones, ankles, spinal injuries, concussions, torn ligaments, dislocations, and a huge array of medical issues such as heat stress, hypothermia, dehydration and gastric complaints associated with ultra-endurance events in extreme climates. 

Event organisers, The Adventurists, selected Iqarus for the second year in a row to provide strategic advice, first aid training and remote medical cover for the duration of this world-renowned ultra-endurance event.

Challenges

Some of the notable challenges faced by riders, organisers and medics:

  • Covering just over 340,000 square miles, the Steppe is an immense stretch of grassland that dominates the Inner Mongolian landscape.
  • With the event covering such a vast expanse of challenging environments, riders would find themselves up to seven hours away from adequate healthcare should they sustain injuries or fall unwell.

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  • There's virtually no cellular network coverage on the Steppe, and with clear communications essential for medical and veterinary assistance, reliable satellite communication is crucial.
  • Participants would, at times, face extreme climate conditions, from hail, snow and fog to boiling hot sun, monsoon storms and flooding.
  • With the race route totalling 1,000km, Iqarus medics would need to cover remote terrain and significant distances quickly, as well as being positioned strategically for rapid and effective medical emergency responses.

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Solutions

Medics from the Iqarus Training and Development team were carefully selected to cover the event based on their previous remote medical experience, professionalism and their ability to keep a calm and relaxed approach in all situations.

Iqarus delivered critical remote first aid training to over 50 people prior to the event, this included all riders, vets, vehicle drivers, translators and organising team members. Not only was this the first time in over 10 years that all personnel connected with the event received medical training, working groups of event managers, vets and translators were also created and trained together forming effective working teams for the duration of the event.

The Iqarus 24/7 Operations Support Centre (OSC) was leveraged in collaboration with the Mongol Derby Chief, to monitor the progress of the medics, maintaining direct satellite phone access to them when needed and responding to any given situation with speed and appropriate action.

All medics were strategically placed across the remote Mongolian Steppe and were re-positioned frequently to keep SOS response to a minimum.

Outcome

Iqarus medics carried out just four medical-related evacuations over the duration of the event; a 50% reduction on previous years. This can be attributed to the remote medical training all riders and crew members received prior to the race. Each rider was more aware of the potential medical risks and hazards of the event, and subsequently took fewer risks and better care of themselves.

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SOS response times were reduced to 30mins or less, due to the way medics were positioned and repositioned across the Steppe for the duration of the event. Feedback from the riders suggests that while Iqarus medics were ever present on the Mongolian steppe, they were also far enough away for the riders to feel as though they were taking part independently.

“The guys were quick and effective when situations arose, and for me, they were an essential key in completing the race and finishing in the top 10. The smile I received, the hand on my shoulder or the question 'how are you really doing' made me feel supported and safe during the race. Thank you, guys, for just being there at the right place and time. Hope to see you in the future! All the best!”

Hinke van der Werf, Mongol Derby Rider 2018.

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