A powerful finish
Lorie Duff represented Canada in the Gobi Desert Cup in August. Despite suffering an injury on the second day, Duff continued and finished the race winning the sportsmanship award. Pictured on the last day is Duff with her horse and the Mongolian herdsmen.       Courtesy photo

by Kalynn Sawyer Helmer
AgriNews Staff Writer
MONGOLIA – Lorie Duff, horsemanship trainer and performer, returned home from the Gobi Desert in Mongolia in late August after competing in the Gobi Desert Cup endurance race. Selected to represent Canada in the race against nearly 20 other competitors from other countries, Duff travelled to the foreign country to ride 480 kilometres total over six days.

Going into the race Duff was nervous and excited to test her skills in a new challenge. Not being an endurance racer, she knew the race would prove strenuous. “It was life changing for sure and very difficult,” she said. “ I was not as prepared as I would have liked to have been. To take on 480 kilometres was doable but it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

Not only did riders have to face the challenge of endurance, but also the desert climate, semi-wild Mongolian horses and the threat of injury. For Duff, her first two days brought nearly insurmountable problems. She told the AgriNews on day one, she found herself suffering from dehydration and heat stroke. After recovering in the evening and heading out for day two, she was injured with a partial ligament tear over her right knee cap. Due to the tear she was held from the day three ride, but another rider stepped up to dedicate his 80 kilometres for the day to Duff.

After being patched up enough to continue the ride for the final three days, Duff said it took all of her effort. “I got through and surprised myself. I dug down really deep and found the mental courage to keep going and it was because of everything that I was there for. Which was my daughter, CHEO and all the people that sponsored, donated and helped me get there. That’s what got me through everyday,” she explained.

A big part of the race showcases each rider’s ability to manage and work with the horses. Duff said she went into the competition hoping to finish every day with more horse than she started out with and “that was the case in every aspect.” Each horse had different challenges and strengths to offer and Duff said she found great respect for the breed. “The horses themselves are amazing. The herd relationship and the bred is fantastic. I have a huge respect for them, they have very strong hearts and they want to keep going and stay with their herd,” she said.

Before and during the competition Duff worked with CHEO to encourage pledges with all donations going to the hospital. While she did not make her fundraising goal, Duff isn’t done. “Now that I have accomplished the race I’m asking people to now pledge. It is gradually coming up there and people across Canada are donating money.” The pledge link will remain open for as long as possible and if invited back to the race next year, Duff said she will partner with CHEO again.

Despite the challenges Duff finished strong and made Canada proud. “It was a really big experience for me and nice to know that all the other riders from the other countries, everybody really helped out everybody. That was the biggest success of the race,” Duff said.