South African horseback adventurer Barry Armitage has won the ninth edition of the gruelling Mongol Derby, the world’s longest endurance horse race. Picture: Julian Herbert
South African horseback adventurer Barry Armitage has jointly won the world’s longest endurance horse race - the Mongol Derby - with Australian Olympian Ed Fernon.

After the gruelling race, which the Guinness Book of Records calls the world’s longest and toughest horse race, 51-year-old Armitage said: “Winning this inspiring race brings no financial reward, simply the kudos of winning what the New York Times rated in the top 10 toughest endurance races on the planet.”

Armitage shared winning of the ninth derby with Fernon in the record time of nine days, covering 1 020 km of rugged remote Mongolian steppes, with the first of 42 riders from around the world crossing the line on August 18.

“My best moment of the race was when passing Ed (Fernon) on the last stage to be out front alone by a few hundred metres.” said Armitage.

He said the sweltering heat made the going tough and that he and Fermon decided to save their horses and ride across the finish line together.

Armitage said the race was not for the faint-hearted, as it tested the limits of each competitor’s survival skills, horsemanship and sheer endurance ability.

“Over 13 hours in the saddle every day for a week is a great physical challenge.

"You spend much of the race alone with your horses on the endless steppe chasing an unseen rider ahead, and you simply need to will yourself to keep going,” he said.

Armitage is a three-time veteran of the event, having competed in the 2011 edition when he and riding partner Joe Dawson shot a television series The Ride - Race Across the Steppe about their exploits, initially screened on SABC 3 in 2012.

Over the years, South African riders have dominated the race, with four previous winners hailing from South Africa - more than from any other country.

The 1 000km course recreates Genghis Khan's legendary empire-busting postal system.

Riders change horses every 40km and stay with the local herders or camp under the stars.