Private game reserve owner and equestrian endurance rider Wiesman Nels during the Mongol Derby, the world’s longest and toughest horse race. Picture: Sarah Farnsworth.

South African Wiesman Nels wears many hats. Not only is he the owner of Moolmanshoek Private Game Reserve in Ficksburg, but he also loves “travelling on a horse.” 

The 40-year-old recently participated in Mongol Derby, known as the world’s longest and toughest horse race. 

The course started south-west of Arvaikheer in Mongolia and ended north of Jargalthaan in Mongolia. At 1000km, the race is believed to be the toughest test on the planet for equestrian endurance riders. 

Nels finished in second place, less than 2 hours behind veteran jockey America Robert Long. 

The 40-year-old told IOL Travel: “While the horses are changed every 40km at checkpoints strung out throughout the country, the riders must endure being in the saddle for up to 200km a day and face the challenges of riding over twenty-five different semi-wild horses with varying temperaments and bucking abilities.”

Nels said that he rode 13 hours a day for the Mongol Derby.  His journeys started as early as 6.30am and ended around 8 pm, which he did not mind as he was “always up for a new adventure.”

“You ride as many horses as possible. These horses have to pass vet checks, and their health needs to be perfect. I managed to do about 150-170km of riding a day, and it was worth every moment,” he said.

Nels, who travels regularly, said he was inspired to be apart of the race after seeing previous South African winners Craig Egbert and Barry Armitage. 

To train for the event, he challenged himself to extreme horse trails in Lesotho and Wildcoast in the Eastern Cape.  He also did endurance training, long distances trail running, mountain biking and gym core work. 

On the unique places where he rode: “Crossing Lesotho on horseback and riding on top of the amphitheatre was unbelievable. I also loved exploring the Wildcoast on horseback.”