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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

Local Riders depart for Mongolia to chafe for charity

Today South Coast endurance rider Duncan McLaughlin heads off to ride the length and breadth of Mongolia

Two keen Eurobodallan equestrians will be following in the hoofprints of the world's greatest warlord, helping today’s Mongolian kids move on from lives scavenging garbage tips.

Bodalla’s Duncan McLaughlin and Moruya’s Cele Stone are among sixteen riders selected for the 3,600 kilometre Blue Wolf Totem Expedition across Mongolia. Raising funds for the Children of the Peak Sanctuary, the three-month adventure will see the pair aboard native Mongolian horses, riding roughly 50 kilometres each day.

The horses are descended from those belonging to Genghis Khan's armies as he carved out the world’s largest empire: an area covering more than 23 million square kilometres including nearly all of Asia, the Middle East and a swathe eastern Europe. Mr McLaughlin said the expedition was “much more than simply riding from A to B”.

“We’ll be visiting with Buddhist monks, hanging out with reindeer herders and riders that hunt with golden eagles, crossing deserts and mountains, patting yaks and camels, and seeing the wild and endangered Przewalski’s horses up close,” he said.

“Riders cover the cost of the expedition itself but have each committed to raising at least US$5,000 for charity.”

Mr McLaughlin and Ms Stone were both caught in the Black Summer bushfires. McLaughlin and his family managed to defend their home and animals, though most of their property infrastructure was lost.

“There’s a way to go but we’re getting there. COVID willing, I reckon both Cele and I can do with the break,” said Mr McLaughlin.

The bushfires completely wiped out Ms Stone’s Mogendoura property as she fled the inferno with only those items already stashed in her car. Yet to rebuild and still renting, she said the trip would be a welcome reprieve.

“It’s been a bright light shining the way after some dark days,” said Ms Stone.

“Mongolia has the world’s oldest surviving horse culture and the Blue Wolf Totem is the biggest charity ride ever undertaken. When you read up on Genghis Khan, he was quite a forward thinking and encouraged freedom of religion, instituted merit-based career paths, and was keen on redistributing wealth. I like to think he’d appreciate what we’re doing here.”

The driving force behind the Blue Wolfe Totem Expedition is Julie Veloo, a Canadian expat who has spent the last decade living in Mongolia.

Ms Veloo came late to horse riding after watching Mongolian children galloping their ponies across the steppe. Her Veloo Foundation is dedicated to helping displaced herder families, especially the children.

“The steppe is in trouble due to climate change and overgrazing, with families forced to the capital to try and make a living, scavenging from Ulaanbaatar's rubbish dumps,” Ms Veloo said.

“It’s astonishing to see the difference food, care and education makes in their lives. With money raised from horse expeditions like this one – more than half a million US dollars over the years – we’ve built and run two kindergartens and a community library, with summer camps for the kids as well.”

Duncan McLaughlin’s fund raising page >

Cele Stone’s fund raising page >

Blue Wolf Totem Expedition >


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