Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Riding to make the world less boring

Julie Youngblood trains for the Mongol Derby

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum’s Julie Youngblood, 24, is currently training at Lorraine Wilcox’s Lucky 13 Ranch in Hailey for August’s Mongol Derby, a 620-mile horseback ride across Mongolia. Here, Youngblood is pictured with one of the new crop of young horses in the Lucky 13 pasture on Friday, June 22. Courtesy photo

All horses and riders in next Wednesday's Days of the Old West Mile Long Parade in Hailey will ride about one Fourth of July mile from the north end of the city to the south end.

Ketchum's Julie Youngblood, 24, has plans to ride horses for 1,000 kilometers or 620 miles across the Mongolian steppes in August. That's the distance between Salt Lake City, Utah and San Diego, Ca.

She will be part of something called the Mongol Derby, the longest and toughest horse race in the world. Riders in the lead group will complete the distance in five days. Youngblood is figuring more along the line of 10 days.

Here are some details:

Her entry fee, slightly over $9,000; departure from Boise on Aug. 4; pre-racing training in Mongolia from Aug. 7-9; the starting gun fires after a hearty breakfast Aug. 10; final dust settles Aug. 19; riders are transferred back to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia Aug. 20; and tentative return to Idaho, on Aug. 24.

Anybody care to sponsor her as an entry in the Ketchum Wagon Days Parade?

No, she's never done it before. But Youngblood, daughter of a polo player, on horses since the age of six and experienced in the hunter-jumper arena, has all the qualifications. Plus, she's always raring to go and ready to push herself, according to her biography on the 2012 Mongol Derby Web site.

"I'm trying to do as much riding as possible before I go," said Youngblood recently, during a break from her riding sessions at Lorraine Wilcox's Lucky 13 Ranch in Hailey.

Degree of difficulty? Well, one of her mentors, 2010 Mongol Derby contender Sophie de Selliers, has advised Julie to be prepared for "both the best and worst time of her life." She will sleep under the stars or, more luxuriously, sleep on a floor.

And she's likely to become an expert on global positioning systems (GPS) along the way.

A Sun Valley ski instructor in winter since first arriving in Ketchum in the fall of 2010, Los Angeles native and NYU college graduate Youngblood has also worked as a waitress in Ketchum and as a whitewater rafting guide.

She became aware of a United Kingdom-based organization called The Adventurists, which raises money for charities and describes itself on its Web site as "Fighting to Make the World Less Boring."

The Adventurists, since its founding in 2004 by Tom Morgan, has devised eight different extreme and unsupported adventures over eight years. Nearly 7,000 people have participated in the quests which have raised $5.2 million for charity between 2004-11.

All the adventures are designed "to be intentionally difficult in response to the world becoming increasingly dominated by a hermetically-sealed health and safety culture," The Adventurists proclaimed in a Jan. 2012 press release.

In other words, the organization is trying to redefine "adventure travel" from its current comfortable state of being a guided tour up a mountain or staying in a hotel with less than four stars, the January press release continued.

The largest adventure and the original Adventurists plunge into the unknown has been the Mongol Rally, a 10,000-mile drive from England to Mongolia in tiny cars. This year's motorized tour covers one-third of the earth's surface and goes from July 13-Aug. 24.

Other adventures have included a two-week Rickshaw Run in southeast Asia and Indonesia; a 1,550-mile Ice Run with motorbikes across the frozen tundra of Siberia; and a Motor-taxi Junket in Peru.

Youngblood figures she has one good Mongol Derby in her system of life challenges, and is looking forward to it. She is still seeking sponsors and is encouraging donations for her quest. Contact her for this reason and with other questions at

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