At Shake It Up we have many adventurous supporters who take part in all kinds of athletic events to raise both funds and awareness for Parkinson’s. This year, friends Sid and Jock decided to take on the Mongol Derby – one of the toughest adventure horse races in the world – to make a difference and raise over $10,000.
They told us all about the experience of undertaking this huge race together, their fundraising journey and why they feel it’s so important to support vital Parkinson’s research.
So, tell us all about the Mongol Derby! What is involved in the event?
The Mongol Derby is one of the toughest adventure horse races in the world. It spans a total of 1,000 kilometres across the Mongolian Steppe and must be completed in no more than 10 days. Competitors are given a change of horses roughly every 30 kilometres, so during the event one expects to ride 30 different horses! The Mongolian ponies are small and powerful as they are fiery and temperamental and it is not uncommon to be left planted in the dirt as your pony makes a gallop for the hills.
Great emphasis is placed on animal welfare during the race and there are strict rules regarding how hard the horses are ridden. Each pony receives a vet assessment at the end of a leg and must have a resting heart rate less than 56 BPM. Riders who are unable to achieve this target or have otherwise not properly looked after their pony receive harsh time penalties and repeat offenders are disqualified from racing.
The race couldn’t be done without the help of the Mongolian nomadic herders. Given the derby riders are dressed more like they are attempting a leg of the Tour de France, the Mongolian ponies are rightly wary of these strange foreigners and often require a degree of coaxing by the herders before they will allow the riders on their backs. Apart from giving up their prized horses for the race, the herders show a great deal of hospitality by kindly offering food and shelter at each of the horse stations.
How have you been raising funds for Parkinson’s research throughout this experience?
Most of the money raised came from our event “Charity Mongols”, which was essentially a charity auction. Using the time-old technique of an open bar and a boisterous MC we were successful in raising over $8,000 on the night. Auction items ranged from a weekend away at a holiday home, clay pigeon shooting, and the interior designing services of one of our accomplished friends. Jock sensing an opportunity also offered himself up for auction for a date (rather ostentatiously). Bids were surprisingly high, although we attributed this mostly to the free champagne.
A special mention to Lynnie and Edgar Downes, Henry and Sophie Downes, Percy and Tina Rayner, Michael and Anne Treloar, Holly and Rick Clifton and Shona McElroy who kindly donated their homes, services and a helping hand for the auction amongst other things.
What drives your commitment to fundraise for Parkinson’s?
Our main inspiration for the race was our close friend Edgar Downes, who has been managing with Parkinson’s for a number of years now. Hay farmer and a prominent figure within the Camden local community, Edgar is known by family and friends alike for his generous and caring nature. It was also thanks largely to Edgar and his lovely wife Lynnie that we were able to make it to Mongolia by giving us free roam of their farm to do the training we needed to make it through the race. In addition, the Downes family also made valuable contributions to the auction night, which helped our fundraising effort immensely.
Why did you choose to raise funds for Shake It Up Australia?
The main draw of Shake It Up for us is the organisation’s focus on maximising donations towards clinical research. Shake It Up is unique in that all administrative costs are generously funded by the founder Clyde and his brother Greg, which allows donations flow directly into funding research. This gives donors confidence that all the funds raised will go to a good cause.
Shake It Up as an organisation is also transparent in their operations. The Foundation’s website in particular gives detailed information concerning how the charity is run as well as the specific research projects which it has helped to fund over the years. In addition, the team at Shake It Up have been easy to work with and responsive.
The other factor is of course the charity’s connection with the Michael J Fox Foundation. As our fellow millennials will understand, Back to the Future was prime real estate when it came to movie time at school and probably contributed to 10% of our primary school education. Our humble contributions to his cause are in some respect a small thank you to the great man for teaching us the universal principles of moral integrity, friendship and time travel.
What words of advice do you have for others hoping to make a difference for Parkinson’s?
We are by no means big players when it comes to the charity game, however speaking from the level of amateur philanthropists, there are a couple of factors that helped us in our fundraising efforts.
The main factor was raising money through something we are passionate about, even something as niche as wrangling half wild horses. We both had past lives as younger men where working with young horses was a big part of our lives. Although we’re now working in industries where horsemanship skills aren’t really something you would put on your resume, it’s something that will always be close to heart.
Another thing that helped us was to use the resources at our disposal. In our case this was friends and family who are susceptible to emotional blackmail. Shamelessly pester your friends, family and associates for donations or things you can auction, it’s ok, it’s for charity!