Cambridge horsemen to ride Derby

Patrick Sells has a way with horses, seen here as inquisitive foals gather around him.
Emma James

Patrick Sells has a way with horses, seen here as inquisitive foals gather around him.

The Mongol Derby is the longest and most dangerous horse race in the world, and two Cambridge men are preparing to take it on.

In August, Maxim van Lierde and Patrick Sells are taking on the challenge that will see them cover 1000km in 10 days on the backs of half wild mongolian steppe ponies.

The event, organised by a group called The Adventurists, doubles as a fundraiser for charity.

Maxim van Lierde with Penny, a horse he's keeping in work.
Emma James

Maxim van Lierde with Penny, a horse he's keeping in work.

Each competitor must raise at least $1000 for a charity of their choice and another $1000 for Cool Earth, a charity that works with villages to stop rainforest destruction.

Van Lierde has chosen to raise money for the Waikato branch of Riding for the Disabled because he had seen first-hand the joy it give people.

He was looking forward to the challenge, and said: "Every 40km we get a new horse, so that keeps the horses fresh and they have to pass a vet check at each station." 

If the horse fails the vet check, the rider will be penalised with time faults.

Originally from Belgium, van Lierde has been around horses since he was a child.

"They give you something, a sense of companionship really."

He has been riding track horses for Cambridge trainer Stephen Marsh for a living and feels his fitness is up to the task.

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Windsor Park Stud vet Patrick Sells will also compete in the Derby. He has chosen to raise money for the Kiwi Care Team, an organisation dedicated to help the lives of working animals in Fiji, including horses.

Unlike van Lierde, Sells feels under-qualified as far as his riding ability goes - despite being passionate about horses, he wonders if he is "riding fit".

"And that makes it all the more appealing for me, because I like doing crazy things," he laughed.

He has been wanting to go to Mongolia for some time, and sees this as the perfect opportunity.

"I really want to see the 'Sea of Grass' as Genghis [Khan] used to call it, where the horse evolved and Genghis bought together his horse-borne army. It was where domestication of the horse first began," he said.

"I really want to test my limits, and this is a serious test of endurance and mental strength ... the riders come away from that race and say their legs are never the same again."

The maximum weight allowed on the steppe ponies during the race is 85kg - that includes the weight of the person, what they are wearing and their sleeping gear.

During the race, the men will be decked out in their sponsorship gear.

For Sells, that is Strategy, and for van Lierde it is MaxWin - the latter he sees as quite a good fit with his name, Maxim. 

Both of them have monetary goals and have set up givealittle pages to help meet them.

Anyone wanting to support their cause can visit and

*  A Monte Carlo Casino night in the Cambridge Town Hall on Saturday July 11 will raise money for Kiwi Care Team and Beyond the Barriers NZ. Tickets are $80 each and are available from

 - Stuff

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