Mongol Derby: SA businessman finishes world’s toughest horse race

2012-09-11 00:00

FOR nine days, Simon Pearse, chief executive of asset managers Marriott, rode semi-wild horses across the steppes of Mongolia to join a select group of adventurers from across the globe to take on — and finish — the world’s toughest horse race.

From the 34 men and women of 14 different nationalities who set off on August 10, just 18 people crossed the finish line of the Mongol Derby.

Among them were Pearse in 11th position and four other South Africans. The rest fell prey to broken limbs or mental and physical exhaustion.

Pearse (51), who cannot resist a challenge, is committed to Marriott’s support of Right to Sight, a charity whose mission is to eradicate cataract blindness amongst South Africans in need.

His participation in the race marked the start of an ongoing partnership, with Marriott providing fundraising and administrative support for this organisation that is changing the lives of 400 000 needlessly blind South Africans by restoring their sight with a 20-minute cataract operation.

Pearse said the race was harder than expected. “I didn’t realise the time pressure to cover the ground.

“We had to ride 14 hours a day and keep moving,” Pearse said.

Although he fractured several ribs en route, he carried on.

“The pain unfortunately caused me to become quite self-absorbed and the last three days were a bit of a blur. I happened to look up from my focus on the ground between the ears of the horse and experience a breathtakingly beautiful scene,” he said.

He raised money for Right to Sight through the ride and urges people to contribute to the charity online at

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