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Girl Forward wins a WINNIE award at the Equus Film Festival at the Kentucky Horse Park, December 5-8, 2019
Girl Forward wins a WINNIE award at the Equus Film Festival at the Kentucky Horse Park, December 5-8, 2019

by Heather Wallace

Sitting on the unique mix of grass, rock, and sand, I look out in the distance. I’ve traveled the world but nothing before could prepare me for the view. As I sift my fingers through the ground, it strikes me that it likely holds secrets of nomads and travelers. Did they feel the same thing? Were they struck by how small they felt, looking 50 kilometers or so into the horizon as the sun began its lazy descent? Did they feel alone? Or, like me, did they instead connect with themselves and imagine the possibilities?

Perhaps some travelers would be bored, staring at seemingly nothing as they rode the sturdy Mongolian horses for an entire day without spotting another human being.

I look to the south while sitting outside the door of my ger, a large round tent commonly used as a residence by the nomads, at basecamp. The doors always face south or southeast. There, the herders check the traditional horse line and begin to loosen the horses from the line for the evening, giving them freedom to wander and graze in the night. Some wear hobbles and others are haltered two-by-two to prevent them from going too far from camp. If there is water nearby the horses are content to stay close, and I look forward to hearing them outside the ger while I sleep. I make a note to wear my headlamp if I need the bathroom so I don’t accidentally run into one and scare the both of us.

This moment of quiet contemplation gives me a much-needed reprieve and chance to acknowledge how lucky I am to be an unlikely adventurer here in the innermost regions of Mongolia. My family and friends were shocked when I announced that I would be traveling to Asia, camping, and working with an endurance horse race. After all, those things are completely outside my comfort zone. Yet here I am and loving every moment.

With a deep breath of the dry air, I stand, sore from carrying my heavy camera all day and helping at the veterinary checkpoints. Wiping off the dust, I look to the marquis where all the riders who have been drawn to this adventure have gathered for the evening debriefing, meal, and perhaps some entertainment in the form of stories, cards, and drinking. We make our own entertainment without electricity. Somehow, despite coming from seven different countries, we have formed a community for these ten days in the desert. Men and women, speaking different languages, ranging in age from 24 to 72-years old, but all united in our love of and thirst for adventure.

The Gobi Desert Cup has a tendency to do that. While I am new this year, and on a trial basis as the writer and photographer, I can see how close-knit the core group of officials and herders are. Despite language barriers, and despite incredible distance 11 and a half months of the year, this event draws people together. I am lucky to be part of it, even if it challenges me in every possible way.

Once upon a time there was a woman who questioned whether she was good enough but chose to try anyway. This is the story of an unlikely adventurer. This is my story.”

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This excerpt from Girl Forward: A Tale of One Woman’s Unlikely Adventure in Mongolia by Heather Wallace is reprinted with permission from The Timid Rider (

Find more interesting stories in our section on Recreation & Lifestyle.


About the Author

Heather Wallace is a certified equine and canine sports massage therapist working with animals by day and writing about them by night. She is known for her blog about confidence at The Timid Rider.

Her first book, Equestrian Handbook of Excuses, is a humorous look at the excuses we tell ourselves why we can’t ride that day. Her second book, Confessions of a Timid Rider, details her insights about being an anxiety-ridden but passionate equestrian and writer. It was both an Amazon #1 Hot New Release and won the Equus Film Festival Winnie Award for Non-Fiction. Heather wears many hats and is exceptionally proud to be an example to her three daughters of a woman who follows her passion and takes risks. Heather is every woman who decided to leave her fears behind and do what she loves. In her spare time, of which she has little, she spends her time with her husband, three children, two dogs, and pony. Follow her on social media @timidrider or at Please contact Heather if you would like a review copy, or you are interested in an interview.

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