WILTSHIRE’S Clare King picked up silver in the ‘world’s toughest horse race’, The Gaucho Derby.

In early March, King took on 23 other riders from around the world in an ultra-endurance multi-horse race that crossed the mountains of Patagonia and the Gauchos in South America.

Though she narrowly missed out on the title, experienced rider King showed why she had picked up a third in the Mongol Derby in 2013 with some exceptional survival skills and a true determination to run eventual winner, Marie Griffis, extremely close.

Explaining the multitude of skills a person needs to be successful in this race, as well as the Gaucho culture she experienced, King said: “Every single decision affects your adventure and in turn your survival.

“There’s a battle between being competitive and ensuring your survival.

“The gaucho culture was the best bit for me. Staying in a puesto the last night and getting to experience it hands on out of necessity was amazing.”

The 10-day event, which is said to be the greatest test of horsemanship and wilderness skill on earth, featured nine stages of around 40km.

The gruelling race is designed to not just be a test of riders’ skills on a horse, but push their navigation skills to the limit and testing their physical endurance and ability to handle the wilderness.

Unlike the Mongol Derby, riders don’t change horses at every section because the high mountains are a test of skill, not flat out speed, so the horses don’t run out of steam and can cover several legs at a time.

On the flatter pampas sections however, where horses can eat up the miles quickly, riders swap to fresh horses regularly.

Riders also do large sections with pack horses, to carry extra kit into the mountains.

As well as looking after and guiding a second animal, they have to switch mounts mid-leg to ensure the health of both animals by minimising the work.

The Adventurists, who run the race, monitor the horses’ welfare at every stage, with vet checks every 40km as well as race marshals and emergency and roaming vets to ensure that no rider puts their own competitiveness before the welfare of the animals.

The race began with a fast valley ride for some. Other riders took what they believed was a shortcut through the mountains, only to have to turn back and lose any hopes of an early lead when they met un-passable terrain.

With the group split into two and seemingly only a handful of riders on course to compete for the win, a brutal storm arrived which really blew things open.

Local Gauchos helped guide riders to safe passage and an emergency shelter was created in a forest, with some riders air lifted out as a precaution - though most would later return to the race.

With further bad weather forecast, the race was reset on day six, with riders carrying forward their accumulated times from the previous stages before the storm hit.

Some faster riding, without pack horses, ensued and in the end it was American Griffis – a 2016 Mongol Derby veteran who runs an annual equestrian trip into the US mountains back home in Montana – who crossed the line first, having weathered the storm well and ridden confidently ever since.