This true story of a completely mad, exhausting, dangerous and daring horse race across the vast Mongolian plains is so fantastically descriptive and potent that I ended up saddle-sore simply by reading it. I’d never heard of what is generally accepted as ‘the world’s wildest horse race’ until Lara Prior-Palmer’s riveting account of her astonishing feat of endurance across 1,000 kilometres of near-wilderness. In fact her writing is so good that when I’d finished the book I had to flip back through the pages to check that there weren’t actually any photographs (there aren’t). That’s how vivid her account is. A breath-taking, fearless, utterly audacious story of adventure and endurance.
When I was Prior-Palmer’s age at the time she set out in the footsteps – well, the hoof-prints – of Genghis Khan, I was idling my days away at university. Even a walk to the refectory seemed like too much trouble. But in 2013 this astonishing 19-year old took herself, almost completely unprepared, to Mongolia and a challenge that the most grizzled of cowboys would baulk at: a race across an empty landscape only inhabited by the occasional nomadic tribe. By the time she won – and yes, she won, the first woman ever to do so and the youngest person by a mile (or 600 of them) – she had changed ponies 25 times and vanquished some of the most competitive spirits in horsemanship. Reading Rough Magic feels as if you’re on a crazy gallop yourself. We absolutely loved it.