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Mount Palmer as seen from the beaver pond below our overnight pack trip camp in the Gros Ventre mountains © Alix Crittenden

Mongolia and Wyoming are about as far apart as you can image on a map, but what they have in common are wide open spaces and, for some, a nomadic way of life. To be sure, nomads in Wyoming are not at all the same as the herders living off the land in Mongolia. The two lifestyles are vastly different, but many of their people share the same deep connection with their four legged friends, the horse. That’s not to say that I’m calling my friend, Alix Crittenden, a nomad. This petite cowgirl from Stedman, North Carolina migrated to Wyoming and eventually married a cowboy living in the small town of Bondurant. She lives with her husband in a house, surrounded by horses, that backs up to the wide open spaces of Bridger Teton National Forest. This June Crittenden, along with nine other riders, will embark on a 400 mile horseback ride in Mongolia to raise funds for charity. She is hoping you’ll come along for the ride.

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Mules Ears blooming on Garden Creek Ridge at sunset © Alix Crittenden

 

“This trip to Mongolia all started as a crazy shared dream of my close friend and I,” reflects Crittenden. “I never thought we’d actually be doing it.  He rang me one day from New Zealand where he lives and said, pack your bags, we’re going to Mongolia to do this charity ride for children.  I was like, whatever.  You are crazy.  And he says to me, no, I know that but seriously, we are going to Mongolia.  We each made it through the rider application process last summer and have been planning ever since.”

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Alix’ reflection in the eyes of an old friend and coworker © Alix Crittenden

Crittenden’s friend heard about the endurance ride through another friend and once she started looking into it, she knew she had to go.  A horsewoman her whole life, she had always dreamed of riding across Mongolia and meeting the Mongolian people who have a deep connection to the horse both historically and in their modern day lives.

“How often do you get the chance to fulfill a lifelong dream with your close friend AND help people who truly need it all at once?!?!  I reckon not very often,” jokes Crittenden.

The Veloo Foundation is a charity which sponsors the Children of the Peak Sanctuary where impoverished and neglected children have the opportunity to learn and feel love.  They provide food, warmth, and education for over 100 children and also support a program for vocational training and small business development initiatives for impoverished teenagers.

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My husband (framed by my steed Jerry) looking for game on the ridge while me and ponies wait patiently for him to find something © Alix Crittenden

The annual ride, June 6 – 16, will take Crittenden over 400 miles (700+ kms) across Mongolia in 10 days time on traditional Mongolian horses.  At the end of the ride there will be a big gala which will also raise funds for the foundation, including the auction of a traditional Mongolian saddle which each participant of the ride must ride one day in.  To prepare for this grueling trek Crittenden is looking forward to getting her personal horse back from winter pasture next month. She plans to be in the saddle every day until she boards the plane to head around the world.  She anticipates that her horse will be quite chubby in the spring so her legs ought to be in for a good spring workout.  An accomplished equestrian, logging plenty of hours in the saddle, Crittenden is understandably interested to see how  she fairs on the ride.

“I ride quite a lot in some pretty rough country in running my husband and my outfitting business here in Wyoming, but the mileage we will be covering every day will be far more than I’ve done for that many days in a row.  To accomplish the ride on time we will be covering at least 40 miles a day and not at a leisurely pace.  They say a high trot is in order for most of the ride. Yee Haw!”

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Rainbow and storm cloud © Alix Crittenden

Crittenden is hoping to fund her endurance ride for charity by selling two books. The photos that appear in the books were shot in Wyoming by Chrittenden on her iPhone. You may purchase the 7×7 book here or the 12×12 book here. You may also donate directly to the Veloo Foundation in Alix Crittenden’s name. Use the American Residents donate button if you would like a tax receipt. Include Alix Crittenden and Gobi Gallop in the note area when donating (unless of course you are Canadian, or don’t care about tax receipts. If that is the case, you may donate directly to her Raise A Thon site.

“I’m thrilled about the ride and excited to see new country and meet new people from my favorite seat, the back of a good horse,” says Crittenden with a smile.

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Elk harvest on a foggy morning in Wyoming © Alix Crittenden

Alix Crittenden and her husband own and operate Sleeping Indian Outfitters. When Alix is not horseback riding in Bondurant, Wyoming, she is most likely to be found on Instagram at @AlixCritt & @SleepingIndianOutfitters. Article by Travel Writer and Cowgirl Nancy D. Brown. All photos courtesy Alix Crittenden.