Game of Clones

Argentine polo player rides cloned horse to win national championship.

By Ryan Bell (for Outside Online)

On Saturday, polo superstar Adolfo Cambiaso rode a cloned horse in the championship matchof the Argentine National Open—a first in equestrian sports.

With the score 11-9 in the game’s backstretch, Cambiaso saddled up Show Me, his not-so-secret deadly weapon. The duo scored two goals (Cambiaso finished with nine goals in the match), helping his team win 16-11.

The victory brought Cambiaso one-step closer to his dream of playing an entire polo match on clones. Continue reading

Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Awards

“Comrade Cowboy” received two awards from the Society of American Travel Writers at the 2012 Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Awards. The competition, judged by the faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Journalism, recognized the top travel stories published between spring 2011 and spring 2012. This year’s winners included The New York Times, National Geographic Traveler, Outside, and for the first time, little old Western Horseman. Here’s what the judges had to say: Continue reading

Mongolia’s Nomadic Heart

Nomadic horsemen, boiled marmot, and tyrannosaurus trout in the land of Chinggis Khan.

Story and photography by Ryan T. Bell

Tsogt, the head wrangler for a Fish Mongolia expedition, fords the Uur River with a packhorse.

Custom rules that inside a Mongolian ger (yurt tent), a guest should walk clockwise around the circular interior and take a seat on the floor opposite their host. They’ll serve you a cup of salted milk tea, which tastes like French fries dipped in yogurt – slurp the drink loudly in appreciation. And if it happens to be mealtime, be prepared to eat whatever food is presented you, even if it’s the boiled head of a marmot.

The rodent’s buckteeth stared at me with an expression of horror, like it had been boiled alive. The family of Mongolian nomads watched my next move, but there was no winning. Eat it, and I risked the gag reflex; balk, and I would insult them, or worse, forfeit my one chance at sustenance for the day. I turned the marmot skull broadside, like corn on the cob, and bit into the cheek. My teeth raked against the mandible, shearing a flap of meat loose that I chewed furiously and swallowed, chasing it with a slurp of milk tea to wash down the tangy flavor. This was not the Mongolian experience I’d imagined.
Continue reading

What’s Your Deel?

Call it what you will – poncho, deel or duster – but a rain jacket is essential for protection against hypothermia this spring.

JUST 3.6 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT – that’s all your core body temperature needs to drop before vital organs malfunction and you risk dying of hypothermia. An average of 689 Americans die from hypothermia-related deaths every year. Not surprisingly, Alaska accounts for the most deaths, while New Mexico holds the number two spot, proving that hypothermia isn’t exclusive to cold and wet climates.

Horsemen the world-over have developed innovative solutions for keeping hypothermia at bay in extreme climactic conditions. Their clothing goes by different names, but share one thing in common: an ability to envelope the body in a layer of dry, warm air to moderate body temperature. Continue reading

In the Tracks of the Iron Horse

Boundless horseback riding awaits on “rail trails,” a network of recreational pathways following abandoned railroad lines.

Cook yourself a pot of spaghetti noodles. Now, scoop a fork-full and drop them onto a plate. The resulting web of pasta is how a map of the United States would look if it showed only the network of railroads that traverse the landscape.

In the mid-1800s, overzealous railroad companies built thousands of miles of railroad lines to transport people and goods to every nook and cranny of the American West. By 1960s, many lines had become uneconomical and were abandoned. Thanks to the 1983 National Trails System Act, non-profit groups like Rails-to-Trails Conservancy have salvaged those roadbeds and converted them into nearly 20,000 miles of recreational pathways called “rail trails.” Continue reading

Comrade Cowboy, Part 3

When a horse goes missing from Stevenson Sputnik Ranch, the cowboys’ quest to find it becomes a matter of life-and-death in a way they least expected.

Story and photography by Ryan T. Bell

A rumbling sound came from the direction of Shestakovo. Low at first, it became earsplitting as a MiG-29 jet appeared on the horizon. It flew a high G-force circle so close overhead I could see the serial numbers stenciled on its fuselage. Wayne Walter, my partner for the summer, and I sat our horses and watched the plane make four thunderous passes. Either the ranch was under surveillance, or the rumors were true that a regional MiG squadron would perform an air show at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. The attempt at tracing Olympic rings in the sky looked like the loop-de-loops you draw on a piece of paper to get a ballpoint pen’s ink to flow. Good thing they had three years to practice. Continue reading