Having completed the ‘toughest horserace in the world’, Jessica Di Pasquale is back overseeing Charles Darwin University’s stud and farm north of Katherine, NT.

Story Ken Eastwood  Photo Shari Thompson

When Jessica Di Pasquale finished the 1,000km Mongol Derby horserace in 10 days in August, she was surprised. She wasn’t surprised that she’d finished, only that it wasn’t quite as tough as she expected. “The way that they market it is the toughest race in the world, but it was a bit easier than that,” she says.

For 12 years, Jess has been the farm and stud overseer for Charles Darwin University (CDU). “I entered the Mongol Derby because I just decided I needed to do something for myself after having a couple of kids and working hard,” she says. 

In the infamous race that has been running for 10 years, a series of semi-wild Mongolian horses are ridden across the remote Mongol steppe. The riders overcome high passes, river crossings, forested mountains and wetlands, all on unpredictable mounts. Jess finished 20th out of 46 riders, many of which didn’t finish. A couple of months after the event she was still feeling the effects of the race in her ankle and knee joints. 

Having started riding horses from age 2 on a cattle station in the Kimberley, Jess is a highly skilled rider. As a teenager, she represented Australia at the Prince Philip Mounted Games. She worked on various cattle stations in the Kimberley and Top End as a ringer before starting the job with CDU, in which she runs the 4,000ha farm north of Katherine that is used for training students. “Cattle are the main focus, so I basically look after cattle for the stud operation, oversee maintenance of the farm and do a bit of cropping,” Jess says. “Our focus is to have animals ready for training.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #146

Outback Magazine: December/January 2023