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“Good basic fun”
Review of Stepperiders

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Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: More than 3 hours
Owner description: Stepperiders is a family run business, set against the backdrop of the serene beauty of Mongolia's Bogd Khan National Park. The family owns around 200 Mongolian horses, the country's national treasure. Tours range in length from day trips to 7 or even 14 days on the Steppe. The horses themselves are hardy and sure-footed, but full of character. See Mongolia the way it should be seen - on horseback.
Useful Information: Activities for older children, Lockers / storage, Bathroom facilities, Food available for purchase
Reviewed 5 May 2017

Took four days on a horse in the steppes around UB. I am not very experienced and slowly the team built my confidence until I was galloping around on the last day with only an excited frisson of fear. Not luxury, no shower for four days but great basic fun on hardy animals with a highly skilled Mongol horseman and English speaking assistants. Also do not expect a rigid timetable.

Date of experience: May 2017
1  Thank Stephen T
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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"base camp"
in 6 reviews
"day trek"
in 10 reviews
"solo trek"
in 4 reviews
"sleeping bag"
in 5 reviews
"experienced riders"
in 4 reviews
"wet wipes"
in 4 reviews
"horse trek"
in 7 reviews
"stay warm"
in 3 reviews
"horse guides"
in 3 reviews
"great riding"
in 2 reviews
"small backpack"
in 2 reviews
"final thoughts"
in 2 reviews
"waterproof boots"
in 2 reviews
"staff volunteers"
in 2 reviews
"riding ability"
in 2 reviews
"first aid kit"
in 2 reviews
"the camp manager"
in 2 reviews

17 - 21 of 51 reviews

Reviewed 18 April 2017

When you live in UlanBataar , you need to be able to get out of the city to explore the beautiful countryside and get some fresh air. Last weekend, my daughter and I went to Steppe Riders and had a fabulous time. Steppe Riders picked us up at our apartment and drove us to their ger camp about 40 minutes away. On arrival, we had tea on the balcony, while they got the horses ready for our treks. We went on two treks- 2 hours before lunch and two hours afterwards. In between, they served a very delicious meal. We are not experienced riders, so our guide Nathalie and horseman Buyanna were excellent at providing instruction and ensuring that all went smoothly. The vistas were stunning- even though the countryside is not yet green. While we were riding the horseman entertained us with his skills and when prompted sang Mongolian songs.
I have been several times to ride with Steppe Riders and am impressed by their personal attention and care to their guests and horses. I hope to ride again- possibly on one of their longer treks.

Date of experience: April 2017
3  Thank 666canada
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 22 October 2016

If you like camping, horseback riding, and adventure, this is the trip for you! Riding on horseback to the Nadaam Festival was fantastic! Mendez, Bayna, and all the helpers were excellent. It really helps to be in good physical shape because some days in the saddle are long. One of my top ten experiences!!! Loved it!

Date of experience: July 2016
1  Thank Nadyasantabarbara_CA
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 23 September 2016 via mobile

This company seems like a great, organized company. I unfortunately, was not able to join their trip. But in organizing my trip to Mongolia, we emailed several times back and forth and they always replied with great feedback. They even noted that they can cater for vegetarians on the horse trek tours. I highly recommend Stepperiders.

Date of experience: September 2016
1  Thank SS G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 29 July 2016

As background: I spent one week volunteering at the ger camp and then I did an 11 day trek from Terelj National Park to Khagiin Khar Nuur.

TL;DR Amazing horses and wonderful people. Can't say enough about the quality of the riding, Mendee's family, the staff, and the other volunteers at the camp. Speak up if you need something or feel uncomfortable. Adjust your cultural expectations and plan for everything to run late or break down during your stay in Mongolia, whether you are with Stepperiders or not. Live in the moment instead of worrying about the next thing and you'll enjoy your Mongolian experience much more! Also, please pick up after yourself!

Okay...my super long review:
Mongolia strikes me as a land of extreme contrasts and my time with Stepperiders reflected that.

Let's start with the extremely good:
1. The horses.
While not refined or sophisticated, these horses are tough as nails and as big hearted as any horse I've ridden in my life. For background, I've ridden on and off for the last decade and rode regularly (3x per week) before I came out here. Nothing prepared me for just how fit and FAST these horses are.

There are no rules except don't fall off your horse. It doesn't matter which discipline you trained in (e.g. Western, English). It also doesn't matter how much experience you have had (none to expert) as long as you communicate this clearly to your horse guides or let them watch you ride a few times before you set out on a trek.

One of the other reviewers mentioned this earlier...but trust the horsemen when they pick out a horse for you. I let them pick for me every day that I was volunteering at the camp and must have tried out 6-7 different horses. The first day I was on a "school" horse that needed a little extra encouragement to keep up with the group, which I found appropriate for a first ride. Every horse after that was sure footed, responsive, and well matched to my riding ability. I never had a bad horse. If you notice any behavioral issues like biting or kicking, the horse is likely injured or exhausted. Mention it to the horsemen/guides and they will take care of it.

2. The land.
The area around the ger camp is open grassland, with many opportunities for trotting and cantering. My trek took me through mountain passes and out through open grassland, so some days were walk/trot only days where I enjoyed the jaw droppingly beautiful views. Other days, we left the pack horses behind with the horse guide and did some extended canters through the flatlands. Absolutely exhilarating.

3. The people.
Mendee, his wife Bainaa, and his kids are some of the warmest people I've ever met. I wish I could have stayed longer, but even within a week, I felt like I was a welcome friend rather than just a guest. The kids can be shy at first, but if you hang out with them enough, you'll discover they're quick to laugh and love to joke around. I didn't get to spend much time with all of his family, but I did meet his brother Bagna, who went wayyy out of his way to prepare a delicious Korean meal for me and invite me to eat with his friends when he found out I was hanging out by myself at the camp one day. His wife and daughter are also super cute - definitely say hi if you get the chance!

The horsemen, Tsendee and Tasch (I'm butchering the spelling of their names), are professionals and I stand in awe of their skill. They know what they are doing. While they don't speak English, they are extremely sweet and they work very hard to make sure the horses are taken care of and the guests at the camp have a great riding experience.

One note: their methods may seem excessively harsh to those of us used to riding in plush stables, keep in mind that they're dealing with half-wild horses and they've been doing this for a long, long time. You can learn a lot just by watching them ride or handle horses. I did!

My trail guides were incredible as well. After 11 days in Mongolia's backcountry where you can go entire days without seeing other people, you get to know each other very well. We had a great time and my guides went above and beyond to make sure I was comfortable and having a good experience.

I know that's a lot of superlatives, but it's all true.

4. Customizable experiences.
If you are looking for a cookie cutter experience, this country is not for you. Not only is Mongolia a different culture with different standards for good/bad work ethic and customer service, its tourism industry is not as developed as other countries. Depending on how you look at it, this could be great or it could be terrible. It's as genuine as you can get but the tradeoff is that it's not as smoothly oiled as the major tourist spots (think the Sistine Chapel or Kinkaku-ji). It can be helpful to think of a ger like you think about an Air BnB. For me, this was a very good thing. But YMMV.

The not so good:
1. Litter.
Unfortunately, Mongolia is still working on building its infrastructure. In the countryside, modern amenities like electricity, running water, and garbage disposal systems are nonexistent. A lot of families will do their best to dig a pit, collect all their trash there, and burn it. However, some people will just drop trash wherever they like and it's not uncommon to see plastic bags or broken vodka bottles on the steppe.

In the more protected areas like the nature reserves that I trekked through, there are fewer people and consequently less litter. However, I noticed a lot of trash at Khagiin Khar lake. Much though not all of it seems to be foreign in nature (Ricola wrappers, J&J bandaids, some random European brands I never saw in the local Mongolian stores). Please please please pick up after yourselves! Pack in, pack out! If you wouldn't throw it on the ground at home, don't throw it away in someone else's beautiful country. We spent half a day just picking up trash around the lake and the distress of one of my guides, who relies on the land for a living and has a deep respect for the land, was quite apparent.

Check with your guides before you dump dirty water back into the streams or wash hands/hair/clothes directly in the water. The closer you are to the headwaters, the more cautious you should be. Many families downstream rely on this water for drinking and do not have any way to purify it of sunscreen, bug repellent, or other chemical/biological contaminants.

2. Food/water/lack of little luxuries.
Let's be honest people, this isn't a 5-star all inclusive beach resort. You're not coming here for the food nor are you coming for creature comforts. You are here because you want to ride the best, toughest horses you've ever ridden and see beautiful grasslands, mountains, and lakes in one of the most underrated countries in the world.

Your basic needs will be met. That is it. 9 times out of 10, it won't be pretty because you'll find that function wins over form every time in the Mongolian countryside. The gers, cars, and even the cookware reflect a very practical philosophy.

If you are doing a supported trek, they will bring food and boiled water/tea from the camp well, which is safe to drink. If you are doing a pack horse trek like I did, you need to treat the water. Bring a durable water bottle that you can pour boiling water into! I brought a giant 1L hydroflask and it was my best friend.

Stepperiders will provide iodine tablets and the guides will boil the water as an added precaution. I suggest you treat AND boil because I don't think all the guides are familiar with the use of iodine tablets. They're really only used by us soft foreign folk (one of my guides has an iron stomach - he just drank water out of the boggy streams without treating or boiling O__O). Make sure the iodine tablets are in the water for the full 30 minutes and are being applied in the proper ratio (usually 1 tablet per liter).

Personal anecdote: I threw up over the side of my horse and spent the 2nd evening of my trek in serious gastrointestinal distress. I've gotten food poisoning before but never needed to stumble into the bushes every hour in freezing temperatures while listening to wolves howl nearby. I literally thought I was going to die. Suffice it to say, the Loperamide I brought did nothing for me here. I still suggest you bring a basic first aid kit though (advil, band aids, neosporin). Thank you to my patient Mongolian guides who nursed me back to health with birch tea and "camping congee"! But yeah, super unique experience, 0/10 would not recommend.

Protip: Always carry toilet paper in your pockets. More than you think you need. Because when you really need it, you don't exactly have time to stop, unload the pack horse, and dig through the packs to find it.

For the ladies out there - bring female hygiene items if you think you will need them. Otherwise plan to get creative with making toilet paper origami.

3. Weather.
Be prepared for dramatic swings in temperature. It can be very hot in the day and very cold at night. If you're vain like me, bring sunscreen and apply to your hands/neck or any part of your body that might get exposed. Also bring chapstick or vaseline. A little tin of Nivea cream lotion saved my life.

Layer your clothes. Someone suggested dri-fit. I fully support that idea, but bring a pair of jeans to wear over your spandex shorts/capris so you can sit wherever you like and not worry about things poking your butt. Bring extra socks! Mine smelled so bad, even after washing them along the trek. I also brought plastic flip flops to change into after riding all day. This let me air out my shoes, which was nice.

4. Communication and punctuality.
First of all, there is no reception out in the ger camps. Mendee and his staff use satellite phones but those aren't always reliable. There's also no power. No computers or internets or anything really. Muy sad. This is good for those of us looking to get away from it all. But it really doesn't help an already lackadaisical approach to punctuality that permeates every facet of Mongolian life.

Things don't always work, people stop to chat and visit all the time, and traffic is horrendous in Ulaanbaatar. It's not just Stepperiders - even the trains and planes have a hard time staying on schedule sometimes. Don't stress, just give yourself an extra buffer and realize that for better or worse, life here moves a little less rigidly.

Personally, I had no problems with getting picked up or dropped off at the airport but I don't think that is always the case. By the time I set off on my trek, I realized that starting late is the norm, so I didn't stress when my start and end times were later than "planned." Just chill, pop into someone's ger, have some milk tea, and maybe go outside and look at the view. Think about life. Have some nice, long conversations with people. Learn something new. Pet a baby goat. Play a game of tag with the kids. There's always something to do, so don't fret about "wasting time." Doesn't get you anywhere. The only caveat to this is if you need to get on a train or plane somewhere. But as far as I can tell, Stepperiders has been very good about getting people to their next destination early or on time.

On top of the cultural differences, the language barrier can cause confusion so make sure to over-communicate important things like what time and what day your flight arrives or leaves. Speak up if you need something or don't feel comfortable. Repeat yourself a few times if necessary. If you are staying in Mongolia for more than a week, try to learn a few basic phrases! It's fun and sometimes it comes in handy! :) Above all, just go with the flow and remember that you are a guest in a new country. Part of the fun of traveling is to learn new cultures and alternative attitudes towards life. Mongolia can show you a lot if you take the time to sit back and enjoy it.

Very long review, but I hope this helped someone out there! If anyone has specific questions, please feel free to PM me.

Date of experience: June 2016
21  Thank Jina C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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