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Mongol Derby Competitor Receives November Touch of Class Award; Anne Arundel County Resident Places in World’s Toughest Equestrian Race

Touch of Class Award Winner Barbara Smith

Barbara Smith (center) accepts Touch of Class Award from Jane Seigler of the Maryland Horse Council and Jim Steele, MHIB Chairman

ANNAPOLIS, MD – Barbara Smith, a horsewoman from Lothian (Anne Arundel County) who was among the Top 10 finishers in the grueling 2014 Mongol Derby in Mongolia, accepted the Maryland Horse Industry Board (MHIB) November Touch of Class Award this week.

“It is like galloping a pony from Baltimore to Chicago in eight days,” said Smith who placed ninth in what is regarded as the world’s toughest equestrian race. The field started with 48 riders and ended with 37. She completed the 640-mile race in eight days.  The mounts are Mongolian ponies provided by local herders, with frontrunners in the race getting their pick of the ponies at designated relay stations. The terrain consists of deserts, prairies, mountains and rivers. Rider are given GPS devices and charts of their own courses.

“My biggest fear was falling off and getting bitten by wild Mongolian dogs that come after you snarling and biting,” she said. “Many of the ponies have one gear—a flat out run and some are just out of control, bolting for 10 kilometers straight . You’d be holding on for dear life.”

Not only was Smith one of only three American riders to finish in the Top 10, but she was also the oldest rider in the race—starting at the age of 60 and finishing at the age of 61. Her birthday was the final day of the race, August 16.

“We are going to have to re-name this award the ‘Tough’ of Class Award, in honor of Barbara,” said MHIB Chair Jim Steele. “This is an amazing feat and a world-class accomplishment.”

Smith, who breeds Thoroughbred racehorses and is a staff member of the Marlborough Hunt in Upper Marlboro, received the Touch of Class Award at a reception hosted by the Maryland Horse Council in the Miller Senate Office Building in Annapolis on Tuesday (Nov. 18). At the meeting, she gave a talk, presented slides and exhibited some of the gear she used in the race.

MHIB presents the award monthly. Now in its fourth year, the program has honored 51 people and 29 horses, all from Maryland, who have attained national and international honors. The award is named for Touch of Class, the Maryland-bred mare who won two show jumping gold medals at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. For more information, contact MHIB Executive Director Ross Peddicord, at 410-841-5798 or

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