So you want to race a camel? There are a few things you should know before you mount up.
The first time I rode a camel was last year in Virginia City, Nevada, at the 57th annual International Camel and Ostrich Races. I learned a few things that may be helpful, should you find yourself in a similar situation.
1. Camels are soft, sweet, and loving. You might imagine camels to be smelly and coarse-natured. Not in the least. Their fur is luxurious and matches their curious, affectionate demeanor.
2. A camel has a mind of its own. In spite of their loving nature, they aren’t pushovers. If a camel decides it doesn’t want to do what you want it to do, it won’t. They can be coaxed a bit. But if your camel has made up its mind, you’re going to have to approach life on the camel’s terms.
3. Dromedary camels—the one-hump kind—don’t spit. No need to worry about taking a shot of camel squirt in the eye.
4. Don’t go into a camel race thinking it will be anything like riding a horse. Or riding anything else, really. A camel’s lumbering, off-kilter gait requires a different approach if you want to stay on a its back.
5. Balance is everything. Riding a camel is not about strength or agility. It’s all about balancing on its back and moving with your trusty steed.
6. Don’t let your legs get behind you. Your legs are the only way to maintain balance and not end up teetering on top of the camel’s hump like a plate spinning on a pole. If you do get high-centered it won’t last long. In seconds you’ll be in the dirt.
7. The saddle is not really a saddle. It’s really a glorified hand rail for getting on and off the camel. There’s a loop on the front you can cling to but don’t use the side rails for balance. You’ll find yourself in the dirt as you rotate around the barrel-shaped body of your ride. There’s no wrapping your legs around and gripping their big bodies like there is with horses.
8. The ground is a long way down. So yes, you can get quite hurt. Your introduction to camel racing will include a commentary by the handlers making it clear this isn’t the kiddie ride at a theme park. The camels are fast and tall. And given items 4–7, there’s a lot that can go sideways in the two minutes or less that you’ll be in the arena.
9. You won’t be mounting your camel from a stable, wide, reassuring platform. You’ll be climbing up a thin starting gate wall and then have to launch yourself onto the camel’s back just seconds before the gate opens.
10. Duck your head. The starting gate header will be just above your line of sight. Make sure you stay low if you want to make it more than three steps out of the gate.
11. Your camel won’t be wearing a bridle so you’ll have very little ability to influence which direction it goes. But the camels know what they’re doing and where they are supposed to go. Your only connection to control will be holding one end of a halter with the other end attached to the camel’s muzzle. The halter is mostly there to give you a false sense of confidence and to help the handlers catch the camel if you fall off. You have very little control of the animal so just stay balanced and enjoy the ride.
12. Last but not least, you’ll have the time of your life! Keep these tips in mind and you’ll wonder why you didn’t try it sooner.
Want to give it a shot? Head for 58th International Camel and Ostrich Races in Virginia City this September. One lucky raffle winner each day gets to try their hand at racing a camel each day of the races. Learn more about the races!
To read more about Val’s Camel Racing adventure you can find it over at her website Valinreallife.
About the Author: Val Weston is a traveler, photographer, writer, blogger, motorcyclist, and adventure lover. There’s nothing that excites her more than a great road trip to see new places and meet new people. Through her expeditions, she has traveled extensively through all of the 48 contiguous US states, most of the Canadian provinces, and Baja, Mexico. She’s an equal-opportunity adventurer which means she journeys solo, with her two sons, or with friends — whatever she needs to do to feed her curiosity about the world. – Read Val’s Full profile!