As the sun beat down, Rob Archibald’s joints ached – and he still had hundreds of kilometres to go.
But whatever he was going through, polo champion Rob knew it was nothing compared with the pain his uncle Rob Bell suffers as he battles multiple sclerosis (MS).
Rob Bell was diagnosed with MS 15 years ago, and since then has suffered a gradual decline in his mobility to the point where he is now wheelchair-bound.
“It’s cruel,” Rob Archibald says of the effects of MS. “Your body starts shutting down. Mentally, he’s incredibly sharp and funny, as always.”
When Rob Archibald, his brothers Ed and Jack and cousin Henry Bell, decided to take part in the gruelling Mongol Derby, a 1000km trek on horseback through Mongolia, they did it for Rob Bell.
“I think he was really blown away by the fact we were prepared to do the ride for him,” Rob says of his uncle. “He followed us the whole way online. He loved it.”
Working with MS Research Australia, Rob and his brothers and cousin developed Ride fora Cure. They initially set out to raise $100,000 – $100 per km – and they ended up raising close to $200,000.
“The support we received from everybody was incredible,” Rob recalls. “It was really nice to do something positive and do that challenge together.”
The 13-day ride, which they completed in August this year, was certainly a world away from the polo field.
“It’s very hard on your body,” Rob says of the trek. “Your knees, in particular, get really sore. While we have all ridden horses, none of us prepared well for it. But it was the most amazing experience.”
It was hot during the day and cold once the sun went down. At night, they would camp out under the stars in their sleeping bags.
Of course, as physically exhausting as the ride was, there were a lot of laughs along the way. “Henry got on a horse that galloped out of control for quite a while, and we had to chase the horse and bring it back,” Rob says.
“We probably shouldn’t have found it amusing, but we did.”
Rob says the locals they met welcomed them with open arms and a hot meal.
“They were extremely friendly,” he says. “They just wanted to give us a great time. And their homes consist of a big tent with all of their personal belongings inside.”
Rob and his brothers will be back on their horses – this time for the Pacific Fair Magic Millions Polo event on Jan. 6, which kicks off the week-long The Star Gold Coast Magic Millions Carnival.
A former captain of the Australian polo team (his brother Jack is the current captain), Rob now divides his time between polo and the thoroughbred racing industry.
“I’m not as full-time as I used to be,” Rob says of involvement with polo. “I used to spend a lot of time in Argentina and England, competing against some of the best polo players in the world.”
Some of the big names at this year’s polo event include the Queen’s granddaughter Zara Tindall, Argentine polo superstar Nacho Figueras, and his wife Delfina Blaquier. Retired NRL star Billy Slater will play in the celebrities match.