The Long Riders' Guild
Historical Long Riders
Brian Callahan - Rode from Esquel,
Patagonia, across Argentina to Rincon de Cholila in search of Butch and
Sundance. Brian was a member of Clan
Capus - Before the turn of the 20th century, exploration of
the Pamirs was usually the reserve of the British and the Russians. The
French Long Rider, and renowned naturalist, changed that by making two
historic rides across Central Asia and the celebrated mountain ranges. In
1880 Capus set off with his companion, Gabriel Bonvalot. They rode across
Turkistan, then explored Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva. By 1886 the French
scientist had returned to Central Asia, again in the company of Bonvalot.
This time they were determined to ride further afield. They journeyed from
Tehran to Samarkand, then attempted to reach Kabul. When that plan failed,
Capus and Bonvalot crossed the Pamir and Hindu Kush mountains, before
entering the remote mountain kingdom of Chitral. From there, the scientist
turned equestrian explorer, made his way back to France via British occupied
India. In his travel book, Capus carefully explained the history and culture
of the various tribes he had encountered. He was, for example, an early
authority on the Chitralis, the Kyrgyz, and the Kalash pagans of Kafiristan
George Cardinet Jr. was not only a Long Rider, he was also known as the
father of the modern American trails system. A keen horseman and trail activist
since the 1940s, Cardinet was instrumental in developing California’s first
long-distance equestrian trails. His most important journey along this important
trail system occurred in 1976 when George rode nearly a thousand miles from
northern Mexico through California. During that long ride Cardinet closely
followed the route used by the Spanish explorer, Juan Bautista de Anza, two
hundred years before. Cardinet’s latter-day journey helped inspire the United
States government into passing the National Trails System Act, which recognized
the country’s extensive system of scenic and historic trails.
Brother John de
Plano Carpini - rode from Frankfurt, Germany to Karakorum,
Mongolia and back in the late 1200s.
Douglas Carruthers - Few people are blessed with the clarity of purpose which the English Long Rider Douglas Carruthers carried throughout his remarkable and event-filled life. Born in 1882, as a boy he had determined to cross “Darkest Africa,” see the ruins of Petra and reach “that strange capital at the back of the world, Bokhara.” Before he was 26, he had done all three. During this remarkable burst of intense exploration, Carruthers had scrutinized the Middle East, examined Arabia, travelled across Africa from east to west, followed the course of the Congo River, and investigated Central Asia. Yet it was his equestrian journey across Dzungaria which marks Carruthers as an important Historical Long Rider.
In 1910, at the age of 28, the young scientist was joined by a journalist, M.P. Price, and a professional hunter named J.H. Miller. The trio were determined to see Dzungaria, an ancient Mongolian kingdom which lay between Siberia and Mongolia. In fact the obscure realm had been named for the Dzungars, the left (züün) hand (gar) of Genghis Khan’s army.
Our aim was to explore the last stronghold of the indigenous tribes of Southern Siberia and the Great Mongolian plateau,” he wrote.
It may surprise modern equestrian explorers to learn that many of the problems currently affecting 21st century equestrian travel presented challenges to Carruthers and the Long Riders of his generation as well. This included visas and money.
Unlike in today’s ATM or credit card culture, Carruthers noted that he had to estimate all of the expenses for the six month ride across the mountains, tundra and desert that lay before him because, “Our next banking town would be six months and 1,500 miles away.” Adding to his problem was the culture consideration that many of the Mongolian nomads he would encounter had never seen bank notes. Consequently, the English explorers were forced to carry much of their wealth in small gold and silver bars.
But having the money was no guarantee of success, especially when the cynical representatives of the Czar’s Imperial government mistrusted your motives. Thus, despite their scientific credentials, the Long Riders had to contend with a hostile Russian government who disbelieved in their purpose.
“That is an absurd route to take,” the sceptical officials announced. “Nobody goes that way. Besides, the track to Usinsk will be open in a week or two; so why choose this difficult one?”
It was only after Carruthers had appealed to the Governor-General of Siberia, that the proper paperwork was produced and the travellers were permitted to depart across Russian territory, bound for faraway China, via Dzungaria.
The resultant trip took the men and their horses across 5,000 miles of trackless forest, insect infested taiga, freezing steppes and dreary deserts. But despite the physical hardships, Carruthers remained enchanted with travel.
“Day after day, as we travelled across the boundless wastes of Central Asia, we were surrounded by views possessing the magic which inspires a man with great thoughts and makes him long great longings,” he wrote.
At the conclusion of the journey, Carruthers wrote a tremendous book entitled Unknown Mongolia. Not only did it provide its readers with loads of entertaining excitement, the book was also filled with accurate observations of the Uriankhai reindeer herders and other lesser known cultural secrets.
Carruthers was awarded the Patron’s medal by the Royal Geographical Society in London. He went on to inspire a new generation to become explorers and Long Riders. However, he had no tolerance for fools or frauds. Carruthers especially disliked those authors who enriched themselves by writing about how their lack of proper planning had caused them to “suffer this or endure that.” Such actions, he thought, were merely a way for inept travellers to disguise their incompetence and issue a license to lecture. Carruthers, on the other hand, was always eager to advise and encourage young people. Shortly after the Long Rider’s death in 1962, the equally famous camel traveller and Central Asian explorer, Owen Lattimore, recalled the man who had encouraged him to follow the caravan trail across Mongolia.
recalled, did not seek fame but truth. Self-glory he disdained, in favour of
knowledge. Truth he served, while pride he ignored.
Oh, to be
twenty-five, young and in love. For that was what George Cayley
was, when he set out in 1852 to ride across one of the most romantic
countries in the world. Accompanied by a fellow wandering spirit, the
young Englishmen donned the dashing clothes of caballeros, bought two
fiery steeds called the Moor and the Cid, then never looked back.
Having just arrived from England, with its enthusiastic embrace of the
mechanical marvels of the Victorian age, Cayley appreciated and wrote
about the still-tranquil life he discovered in Spain. A student of the
classics, he wrote movingly about the landscape before the intrusion of
the motorized age. The young horseman saw no trains, just lonely
mountains. He found few good roads, but plenty of sun-swept villages. He
enjoyed scanty fare, but mixed with jubilant people. His journey took him
through a slumbering España, from brooding Gibraltar, past glorious
Granada, round Ronda, across Segovia and on to the peaks of the Pyrenees.
Thus, it was while he was Intoxicated with the magic of Spain, that Cayley
stumbled on the birthplace of that country’s greatest literary work of
art. At the village of Argamasilla del Alba, the young writer made a
pilgrimage to the cellar where “Don Quixote” had been written. It was
there, in a damp, underground cell that Miguel Cervantes had penned the
magnificent novel, while draped in chains.
resulting book, Bridle Roads of Spain,
most beautifully written equestrian travel account of the 19th
rode in Europe, Asia and Africa in the
mid-1600s. The famous Turkish author wrote that a journey was sometimes
comparable to "a fragment of hell!"
For more information, please go to Çelebi's entry
Olive Murray Chapman has been described as
a “determined English lady traveller of legend.”
When reviewing travel literature it is easy to forget the
social restraints, not to mention physical dangers, which added additional
burdens to independent female travellers in the 19th and early 20th
centuries. Olive Chapman was one of that rare breed who refused to be kept
at home by such “stuff and nonsense.”
After her husband was killed during the First World War,
the young widow determined to make the most of the education provided to her
by her surgeon father. Ignoring criticism, she instead followed in the
hoofprints of that former famous lady Long Rider author, Isabella Bird.
Instead of remarrying, Chapman set out not only to see the world’s more
exotic places, but to record her experiences on paper.
Her first journey took her to Iceland, which she eagerly
explored on horseback. Not being content to merely recite the history of the
remote island, Chapman made it her mission to also interview women in the
less frequented portions of the tiny kingdom. During her intensive ride
across the rugged terrain she also created beautiful water colours, as well
as describing the great social struggle which had occurred between the old
Norse religion and Christianity. Though she employed local guides, Chapman
made her own decisions, which included climbing to the rim of a bubbling
crater emitting noxious fumes. Nor was she put off by the many rushing
rivers she routinely rode her pacing pony through. Her journey provided her
with enough material to write her first book, which was aptly entitled
Across Iceland: The Land of Frost and Fire.
Having established her independence, Chapman went on to
explore Cyprus and Madagascar. However, her most challenging journey
occurred when she set off to cross the Arctic Circle in Lapland. In the
company of a single guide, she rode a sleigh drawn by reindeer during this
remarkable journey. When Chapman died in England at the age of 85 in 1977,
the New York Times concluded, “Everybody told her she couldn’t do it, that
nobody had ever done it, and so she set forth and did it.”
Thanks to research undertaken by Professor Dr. Georg
Jäger at the Ludwig Maximilians Universität in München, Germany, the Guild
has learned of the important journey made by Daniel Chodowiecki,
a renowned 18th century Polish artist and Historical Long Rider. Though he
spent most of his life in Berlin, after a thirty-year absence, Chodowiecki
decided to ride back to Danzig (Gdañsk) in Poland, where he had been born.
His book, Journey from Berlin to Gdansk ("Die Reise von Berlin nach Danzig")
was published in 1773. It not only preserves vital details of how European
equestrian travel was undertaken in that era, the volume contains accurate
images depicting the Long Rider and his horse on the road. Thanks to
Chodowiecki’s ride, Long Riders from Germany and Poland have been inspired
to open an international trail which will encourage equestrian travel
between the two countries.
Alberta Claire, "the Girl from Wyoming,"
made one of the most remarkable rides of the early twentieth century. The
daughter of an English sea-captain who settled in frontier Wyoming, young
Alberta set off in 1912 on an 8,000 mile journey which took her from Wyoming
to Oregon, south to California, across the deserts of Arizona, and on to a
triumphant arrival in New York City.
The photograph, taken during the course of her
journey, depicts Alberta and her horse Bud on the beach in front of the
well-known San Francisco tourist attraction,
The Cliff House.
The diminutive pistol-packing Long Rider
undertook her journey for two special reasons. Though few people now recall,
women were denied the right to vote in 1912. Furthermore, polite society
expected women to ride in a side saddle. Thus Alberta made her ride in an
effort to promote the still-revolutionary ideas of a woman's right to vote
and her right to ride astride! After Teddy Roosevelt endorsed women's
suffrage in the Presidential election of that year, the 500 year old use of
the side saddle disappeared from use almost overnight thanks to Alberta
Claire and women like her.
In a further astonishing discovery, The Long
Riders' Guild has documented how Alberta then rode from New York to El Paso,
Texas. Upon receiving news of the ongoing Mexican revolution, Alberta
crossed the border where she interviewed and photographed the famous
guerrilla leader, Pancho Villa. Furthermore, Alberta was instrumental in
filming Villa during the 1914 battle of Ojinaga. A 2003 film starring
Antonio Banderos as Pancho Villa, recounted the making of this movie, but
failed to recognise the importance of Alberta Claire. This legendary Long
Rider may well have been the first female film producer in history!
Despite her colourful and well-documented early
life, The Guild can find no trace of Alberta Claire after the publication of
her Mexican movie story in 1916. If any of our visitors have any clues,
please contact The Guild.
Click here to read a
hair-raising story by Alberta.
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