The Long Riders' Guild
Historical Long Riders
Every age witnesses the birth of
some great soul. Sometimes events bring these people to the attention of the
world. More often than not, they alter the lives around them, then pass on
quietly. Such a soul belonged to the author of this cherished book.
There was nothing in
Louisa Jebb’s comfortable Victorian youth to indicate she would one
day take to the saddle and pen one of the most eloquent equestrian travel
books ever written. Yet in the early years of the 20th century,
Jebb set out with a female companion to cross the Turkish Empire on
horseback. To say they were unprepared to become Long Riders would be an
understatement. Neither of them could speak the local language. Furthermore,
both wore cumbersome full-length skirts and rode side-saddles. They were, in
a word, enthusiastic amateurs who believed courage and common sense would
see them through. Remarkably, it did. Having hired a picturesque guide and
reliable horses, they set out to explore the secret corners of the Sultan’s
empire. What they discovered were guarded harems and regal Pashas, fabled
rivers and a desert world of intense beauty. If Jebb rode into Turkey
expecting to find adventure, she found it. Yet she discovered something else
– nomadic freedom. It is her personal observations about this subject that
set By Desert Ways to Baghdad and Damascus
apart from other equestrian travel books. “In the untravelled parts of the
East you reign supreme, there is no need to go about securely chained to a
gold watch. Ignore Time, and he is your servant,” she observed wisely.
Sadly, revolution and death soon swept across this fabled land, wiping away
the kingdom of the Turkish Caliphs and laying the foundations for the grief
which enshrouds this unhappy part of the world today.
- rode through feudal Japan in 1869.
Lewis Jones (Llwyd Ap
Iwan) was a Welsh colonist who settled in the Chubut Valley of Patagonia. He
made extensive equestrian journeys across the area in the 1890s, before he
was murdered by two American bandits named William Wilson and Robert Evans, who were mistakenly identified as Butch
Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. According to the Jones family legend,
Llwyd "ran a general store in
Esquel, Patagonia, selling all sorts of sundries. The story goes that
Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid tried to rob the store, however Llewellyn
(who was renowned as an excellent shot) was armed and refused to give up the
takings. That night, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid set light to the
curtains of Llewellyn's home, trying to kill or injure him. Although the
fire was put out, he badly burned his hands. The next day they returned to the store,
shot him (he was unable to reach for his gun because of his burns) and ran
off with the takings. There is a gravestone in Esquel inscribed in English,
Spanish and Welsh marking the place where he was killed and saying he was
'shot by bandits'." Now we know it was not Butch
and Sundance, but Wilson and Evans. Click here to read about the Long
Riders who uncovered the truth.
Arthur MacMorrough Kavanagh
No one in the
history of equestrian exploration has accomplished a more amazing ride than
that of Arthur
MacMorrough Kavanagh, the man born with no limbs who rode to India.
descended from the ancient kings of Leinster, Arthur’s birth in 1831 was
initially thought by many to be a tragedy when it was discovered that the
infant had been born with only tiny stumps, instead of fully formed arms and
legs. Yet aided by a merciful doctor, and understanding parents, the child
was reared so as to be so independent that it almost defies belief.
Trained to have an
indomitable sense of perseverance and an extraordinary sense of personal
courage, Arthur, whose alert mental capacities far exceeded many so-called
“normal” people, attended school where he studied art and the classics.
Though he was sometimes carried across his father’s vast estate on the back
of a servant, Arthur also learned to move about the family mansion though
the use of a mechanical chair.
Yet it was his love of
riding that unlocked the world to this adventurous young lad. Though he
lacked limbs, Arthur’s chest was muscular and his courage was supreme. After
long practice, he learned to use the stumps of his arms as if they were
fingers. In this way, after having been strapped into a specially
constructed chair saddle, Arthur could not only manage the reins, but could
carry his whip as he rode to hounds and boldly jumped over the legendary and
hazardous fences of his native Ireland.
While Arthur’s life
would be extraordinary by any reckoning, his status as an equestrian
explorer is considered by The Long Riders’ Guild to be the most
astonishing account of the 19th century. In 1846, at the age of
fifteen, he accompanied his mother and older brother to Egypt, where they
explored Cairo, ascended the Nile by boat, then journeyed on horseback
overland across the deserts to Lebanon. It was during this journey that
Arthur purchased, rode, and fell in love with his Arab horse.
“Poor beast, I cried the
day I left him – he knew me so well. He used to lick my face when I came out
of the tent in the morning to see him and at luncheon-time in the heat of
the day, when I used to sit under him for shade, he would put his head
between his front legs to take a bit of bread without moving for fear of
hurting me,” Arthur later wrote.
This desert sojourn was
to prove to be of lasting importance, for in 1849 Arthur, and older brother
Tom, set off for India. They went via Denmark, Norway and Sweden, before
reaching Moscow, Russia. They then sailed down the Volga into Circassia.
Here they mounted local horses and, carrying nothing but their guns, the
daring brothers rode towards Persia.
In a remarkable entry in
his diary, Arthur recalled, “The scenery is beautiful but the road
villainous. In some places it is absolutely impassable to any but native
beasts, as the path, about a foot broad and very slippery from the rain and
mud, ran along the side of the mountain. Twice my horse slipped one of his
hind feet over the side. If he had not recovered himself in a miraculous
manner, he and I would have been dashed into a thousand pieces.”
After avoiding bandits
and surviving fevers, the intrepid brothers reached India. In an amazing
demonstration of his self-confidence, Arthur agreed with his brother Tom’s
decision to temporarily leave him in India. During the subsequent voyage,
the elder Kavanagh died aboard ship, leaving Arthur stranded in India
In what must count as
the most remarkable act of equestrian confidence ever recorded, the
unemployed, and limbless, Arthur Kavanagh obtained employment as an official
government dispatch rider !!! In his spare time Arthur, always a keen
huntsmen, bagged four tigers.
When notified of his
financial situation, his family arranged for funds allowing Arthur to sail
home to Ireland. Upon his return, the now only surviving son became the heir
to the ancient family estate. Soon afterwards, Arthur wed, went on to father
four children, became a Member of Parliament and never lost his sense of
extraordinary,” he once remarked to his hostess on arrival, “I haven’t been
here for five years but the station master recognized me!”
After spending a full
life hunting, fishing, drawing, sailing his yacht and authoring a
best-selling travel book, this inspiring man, and the most unique Long Rider
in history, died of pneumonia in 1889.
Lieutenant A. H. Kenike –
According to an eyewitness account written in
1897 by the American traveller W. H. Jackson, Kenike rode this horse 4,300 miles
from Chita, Siberia to St. Petersburg, Russia.
William Kinglake rode from Serbia to Egypt in 1835. In his book,
“Eothen - Traces of Travel” he provided this sterling insight into equestrian
travel. "Day after
day, week after week, and month after month, your foot is in the stirrup. To
taste the cold breath of the earliest morn, and to lead or follow your bright
cavalcade till sunset through forests and mountain passes, through valleys and
desolate plains - all this becomes your mode of life. If you are wise, you do
not look upon the long period of time thus occupied by your journey as the mere
gulfs which divide you from place to place to which you are going; but rather,
as most rare and beautiful portions of life, from which may come thought,
temper, and strength. Once feel this, and you will grow happy and contented in
He had a
chance, a rare chance, to leave behind the smoky, crowded streets of New
England and journey out to the still unspoiled American West. He had a
chance, a rare chance, to forget that he was born to ride a desk, not a New
Mexican bronco. He had a chance, a rare chance, to turn his back on
convention and schedules, wrist-watches and bills, misspent romance and a
thousand other heart-aches. He opted instead to climb up on the back of a
untried horse and ride off in search of equestrian adventure. He had that
chance, and he took it! His name sounds ungainly today. “Clyde
Kluckhohn”. Yet he was no cartoon character. This was a young man
in search of adventure and a dream, to ride through the stony wastes of
Arizona, Utah and New Mexico in search of a geographic legend, “The Rainbow
Bridge.” Native American myth stated that somewhere in the rocky wastelands
of Navajo-land stood a gigantic, unbelievable arch of pure red stone. No
white man had ever seen it. No white man had ever ridden near it. Young
Clyde Kluckhohn, the Yankee horseman, determined to do just that! His book, To the Foot of the Rainbow,
is an exciting true tale of equestrian adventure and a moving account of a
young man’s search for physical perfection in a desert world still untouched
by the recently-born twentieth century.
Cliff and Ruth Kopas - rode through the
Canadian Rockies in 1933.
Tadeusz Kotwicki completed several
remarkable rides. In 1992 he rode an Akhal Teke 4,000 kilometres from Jambyl,
Kazakhstan to Moscow, Russia. Beginning in 1995 he began a journey in
Patagonia, planning to continue all the way to the Bering Straits. During
his passage through Peru, Kotwicki was savagely attacked by Indians. He was
saved thanks to the chance passing of a public official. Ironically, this
attack matches one made a few years earlier, when Indians in this same area
nearly killed Russian Long Rider Vladimir Fissenko. Both men were believed
to be mounted demons intent on eating the natives. The Polish Long Riders’
trip concluded in 1998 when he reached Kansas. Here is an article
about him (in Polish).
was a Danish diplomat whose work for the International Red Cross took him into
Siberia in 1918. When the Bolsheviks reached Irkutsk, Krebs learned he was to be
arrested. He bought a horse and set out on an amazing solo ride, travelling all
the way to Peking. By day he rode across steppes and desert, guided only by the
compass, and at night he slept in a sleeping bag, with no tent, in minus fifteen
||Russian anarchist, Peter
Kropotkin, rode across Siberia from Irkutsk to Kyakhta in 1864.
Though he became one of the forefathers of the Russian revolution, Kropotkin
never forgot this great equestrian journey he made as a young man. It
was a "long,
circuitous route, across mountains 7000 to 8000 feet high. I once
travelled along this track, greatly enjoying the scenery of the mountains,
which were snow-glad in May, but otherwise the journey was really awful.
To climb eight miles only, to the top of the main pass, Khamar-daban, it
took me the whole day from three in the morning till eight at night.
Our horses continually fell through the thawing snow, plunging with their
riders many times a day into the icy water which flowed underneath the snow
crust," wrote Kropotkin.
One of the geographic legends of the
early twentieth century was the Abyssinian kingdom of Emperor Haile Selassie.
Existing in self-imposed isolation, this medieval world was an adventurer’s
paradise when Thomas Lambie arrived in 1919. A missionary
and physician, Lambie was in addition a first class horseman with a hunger
for excitement. Eventually Lambie was called to ride through the mountainous
countryside to visit one of the local kings, His Majesty Ras Tafari
(afterwards to be crowned Emperor Haile Selassie). Thus began one of the
strangest friendships in Ethiopian history, the hard riding doctor and the
mysterious ruler of a kingdom dating back 2,000 years.
Boots and Saddles in
is Lambie’s story of his
equestrian journeys, told with the grit and realism that marks a true
classic. Twelve journeys are laid out, all taken for a definite medical
purpose or on orders of the Emperor, in which Lambie rode through the hidden
hills and roadless green valleys of a country that has become a legend among
travellers. The rediscovered classic, full of practical knowledge and lost
wisdom, is a spirited read for students of either horses or history.
Langlet was a Swedish Long Rider who made two equestrian journeys
in the early 20th century. He first rode across Russia, concluding his
journey by staying with the famous author and enthusiastic horseman, Count
Leo Tolstoy. The two men were both advocates of Esperanto, the international
language which many believed would help usher in an age of peace in Europe.
Then in the early 1930s Langlet made an extended journey across Hungary.
This journey concluded with becoming ill. Luckily, after falling in love
with a beautiful Hungarian aristocrat who nursed him back to health,
Langlet settled in his wife's country. When the Nazis invaded Hungary
Langlet risked his life to save a large number of endangered Jews by helping
them to escape via the Red Cross.
Austen Henry Layard was one of the archaeological pioneers of the Victorian
age. In addition to riding from Montenegro to Persia, he lived with the
Bakhtiari nomads and discovered the ancient Assyrian city of Ninevah.
- rode from Cornwall, England, to Strathascaig, Scotland, in 1938.
Author of My Kingdom for a
Englishmen, and still fewer women, had ridden from the Pacific port of
Ampala, over the mountains of Honduras, to the Atlantic in the late
nineteenth century. Yet that is what the refined Mary Lester
set out to do.
The intrepid traveller was laboring under a
handicap as reliable maps were rare and what verbal advice was on offer
turned out to be dubious and out of date. Yet such inconveniences did
nothing to dampen the adventurous spirit of the lady who preferred to ride
under the pseudonym “Maria Soltera.” Regardless of what they called her, the
people in Honduras soon leaned to respect the courage and determination of
the foreign Long Rider. “I do not fear hardship,” she told them, “as I am
the daughter of an English soldier and circumstances have compelled me to
depend on myself.” Lester wasn’t making an idle boast. In excellent Spanish,
she haggled over saddles, hired mules, deflated bullies and outwitted
nefarious guides. She was, in a word, a fire-cracker whose combustible ride
across the verdant mountains is still a tale to remember. Thus
A Lady’s Ride Across Spanish Honduras
is a gem of a book, with its entertaining account of Mary’s vivid, day to
day life in the saddle. Yet the hardy amateur author was a keen observer who
noted the exotic animal life, social customs, and political conditions of a
jungle-trail-world that belonged to that simpler age. Complete with drawings
from her journey, Lester’s colourful writing brings the “lost” civilization
of Spanish Honduras back to life more than a century later.
first glance he didn’t look like a biological pioneer or an extraordinary Long
Rider but that’s what Carl Linnaeus was. Of course part of the reason no
one recognized his importance back in 1732 was because young Carl was still
thought of as being merely the eldest son of a small-town curate in Sweden.
All that changed on the day before his twenty-fifth birthday. That’s when he
saddled his horse, and armed with a plant press and a crazy notion, Linnaeus
rode away from his family’s home in Uppsala, Sweden and into scientific history.
His mission was to journey north into “Lapland,” an area inhabited by the ethnic
Sami tribes people who lived on the frozen tundra with their reindeer.
Linnaeus was convinced that this glacier-carved Arctic region had plants which
were of scientific importance. Yet when he began to discover, and wished to
classify these rare and useful plants, Linnaeus realized that the current system
of studying and naming plants and animals was a linguistic shambles, with
various complex names being given to the same species based on a wide body of
multiple criteria. Linnaeus the Long Rider changed all that. During his
equestrian journey Linnaeus devised a system of classifying living things based
on a single specific epithet unique to that item. For example,
the human species
is uniquely identified by the binomial Homo sapiens. No other species of
animal can have this binomial. Prior to the system now known as Linnaean
taxonomy, animals were classified according to their mode of movement.
During his productive
and pleasant stay with the Sami, Linnaeus adopted the local clothes and
lifestyle of his resourceful hosts. Though he was learning to relish meals of
reindeer meat, the fledgling scientist was also busy discovering more than 100
new plant species. In fact Linnaeus is credited with having classified and named
more than 4,000 animals and nearly 8,000 plants during his career. Thus it is
often said that Lapland was for Linnaeus what the Galapagos Islands were for
Charles Darwin, the other famous Long Rider scientist who was to follow. Yet
while the scientific discoveries of both men are now well-known, few recall that
they shared a common love of equestrian travel.
- rode across the Pampas of Argentina in 1851.
A. MacGahan - rode from Fort Perovsky, Russia, across the Kyzil-Kum
Desert to Adam-Kurulgan ("Fatal to Men"), Kyrgyzstan in 1873.
He said, "It was with a feeling of lazy satisfaction, only known by
those who have ridden a journey of two thousand miles, that I at last drew
up before the door."
rode 800 miles from
Pennsylvania to Kentucky in 1963 at the age of 75. “There’s no better way to
see the country,” he recalled. “The whole experience was a joy.”
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