The Long Riders' Guild

Philippe Rustenholz

Philippe describes his horses:

Flecha is the dominant one:  as strong as an oxe, a little fat, cold-blooded, and doesn't stop at much.  He is a dark bay, almost black.  I find him slow, but actually he walks at about 3.5 m.p.h., with a stately stride.  I have to push him on a lot to keep his momentum going.   He leads well, but is terrified of oncoming lorries and trucks.  Easy to shoe, he is afraid of everything at eye level - he must have been beaten.  When led, he is dangerous because of his fear of traffic, but he seems to be getting used to it.  It would be hard to steal him because I have now built up an exclusive relationship with him.  At this rate, he'll soon be getting into my tent.  He is not good on a long tether (he gets his feet all tangled up and falls over) so usually I just hobble him.

Flauca is younger, faster, he walks at 4 m.p.h. and has a great contact with humans.  Clever, he knows how to ask for what he wants and has no hesitation in riffling through my belongings.  His soft voice warns me if anything happens.  He has never weakened, not at great altitudes nor after a long day, and never loses weight, even though he sweats more than the others.  He follows Flecha well on a lead-rope, but is afraid of some colours, and it was 15 days before he would lead the way over a bridge.  On the other hand, he is impossible to shoe alone - he has no malice in him but is incapable of standing on three legs.  I haven't told him, but he is my favourite!

Chata the mule has been a great discovery for me.  You can't touch her ears and she's difficult to catch, but does her work really well - when I saddle, load and unload the pack I have no need to tie her up.  At the same time I have to do it right or she will display her incomprehension - by swivelling her hind legs in my direction - and it is better not to insist...  For the last week she has started accepting my pats and caresses.  She is funny, is afraid of many things and is able to find her own route, calculating to the nearest millimeter the width of her load.  Recently she has started sleeping close to me in hostile terrain.  For a Long Rider this animal, who does not drink much, does not each much, carries a lot of weight, lives twice as long as a horse and is far superior to the horse in the mountains, it is a dream pack animal.

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