The Brotherhood of the Saddle
Basha O’Reilly FRGS
The Long Riders Guild is the first and largest international association of equestrian explorers. Founded in 1994, it represents men and women of all nationalities who have made a single journey on horseback of more than 1 600 kilometres. The equestrian travellers who have already qualified live in 44 countries, and have travelled on every continent except Antarctica.
All the important equestrian explorers in the world are Members of the Guild, including Louis Meunier, the Frenchman who made a journey across the combat zone of Afghanistan; the Russian, Vladimir Fissenko, who rode 30 000 kilometres from Patagonia to the top of Alaska; Jean-Louis Gouraud of France, who made a 5 000 mile journey from Paris to Moscow; Tim Cope, from Australia, who rode 10 000 kilometres from Mongolia to Hungary; Jean-Claude Cazade of France, who rode from France to Arabia and back; Robin and Louella Hanbury-Tenison, who rode the first Camargue horses to be imported into England from the Camargue to their home in Cornwall, and Hans-Jürgen and Claudia Gottet, who rode a stallion and a mare from Arabia to their home in Switzerland. And of course there is the great Swiss Long Rider, Otto Schwarz, who rode 48 000 kilometres on five continents.
More than a hundred of these extraordinary Long Riders are also Fellows of the Royal Geographical Society in London, including:
The British man, Stephen McCutcheon, who is making a 16 000 kilometre ride, alone, between Delhi and Peking; Gordon Naysmith, the Scotsman who made a 14 000 kilometre equestrian journey from South Africa to Austria; and Pedro Luiz de Aguiar, of Brazil, who made a 30 000 kilometre journey in Latin America at the age of seventy.
The Guild’s philosophy is the opposite of most of the equestrian world.
Competition is based on the concept that, for you to win, everyone else has to lose. Most of the competitors are, therefore, disappointed. Equestrian travel, however, requires every horseman to use his own talents to try to find individual excellence. There is no competition among its Members, nor nationalism, nor greed for money or glory. Quite the contrary, as one French Long Rider put it, “It doesn’t matter where we were born, the mother-tongue of Long Riders is ‘horse’.”
There are some who confuse equestrian travel with Endurance riding. But that is not the case – Long Riders do not have an obsession with miles or to beat a record. For Long Riders it is a question of decelerating our souls, not boasting about making a lightning-fast journey across a continent, or pretending to be the first, the quickest or the best-looking.
Quite the reverse: if one is in a hurry, the horse always suffers, and the Guild does not tolerate any journey where the horse is subjected to needless suffering. Long Riders believe that there is a mystic alliance between horse and rider which ennobles both.
In addition, everyone is warmly welcomed, whatever their nationality, language, colour, sex or religion, when they have made a horseback journey of at least 1 600 kilometres. The requirements are simple: that they don’t harm their horses or deceive the media. They must also be ready to share their knowledge with those who want to make a similar journey.
|The best-known Long Rider of the twentieth century is the Swiss, Aimé Tschiffely. During the 1920s he and his two Criollo horses, Mancha and Gato, travelled 16 000 kilometres from Buenos Aires to New York. His book, Tschiffely’s Ride, was a best-seller and has inspired five generations of adventurous humans to get in the saddle and head for the horizon.|
And his influence persists today: a young Brazilian, whose father read him Tschiffely’s Ride when he was a small boy, has set off on a ride from Canada to Brazil.
What is really important among the Members of the Long Riders’ Guild is helping each other. Pedro Luiz de Aguiar, who himself was inspired by Tschiffely, is one of the many Long Riders who have mentored the young traveller.
|Louis Meunier, the French Long Rider (right in this photo), was helped and supported by the Guild. After his journey, he in turn helped French Long Rider Nicolas Ducret and New Zealand Long Rider Ian Robinson to make equestrian journeys in Afghanistan.|
One young rider wrote to the Guild, “It’s as though I have found my tribe: the Guild is a fraternity!”
With more than 3 000 pages and 3 million visitors, the Long Riders Guild website contains the greatest collection of equestrian travel information ever assembled.
The Guild publishes the largest collection of equestrian travel books, in eight languages. Because it gives the royalties of many of the books to good causes, the Long Riders’ Guild Press has been praised by Princess Anne, the Prince of Wales and Queen Elizabeth II.
The most recent project is called The Long Riders Guild Academic Foundation. The mission of the LRG-AF is to provide an academic forum for scientists to share their knowledge with equestrian experts. The motto of the LRG-AF is “Science, not Superstition”.
None of the LRG websites accept any advertising, and therefore their visitors from around the world trust the Guild and its mission: above all its strong position against horse abuse.
Copyright (c) 2014 Basha O'Reilly