The Long Riders' Guild

Historical Long Riders

Major Sam Dale, still remembered as a pioneer, had a part to play in Long Rider history. In the early 1800s Dale had immigrated into the Georgia-Alabama area of the United States. Here he became a confident of the Cherokee and Choctaw Indians. Following Dale’s recommendations, these Native Americans issued a remarkable series of “Georgia Passports” to settlers who wished to travel through or live on Indian lands. Then in 1815 Dale was called upon to make an extremely hazardous equestrian journey from Georgia to New Orleans, where American General Andrew Jackson was fighting the British. Dale not only managed to reach Jackson in remarkable time, 600 miles in eight days, the Alabama  Long Rider then rode his still-fit horse, Paddy, back home
Sir Malcolm Lyall Darling was a brilliant officer in the Indian Civil Service, whose lifelong ambition it was to befriend and understand the inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent. Known for his sense of fair play, Darling was ostracized by his English compatriots after he denounced General Dyer’s massacre of unarmed civilians at Amritsar in 1919. During his career, Darling brought E.M. Forster to India and helped George Orwell at the BBC. In addition, the civil servant made extensive horseback tours of the Indian subcontinent, during which he sought to interact with village elders and local residents. Darling’s most remarkable equestrian journey occurred in the winter of 1946 when he rode from Peshawar, more than a thousand miles across India, to Jubbulpore. A fluent speaker of many native languages, Darling ended this journey with a visit to his friend, Mahatma Gandhi. The English Long Rider’s keen political and cultural observations were later recounted in his book, “At Freedom’s Door.”
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Charles Darwin - during the five years in which he made his famous scientific journey around the world, he took every opportunity to explore the continents of South America, Australia and Africa on horseback. Darwin wrote of "The pleasure of living in the open air with the sky for a roof and the ground for a table."   

In contemplating the brilliant intellectual achievements of the past, Charles Darwin's name is often mentioned. Whether you agree with his famous "Theory of Evolution" or not, Darwin's impact on the course of modern events cannot be denied. His was a life whose resonance is still being felt around the globe. It goes against the grain of common perception to think of this scientific titan galloping over the pampas of Argentina, exploring volcanic islands on horseback, and lying down to rest on the bosom of the earth with his horse nearby. Yet Darwin's diaries tell the story of not just a naturalist exploring the world searching for answers, they also reveal the inner man, the Long Rider who revelled in the freedom of riding on three continents, South America, Australia, and Africa. For as these varied diary entries explain, Charles Darwin the Scientist, soon discovered that when you are a Long Rider you often find astonishing acts of kindness awaiting you out on the long grey road to adventure.

Gary Davies - Rode through 22 counties of England and Wales in 1972.

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Jean Claude Denys - made many long rides throughout  France.



Lady Florence Dixie is an excellent example of how hindsight allows us to see the trajectory of a brilliant life. Though she was born in 1855 into a life of aristocratic privilege, her life was a blazing indictment against social convention and sexual repression. She was appointed England’s first female correspondent. She championed the rights of the politically oppressed Zulus and Irish. She denounced animal cruelty. She fought to get women the vote and denounced the side saddle as a sexist invention. And her adventures began on horseback! When asked in 1879 why she wanted to journey to such an outlandish place as Patagonia, the author replied that she was taking to the saddle in order to flee from the strict confines of polite Victorian society. “Palled for the moment with civilization and its surroundings, I wanted to escape somewhere, where I might be as far removed from them as possible.” As her story illustrates, Lady Dixie successfully traded the perils of a London parlour for the wind-borne freedom of a wild Patagonian bronco. What she couldn’t have foreseen was how she would be forced to escape from a rampaging prairie fire by riding directly through the flames! Upon her return to England, Lady Florence wrote, Riding Across Patagonia, a popular account of her travels which she shared with fellow Long Rider, Charles Darwin (above).
Maynard Dixon - famed American artist, made a trip through several Western States, accompanied by his fellow painter, Edward Borien (known as "the Cowpuncher Artist") in 1901, searching for Western themes.






Edward Dodwell is the ancestor of the modern Long Rider Christina Dodwell. Before he became an equestrian explorer, Dodwell was an officer who was captured by the French during the Napoleonic Wars. He was granted parole, provided that he did not return to Britain to fight again. This prompted Dodwell to set off in 1801 to ride through Greece instead. He spent the next five years searching for architectural evidence of Greek’s classic period. In addition to writing about the wonders of that lost world, in his book Dodwell also made keen equestrian observations. For example, he recalled how his pack horse fell into a stream, thereby damaging the beautiful paintings he had painstakingly made of the ancient buildings. Ever the student of architecture, Dodwell also recorded how the Greek Orthodox churches were intentionally built with doors so narrow as to allow only one person to pass through. This was designed to deter Turks from turning the churches into stables.

But the Irish Long Rider’s most significant equestrian discovery was that despite the passage of centuries, the distances he travelled on horseback matched those made by Greek scholars who had ridden the same roads centuries before.

“Distances in Greece are not regulated by measure, but computed by time. The Tatars, who travel on small and fleet horses, without any encumbrance, except their pipe and tobacco bag, pass over rocks and mountains, through forests, swamps, and trackless wilds, with a truly astonishing velocity. They accordingly use a totally different method of computation from that which is commonly adopted in Greece by those who travel with luggage horses, which are calculated to go throughout the day's journey, at the average pace of three miles an hour ; but from this rate, some deductions must be made in mountainous roads. This rough kind of calculation is more accurate than might be imagined. The Author, during his journey, measured all the distances by this method, and comparing the result with the Greek historian Strabo (64 BC) and the Greek traveller Pausanias (200 AD ), he had the satisfaction to find, that the difference was frequently very immaterial.”









Brook Dolan - rode from India to China, via Tibet, thereby accomplishing a secret diplomatic mission entrusted to him by the American president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Like all political events, there were public and private reasons behind this decision. By the spring of 1942 the war against Japan and the Nazis looked grim. The Japanese had conquered the eastern portion of the previously impregnable British Empire, starting with their capture of the fortress of Singapore and concluding with their occupation of Burma. With India threatened, and their allies in China surrounded by hostile Japanese forces, Roosevelt and Churchill hatched the idea of using the mountainous kingdom of Tibet as a transit station for supplies to be moved overland from India to China.
Mind you, there were a few small problems with this plan. In addition to climbing over the natural obstacle of the mighty Himalayan mountains, there was the danger of dying of altitude sickness brought on by trying to make your way across the highest country in the world, not to mention the legendary antagonism expressed by most Tibetans towards unwelcome outsiders.
But what the Tibetans didn’t know was that FDR was a fan of their country. Having read the romantic novel “Shangri-la,” the president became intrigued with the mysterious mountain kingdom. He even dubbed the presidential retreat Shangri-la, though more pragmatic presidents now call it Camp David.  So when the idea was presented to him for an official American diplomatic mission to ride from India, over the mountains to Lhasa, and then make their way overland through the backdoor of China, Roosevelt couldn’t say “no.”
Enter the most unlikely Long Rider in Tibet’s long history, the dashing Count Ilya Tolstoy. Roosevelt’s appointed Long Rider ambassador was a grandson of the famous Russian author, Leo Tolstoy. The elder Tolstoy was so passionate about horses that his friend and fellow author, Ivan Turgenev, accused him of having been a horse in his previous life!  The famous author of War and Peace, who had hosted the Swedish equestrian explorer Vladimir Langlet, rode right up to his death. Coming from such a strong equestrian background, it was no wonder the author’s grandson, who had studied and settled in America before the war, was chosen by Roosevelt to head this delicate equestrian diplomatic mission.
Accompanying Tolstoy was Captain Brooke Dolan, a brilliant Princeton University naturalist turned US army spy.
Their mission was simple. Go to India. Find horses. Ride over the Himalayas to Lhasa without getting killed. Introduce themselves to the Dalai Lama. Entice him to become a diplomatic ally. Then ride on to China before reporting back to Washington DC.
To assist them FDR provided the Long Rider ambassadors with a number of lovely gifts deemed appropriate for the young ruler of Tibet, including a silver framed photograph of the president and a precious gold chronograph watch.

After riding over 14,000 foot high passes, floating their horses across the Brahmaputra river on an ancient flat-bottomed barge, and convincing a number of suspicious Tibetan officials that they were ambassadors, Tolstoy and Dolan reached Lhasa, where they met the ten-year-old Dalai Lama.
With their mission essentially concluded, and no formal permission for a road having been granted, the Long Riders received permission to depart in February, 1943. Their equestrian journey didn’t end however until they rode into a Chinese frontier outpost on June 21st.
After their return to the United States, Dolan was sent back to China. Sadly, the young naturalist, turned army officer, was killed soon after combat had been officially concluded with Japan. So it was left to Tolstoy to record the tale of their remarkable equestrian journey in his “Story from the Road,” entitled Across Tibet from India to China.



Fanny Duberly led one of the most dashing and dangerous lives of the mid-nineteenth century.  In 1854, while still in her early twenties, Fanny accompanied her husband Henry and his regiment to the front lines of the Crimean War to fight the Russians.  Considered the first female "embedded reporter," Fanny's eye-witness account of the horrors of the Crimean War includes the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade.  After having survived bullets, cholera and shipwreck, Fanny and her husband next saw action in India.  In 1857 Fanny rode more than two thousand miles through the deserts of India alongside Captain Duberly and his troops during the suppression of the Sepoy Revolt. 

This remarkable Long Rider was the author of two fascinating books entitled Crimean Journal and Indian Journal.

The photograph on the left shows Fanny on her horse, Bob, with Henry standing in front of her.

Duncan.JPG (5509 bytes) Jane Duncan - rode from Srinagar, Kashmir, to Goma Hanu, Tibet and back in 1904.

John Duncan was a Scotsman who set off on horseback in 1844 in search of West Africa’s mysterious Kong mountains. The former cavalryman turned explorer had originally ridden in Queen Victoria’s elite Life Guards. Despite the equatorial heat, Duncan dressed in his ceremonial uniform, with glistening cuirass, helmet, gauntlets and high boots. During this remarkable journey Duncan was befriended by the infamous African despot, King Gezo, who urged the Scotsman to drink to Queen Victoria’s health in a goblet carved from a human skull. Additionally, Duncan came in contact with several flourishing African cavalry cultures, the existence of which has been almost completely overlooked by western scholars. Although Duncan never found the Kong mountains, his original travel account, Travels in Western Africa, as well as a new biography regarding this brave Long Rider, The King’s Stranger,” are both available via the Long Rider’s Guild Press.









Long Riders often become associated with the countries where they travelled. The majority of such cases involve countries with famous equestrian cultures such as Mongolia or Argentina. Yet Edith Durham’s equestrian travels have linked her to the unlikely nation of Albania. Like her predecessor, Isabella Bird, Durham (
1863 – 1944) began her life in England surrounded by domestic obligations. A loyal daughter, she remained unmarried. After her father died Durham spent years taking care of her ill mother. It wasn’t until she was 37 that Edith found herself free to travel. Having become exhausted while tending to her dying mother, Durham followed the doctor’s advice to take a holiday. She sailed to the coast of Dalmatia and then ventured inland to Montenegro.

This journey exposed her to the tempestuous life, politics and culture of the southern Balkans. Edith soon developed a passion for Albania and championed the downtrodden little nation which was still part of the Ottoman Empire. She spent the next twenty years loudly advocating Albania’s right to independence to the foreign press.

But she was no desk-bound dilettante. Durham explored Albania extensively on horseback. During her many journeys she carried on anthropological research, documented the urgent need for relief work and collected endangered Albanian folk art.

One reason her many equestrian journeys were successful was thanks to Edith’s understanding of Albanian culture. She benefited from invoking the nation’s ancient tradition of extending protection and hospitality to “Sworn Virgins.” These were women who donned men’s clothes, took a vow of chastity and lived as men in the mountainous patriarchal society of northern Albania.

In addition to being made a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Durham wrote seven popular books about her life and travels in the Balkans, the best known being High Albania (1909). Edith’s unwavering support for Albania earned her the enmity of those who favoured incorporating Albania into the cause of Yugoslav unity.

The Albanians however revered the outspoken Long Rider and referred to her as the "Queen of the Highlanders." Upon her death, Albania’s King Zog wrote, "She gave us her heart and she won the ear of our mountaineers." More recently, in 2004 Durham was described as “"one of the most distinguished personalities of the Albanian world during the last century,” by Albanian President Alfred Moisiu.


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