The Long Riders' Guild

Historical Long Riders






Harriet Wadsworth Harper, was a cousin of Historical Long Rider Martha Wadsworth (below).  Unlike other women of her time, Harriet was unusual in that her side-saddle placed her legs on the right-hand side of the horse, not the left-hand side.  "The family woke up one day to the fact that I had begun to look like a crooked little gnome.  Something was wrong, so off I was sent to a surgeon, who ordered a steel and leather brace for me and suggested that a saddle to go on the right side of the horse should be made. This was to help correct my crooked back.  No girls rode astride in those days - it was unthinkable.... I never changed back to riding on the near [left] side," Harriet wrote.

But what sets Harriet apart from other Historical Long Riders was not her saddle.  It was the fact that she and Martha are the only American Long Riders in history to have undertaken an equestrian journey together during which both riders used a side-saddle.  In May 1907 they made a 1200-mile journey "down through Virginia to West Virginia, up the Ohio River, across Pennsylvania, and home to Genesee, New York. We stayed at farmhouses, in mining camps, any place that had spare beds."

In an interesting historical aside, one of the "pleasant companions" who joined the intrepid side-saddle Long Riders for a brief period was Gutzon Borglum "the sculptor who carved the heads of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt into Mount Rushmore, South Dakota."

Martha Wadsworth - in April 1912 made an equestrian journey from Washington DC to her home in Genesee Valley New York, and back.  According to contemporary accounts, Martha "made it an annual custom to ride from Washington to her New York home, taking a different route each time."  In May 1907 she was accompanied on a 1200-mile journey by her cousin, Harriet Wadsworth Harper.

A prolific author, and a great friend of Mark Twain, Charles Warner made a witty and perceptive contribution to the world of nineteenth century American literature when he and Twain co-authored “The Gilded Age”, the book that gave the era its name. In 1887 Warner combined his urbane wit with a love of adventure travel when he penned On Horseback in Virginia. Always a keen observer, the roving author set out on horseback to investigate a great, rugged stretch of southern Appalachia. The extended equestrian journey took Warner from Virginia, through North Carolina, and into the remote hills of Tennessee. Additionally, the book contains a second narrative account of Warner’s equestrian adventures in the Old West. This time he saddled up and rode from El Paso, Texas to Mexico City, Mexico. Both tales comprise a book full of meaty descriptions told by one of America’s premier nineteenth century storytellers.

From January 1976 to October 1977 William Waterway undertook a historic equestrian journey in the United States. Beginning in San Diego, California the young man ended his journey in Calais, Maine, after riding 7,500 miles. William’s mission was to promote what he called “The Ride for Nature.” He went on to champion environmental issues.
 It was 1933 and Magdalene Weale was faced with a dilemma. How to best explore her beloved English countryside? A motor car was denounced for its lack of involvement with the landscape. The bicycle, a “useful vehicle,” was nonetheless ruled out as it restricted the traveller to much the same view afforded from a car. Plus walking allowed only a limited degree of rural investigation. It seemed logical therefore to set out on horseback! What better way to do justice to the glorious "Highlands of Shropshire" or experience a sense of wild freedom than from the back of a saddle? A picturesque part of England steeped in legend, Weale discovered that Shropshire hosted ancient stone circles once frequented by sun worshipping primitives, Roman ruins close to their still tightly cobbled roads, and the remains of Saxon, Norman and Viking settlements. Through the Highlands of Shropshire contains page after page revealing the poetic observations of flora and fauna, birds and wildlife, as seen from the back of Weale’s ambling mare, Sandy. Part historical account, part Edwardian remembrance, it invokes a gentle, softer world inhabited by gracious country lairds, wise farmers, and jolly inn keepers. Complete with pencil drawings and detailed maps, this fine little book begs the reader to follow Weale’s advice. “Go thou and do likewise.”

H. H. Weatherly rode a Thoroughbred from Pennsylvania to Ohio in 1909 to demonstrate that this breed of horse “should be distinguished as being more than a mere gambling machine.”

Edwin Lord Weeks
occupies a unique position in the pantheon of Long Rider heroes. There are more famous equestrian explorers, more prolific writers. Yet no one ever documented the world of horse travel quite like this Artist-Explorer. Born into a wealthy New England family, Weeks left Boston in the early 1870s in search of artistic training and adventure. He found them both in Paris. The young American studied with the finest artists of his day, developing a style devoted to absolute realism and love of colour. Then, armed with his palette and passport, Weeks set off to paint the dangerous portions of the world. His first daring journey took him to a forbidden section of Morocco in 1878, where he escaped being killed “by the skin of my teeth.” Back in his Paris studio, Weeks produced large paintings depicting the Oriental mystery and glamour he had witnessed in Morocco. With his beautiful paintings now hanging in prestigious Paris salons, the young painter’s fame was assured. Yet it was his equestrian journey from Persia to India that provided Weeks with the material, not only for a superb equestrian travel book, but the magnificent paintings of mythical India which assured him of artistic immortality. Accompanied by the noted travel writer, Theodore Child, the young adventurers set off in 1892 to ride more than a thousand miles from Trebizond to Bushire. During the course of their journey the two friends encountered a bevy of bad lodgings, bandits, and even death. For ultimately only Weeks managed to ride into India, after having lost his companion to the terrors of the trail. Though the brilliant expatriate artist went on to produce some of the most celebrated Indian paintings ever done, his beautifully written account of the equestrian journey which inspired his masterpieces, has been largely forgotten for more than a hundred years. Amply illustrated with drawings done during this historic journey, Artist Explorer recounts the amazing adventures of a painter who sought to study the world and his soul from the back of that ancient altar of travel, the saddle.
Wentworth-Day.JPG (21937 bytes) It was wartime in England. London was being bombed by the Nazis. Coventry Cathedral was a smoke-filled ruin and a sense of desperation gripped the island kingdom. Yet even though the Second World War was raging all around him, the English country squire J. Wentworth Day decided the time was right for an extended horseback ride through his disaster-torn country! Setting off on his Thoroughbred, Robert, Day began the only wartime ride of its kind, a rural odyssey that took him through Essex, Hertfordshire, Cambridge, Norfolk and Suffolk. The equestrian journey gave the author a glimpse into the living picture of a mediaeval portion of England which, until 1939, had hardly changed for centuries. Day takes the reader into the countryside and delivers one surprise after another. For while the eastern coast was being ravaged by warfare, the gentleman farmer discovered an inland oasis of mellow harvest fields, birds and badgers, autumn sunshine, moated Tudor farmhouses, peaceful country halls, and fishing villages, all populated by shrewd farmers or slow-talking fisher folk.  Wartime Ride manages to put into words the charm of a countryside struggling for its very existence.

Eberhard von Westarp - rode across the Ottoman Empire and Persia in 1913.

Little Chief White Eagle and Princess Rainbow Sistesso of USA - rode from Los Angeles to New York on their honeymoon in 1930.
wilde.gif (20121 bytes) Oscar Wilde - rode through the rugged terrain of the Peloponnese mountains to reach Olympia, Greece in 1890.  In his prize-winning poem, Ravenna, Wilde "galloped, racing with the setting sun, And ere the crimson after-glow was past, I stood within Ravenna's walls at last!"  Wilde detested train travel, and told reporters, "The only true way, you know, to see a country is to ride on horseback."
Jim Wilder - spent many years riding through all 48 of the continental United States. 
Messanie.JPG (412519 bytes) Historically the world of equestrian travel has contained an exciting mixture of unique men and women. Some are adventurers seeking danger from the back of their horses. Others are travellers discovering the beauties of the countryside they slowly ride through. A few are searching for inner truths while cantering across desolate parts of the planet. Then there is Messanie Wilkins. She was acting on orders from the Lord!   In 1954, at the age of 63, Wilkins had plenty to worry about. A destitute spinster in ill health, Wilkins had been told she had less than two years left to live, provided she spent them quietly. With no family ties, no money, and no future in her native Maine, Wilkins decided to take a daring step. Using the money she had made from selling homemade pickles, Wilkins bought a tired summer camp horse and made preparations to ride from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific Ocean. Yet before leaving she flipped a coin, asking God to direct her to go or not. When the coin came up heads several times in a row, one of America’s most unlikely equestrian heroines set off. What followed was one of the twentieth century's most remarkable equestrian journeys. Accompanied by her faithful horse, Tarzan, Wilkins suffered through a host of obstacles including blistering deserts and freezing snow storms, yet never lost faith that she would complete her 7,000 mile odyssey. Last of the Saddle Tramps is the warm and humorous story of a humble American heroine bound for adventure and the Pacific Ocean.
SunriseintheDesert.JPG (585887 bytes)





Blame it on the Czar ! If Harry de Windt, that dashing 19th century Long Rider, had been allowed to follow his original plan, he would have galloped to India via the Central Asian satraps of His Imperial Russian Highness.  When suspicious St. Petersburg put a halt to Harry’s Russian route, the intrepid equestrian explorer determined to reach his goal via the Shah’s empire instead. What followed was a ride to remember as Harry de Windt, lecturer, author, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and equestrian explorer par excellence, saddled up in 1890 and set off to examine the forgotten corners of Persia and Baluchistan. The resultant journey was literally one for the record books as the redoubtable Harry proved time and again that he wasn’t going to be put off by a few minor inconveniences such as the weather, which ranged from an arctic storm in Persia that froze his cigar to his lips, to a howling desert wind in Baluchistan with temperatures nearing 120 degrees Fahrenheit! Neither was handsome Harry bothered by the less than ideal accommodations he discovered. “The floor was crawling with vermin but in Persia one must not be particular,” he casually observed. Nor was our author overly concerned about his physical safety, dismissing the fact that the last foreign traveller who attempted this route had been “waylaid, robbed, tied to a tree, and left to starve.” Though it reads like a mounted Jules Verne novel, A Ride to India is replete with the author’s scientific observations and appendices, including details from his exact route, “road overgrown, much camel thorn,” to Harry’s “Table of Languages in Baluchistan.” Part science but all adventure, “A Ride to India” takes the reader for a canter across the Persian Empire of a romantic and bygone age.  The intrepid de Windt subsequently undertook an even more hair-raising journey - he travelled from Paris to New York by Land!

winthrop.JPG (22152 bytes)
At first glance Theodore Winthrop didn’t look like a hardened equestrian adventurer when he set out to travel across Washington Territory in the early 1850s. The twenty-five-year-old was a recent graduate of Yale and a confirmed East Coast intellectual. Winthrop didn’t let his education handicap him however. Instead he set out to ride horses and canoes across some of the most remote portions of the early United States.  The resultant book, Saddle and Canoe, is a vibrant picture of frontier life in the Pacific Northwest and covers the author’s travels along the Straits of Juan De Fuca, on Vancouver Island, across the Naches Pass, and on to The Dalles, in Oregon Territory. Throughout his journey Winthrop spent much of his time among both pioneers and Indians, whose picturesque descriptions are found within the pages of this historic travel account. Never one to hold back his opinions, the Yankee traveller thus regales the reader with personal observations and blunt honesty on a host of topics, people and places. 

Worcester.JPG (48179 bytes)

Don Worcester - rode across the Mojave Desert - twice - with his younger brother, Harris (below) in the 1930s.  The boys were aged 15 and 13.
harris-worcester.JPG (17615 bytes) Harris Worcester - rode across the Mojave Desert - twice! - at the age of thirteen in the 1930s.

Back to Main Historical Page             Home            Top