Historical Long Riders
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.
Though 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 without funds.
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 humour.
“It’s 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.
It was said of him on his death: "He did not equal any man but few men equalled him".
|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.|
|Alexander 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 your saddle-home."|
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.|
|Karl Krebs 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 degree weather.|
|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.|
|Alexandra Kudasheva holds a special place in Long Rider history. In 1910 she rode her Manchurian horse, Mongolika, 12,600 miles from Harbin, China to St. Petersburg, Russia. Czar Nicholas II then asked the equestrian explorer to ride his valuable Arabian stallion on another journey from Vladivostok to St Petersburg. “Queen of the Cossacks” recounts how Kudasheva then became a decorated hero during the First World War but met a tragic end.|
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