Historic Meeting of Long Riders in London
Equestrian Long Riders Meet in London
Present Literary Collection to Royal Geographical Society
By Darcy Morger-Grovenstein
In the midst of space-age, high speed technology, a band of humans has slowed down the earth and sky sweeping past them by seeing the world from the back of a horse. They are called Long Riders. Ardent equestrian travelers, adventurers, and passionate explorers, their documented journeys recently published in The Long Riders’ Guild Literary Collection are now preserved annals at the Royal Geographical Society.
A stone’s throw from London’s Hyde Park rises the grand building of Britain’s prestigious Royal Geographical Society. Housed here is the greatest collection of recorded human exploration on earth. Corridors lined with maps, paintings and photographs lead to discussion rooms, a lecture theatre, and an extensive geographical library. On March 15, 2005, twenty-eight Long Riders from every corner of the earth assembled in that library, the Foyle Reading Room, for the short span of a day. It was the largest gathering of equestrian explorers in history. They were united to celebrate the publication of The Long Riders’ Literary Project and to present the first complete set of that collection to the Royal Geographical Society. The Long Riders’ Literary Collection contains 107 of the world’s most historically important equestrian travel books in five languages, including many rare books that have long been out of print. Ten of those Long Riders present authored books in the collection.
Until the momentous occasion in London, many Long Riders had never met each other except via phone conversations, the Internet, or The Long Riders’ Guild website. Their meeting was like one between old friends. Having mentored and inspired one another, it was thrilling for these passionate equestrian travelers to finally meet. They shared life stories injected with humor, bits of advice, as well as desperate moments of their travels through which they survived.
Official events of the day included a private luncheon and evening dinner at the nearby Polish Club, the formal presentation of the literary collection, a tour of the RGS building and introduction of new Fellows of the RGS. Britain’s foremost Long Rider, Robin Hanbury-Tenison OBE FRGS formally presented the LRG Literary Collection to the RGS, thanking The Guild for their contributions to exploration. Hanbury-Tenison said the acquisition of the LRG Literary Collection was “a splendid and highly significant occasion at the RGS; I am sure no one has ever given as many books to the library at one time.”
The entire LRG Literary Collection was showcased in the center of the Foyle Reading Room along with the historic saddle of Swiss Long Rider, Otto Schwarz (Schwarz has ridden further than any other equestrian in the 20th century - 48,000 kilometers on six continents). Poignantly, portraits of the Long Riders hung along the room’s perimeter beside ten Trail Blazer Magazines displaying stories of Long Rider Expeditions.
Two Long Riders, Tim Cope and Howard Wooldridge, actually stepped down from their saddles “mid-stream” in various rides, left their horses, and flew into London for the presentation. Australian Tim Cope, just 26 and already a world-renown explorer, arrived from remote Kazakhstan where he is currently a year into his 6,000-mile solo ride across the Eurasian Steppes from Mongolia to Hungary. Long Rider Sir John Ure, author, explorer, and diplomat, officially congratulated Tim for being named a “Fellow of the RGS” while in the saddle. Cope is the first Long Rider to have that honor.
The presentation of the LRG Collection as well as the Literary Project itself is the results of outstanding efforts by visionary Co-founders of The Long Riders’ Guild, Basha and CuChullaine O’Reilly. Accomplished Long Riders and authors themselves, the O’Reillys have devoted years to establishing The Long Riders’ Guild and website and to publishing the equestrian travel books found in The Guild’s collection. In his speech that evening, CuChullaine stated, “They say the age of nationalistic exploration is over. This historic Long Rider meeting in London marks the beginning of the ‘Age of the Citizen-Explorer,’ a time when ordinary men and women will accomplish extraordinary things on their horses and usher in an Equestrian Renaissance.”
Testimony of the assembly’s importance lay in the depth and the breadth of those attending. Collectively, the 28 Long Riders present have 500,000 accumulated miles and incalculable experiences. The Long Riders, of all ages and status, have contributed greatly to equestrian travel through their writings, photographs, and personal accomplishments. Guests of the day included world explorers, diplomats, and journalists as well as the Ambassador to Argentina; Danish author, Bjarke Rink (whose new equestrian book, The Centaur Legacy, examines the effect man’s partnership with horses has had on history); and Jean, Lady Polwarth. Lady Polwarth represented the “Fathers” of the Long Riders movement, her great uncle Robert “Don Roberto” Cunninghame Graham and Aimé Tschiffely of whom she is the literary heir. “The Long Riders’ Guild is an absolutely brilliant organization,” said Lady Polwarth, “These Long Riders have written serious descriptions of their explorations and that is what is so important to the rest of the world. They are also providing adventures and achievements to inspire us all.”
“It was a very exciting meeting,” exclaimed George Patterson FRGS, in his Scottish brogue. At 84, Patterson is the oldest living Long Rider. The Scotsman made an astonishing ride across the Himalayas in the winter of 1949 from Tibet to India. Author of Journey with Loshay in the LRG Collection, Patterson said, “Everyone had a different story to tell. It was interesting to hear how the circumstances and experiences of their rides has impacted their lives.”
This article is reprinted by kind permission of Trail Blazer magazine.
Click here to go to the page listing all the
Long Riders at the meeting.
Click here to see more photographs of the meeting.
Click here to view the titles in the Long Riders' Literary Project.
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