The Long Riders' Guild
More Historical Long Riders
At the dawn of the new millennium, an
eagle-eyed university librarian informed the Long Riders’ Guild that Lord Byron
was an avid equestrian traveller. That surprising revelation led to the
formation of the Historical Long Riders project, which in turn has collected and
published the details of hundreds of amazing equestrian journeys from humanity’s
As expected the record includes acts of
endurance which are hard to comprehend today, for example Harry de Windt’s
casual comment that while riding across the wintry mountains of Persia the
temperature dropped so low that his cigar froze to his lips. Other Long Riders
lost friends to a variety of dangers, including Williard Glazier whose
companions were tortured to death by Arapahoe Indians.
Yet it wasn’t always hardship and
brutality. Literature was enriched thanks to the contributions of the Long
Riders, including Jonathan Swift, who wrote “Gulliver’s Travels” after
undertaking a ride across Ireland and Charles Darwin, who eagerly
explored four continents on horseback during his “voyage” around the world
aboard the Beagle. The great naturalist, and lifelong horseman, encouraged
others to follow him into by saddle, when he wrote, “I am
sure the pleasure of living in the open air, with the sky for a roof, and the
ground for a table, is part of an instinctive passion.”
Here then are the
names of more “Tribal Elders,” a collection of names
and adventures whose true significance is only now being placed into its proper
(Click on any photograph to enlarge
Thanks to research undertaken by Professor Dr. Georg
Jäger at the Ludwig Maximilians Universität in München, Germany, the Guild
has learned of the important journey made by Daniel Chodowiecki,
a renowned 18th century Polish artist and Historical Long Rider. Though he
spent most of his life in Berlin, after a thirty-year absence, Chodowiecki
decided to ride back to Danzig (Gdañsk) in Poland, where he had been born.
His book, Journey from Berlin to Gdansk ("Die Reise von Berlin nach Danzig")
was published in 1773. It not only preserves vital details of how European
equestrian travel was undertaken in that era, the volume contains accurate
images depicting the Long Rider and his horse on the road. Thanks to
Chodowiecki’s ride, Long Riders from Germany and Poland have been inspired
to open an international trail which will encourage equestrian travel
between the two countries.
Historical Long Rider 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
done 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 only allow 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.”
Washington Irving is
best remembered today as being the author of “Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip van
Winkle.” He was also a resolute equestrian traveller. Born in New York, the
young man’s sense of adventure was fuelled by reading “Robinson Crusoe.”
When ill-health prompted his wealthy family to offer him a chance to make
the “grand tour” of Europe’s capitals, he departed without regrets. Irving
spent the next seventeen years travelling, riding and writing in Europe. His
elder brother criticized the author for his penchant “to gallop through
Italy,” all the while ignoring the popular tourist spots. The roaming writer
visited France, the Netherlands, Spain, Scotland, Wales, and England.
Irving’s book, “Tales of the Alhambra,” later inspired English Long Rider
George Cayley to make his own ride through Spain in the 1850s.
completed several remarkable rides. In 1992 he rode an Akhal Teke 4,000
kilometres from Jambyl, Kazakhstan to Moscow, Russia. Beginning in 1995 he
began a journey in Patagonia, planning to continue all the way to the Bering
Straits. During his passage through Peru, Kotwicki was savagely attacked by
Indians. He was saved thanks to the chance passing of a public official.
Ironically, this attack matches one made a few years earlier, when Indians
in this same area nearly killed Russian Long Rider Vladimir Fissenko. Both
men were believed to be mounted demons intent on eating the natives. The
Polish Long Riders’ trip concluded in 1998 when he reached Kansas.
Ole Olufsen made two
mounted explorations of the Pamir Mountains in 1896 and 1898. He was
assisted by the Emir of Bokhara and travelled peacefully among the Kirghiz
and Tajiks residing in the remote valleys. Olufsen was interested in
documenting the high alpine lakes in the Pamirs. During his journey Olufsen
made a number of interesting cultural observations, including the Kirghiz
belief that a breed of mythical seahorses lived in these isolated lakes.
These strange horses supposedly emerged from beneath the waves at night,
whereupon they began grazing and breeding with the local horses who resided
on land. When his journey was concluded, the Danish Long Rider was honoured
by Czar Nicholas in St. Petersburg, on his way home to Copenhagen.
Susanna Carson Rijnhart
was a Canadian Long Rider who not only suffered tremendous emotional
heartache, she had to protect herself against sexual predators when she was
most vulnerable. Carson had been practising as a doctor in Toronto for six
years when a Dutch missionary named Petrus Rijnhart arrived in 1894 to
discuss his work along the dangerous border between China and Tibet. The
charismatic Rijnhart made such an impression on Susie that they quickly
married and she returned with him to China.
After having settled in a remote part of China, they
leaned Tibetan. Their intention was to ride to Lhasa, which had not been
visited by Westerners since 1846. In November, 1897 Swedish Long Rider Sven
Hedin visited their home on his way out of the “hermit kingdom.” The tough
explorer praised Susie’s medical work, noted that she wore local clothes and
had befriended many locals.
The Rijnharts departure was delayed by the birth of their
son, Charles, in June, 1897. But less than a year later, in May, 1898, Susie
and Petrus set off for Lhasa. The elusive capital was nearly a thousand
miles away. In between lay hostile tribes, soaring mountains and an
aggressive climate. No matter. They hired two Chinese men as servants,
employed a reliable Ladakhi as a guide, packed supplies, Bibles and baby
Charles onto the pack horses, then set off into the unknown.
Alas, religious purity wasn’t enough to protect their
dreams. The Chinese servants deserted. Their pack horses were stolen. Baby
Charles died. The guide quit. Only a hundred miles from Lhasa, the Tibetans
blocked their progress and ordered the weary Long Riders to return to China.
Then things really got bad.
Having struggled through an early September snow storm,
Susie and her husband were attacked by bandits. Most of their horses and the
majority of their remaining possessions were lost. Because of their
desperate situation, Petrus left his wife to seek help from Tibetans camped
on the far side of a raging river. He was never seen again.
Susie Carson had come a long way from Canada. Now she was
left in Tibet with nothing except a revolver, some silver bullion and her
faith. She rode on. Eventually Susie was able to engage Tibetans to act as
guides but they attempted to rape her. The beleaguered Long Rider held them
off with her pistol then pushed on alone. After crossing numerous mountains,
Susie arrived back in China frost-bitten, penniless and in rags. She had
been gone six months.
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