Long Rider Living Treasures
Why should traditional knowledge be preserved? Who are the “Living Treasures” who protect wisdom for posterity? To find the answer, we must look East, to the “Land of the Rising Sun.”
Bushido is a Japanese concept corresponding to the notion of chivalry. It is a code of ideals which demonstrates the struggle between the two sides of human nature. The samurai who practised bushido are often mistakenly believed to have been exclusively warriors. There were exceptions.
What has been overlooked is that the code of bushido encouraged samurais to undertake long pilgrimages, known as shugyo, to distant places. Spiritual enlightenment, they believed, could be achieved through endeavour and personal discomfort.
Baron Yasumasa Fukushima (above) was an extraordinary example. A scholar and linguist, Fukushima was sent to Germany to act as military attaché. When his duty was completed in 1892, instead of sailing home the Baron departed on a 14,000 kilometre (8,700 mile) equestrian journey.
After struggling 488 days on a ride across two continents, this modest man received a hero’s welcome when he reached Japan. In addition to an immense public reception, the weary traveller’s possessions were placed in a museum.
The Emperor of Japan invited Fukushima to the palace to discuss the journey. It was during one of these meetings that the Baron told the Emperor, “14,000 kilometres means that each hair on the horses has the value of 1000 gold pieces.”
Despite these unprecedented honours the Baron neither demanded nor expected any reward. The journey had required him to be supremely practical; but in addition he had become deeply spiritual. According to the concept of yugen, a samurai can achieve self-realisation by the simple perfection of an everyday task. To reach true harmony, there must be a soothing poetry of the soul to balance the hard bravery of the heart.
A Mounted Brotherhood
It would be a mistake to think that the Baron could have achieved his goal without the help of others. Three extraordinary 19th century Long Riders, Frederick Burnaby of England, Sven Hedin of Sweden and Januarius MacGahan of the USA, provided vital assistance to their Japanese protégé.
The concept of receiving wisdom from a wise elder reaches back to the days of the Trojan War. Prior to leaving his home, Odysseus entrusted the welfare and education of his son to his friend, Mentor. It is his name which has come down through the ages to represent a trusted teacher and guide.
Though the idea may be old, the practice remains alive today. Many notable examples of this philosophy have occurred amidst the Long Riders.
Hideyo Tsutsumi acted as mentor to Kohei Yamakawa, who completed the first modern equestrian journey across Japan. Gordon Naysmith, who rode from South Africa to Austria, mentored Esther Stein before her journey across Africa.
As these examples demonstrate, Sir Isaac Newton was correct when he wrote, "If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants."
The Guild has always been about aiding our fellows, not winning at their expense. That is why Brazilian Long Rider Filipe Leite said, “There is no competition. The horse unites us.”
The term “Living Treasure” designates those rare Long Riders who, like Baron Fukushima, attained a high degree of mastery regarding equestrian travel.
This honour is never bestowed because of mere mileage. It is not measured against how many dangers one has survived. It does not take into account the number of nations a person rode across. It is never linked to celebrity.
Being accounted a Living Treasure means the person is not only knowledgeable in a technical sense. This is an honour extended to a handful of the Guild’s tribal elders, each of whom achieved spiritual enlightenment during a difficult journey and then passed on their traditional knowledge to a younger generation.
Pedro Luis de Aguiar
(11,800 miles) from Sao Paulo to Uruguay, then south to the Brazil-French
Guyana border and back to Sao Paulo.
On March 15, 2005, twenty-eight Long Riders from five continents assembled
in London at the
Geographical Society. During that meeting Sir John Ure greeted Pedroca,
who had been made a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in
recognition of his extraordinary equestrian journey. Like many others,
Pedroca had been inspired to become a Long Rider due to the influence of
In 2012, prior to departing on a solo ride from Canada to Brazil,
(left) was mentored by Pedro. This special meeting was described in
The Encyclopaedia of Equestrian Exploration.
To celebrate Pedroca’s 86th birthday in 2019, he has been designated as one
of the Guild’s "Living Treasures."
|Verne Albright not only made a remarkable equestrian journey, he influenced equestrian history and wrote one of the most important Long Rider books of the 20th century. In 1925 Aimé Tschiffely rode from Buenos Aires to Washington DC to demonstrate the strength of Argentina’s Criollo horses. His book, Tschiffely’s Ride, inspired young Verne Albright to make a similar journey, only he would ride Peruvian Paso horses from Peru to California. The 10,000 mile journey, which began in 1966, exposed Verne and his horses to a multitude of dangers. For example, at the end of a 30 mile day at 9000 feet, the mares had to run five miles to escape mounted bandits. They ate sugar cane, corn stalks, rice flour, coconuts, bananas, yucca, straw, and often went hungry. Another problem was the scarcity of water. At one point their drinking water had to be bought by the glassful. After crossing eleven nations, and never taking a day off because of poor health, the Peruvian Pasos brought Verne into Los Gatos, California in March, 1967. Verne’s mares had demonstrated what the Peruvians called “resistencia”, the ability to endure heat, cold, altitude, insects, thirst and hunger. Verne helped found the American Association of Owners and Breeders of Peruvian Paso Horses. He made 65 trips to Peru, helped import hundreds of horses into the USA, was the editor of the Peruvian Horse World magazine and promoted the breed for more than 50 years. In 1969 Verne wrote a book which became one of the famous South American Trilogy. Horseback Across the Americas not only told a story full of mounted adventures, having been published four times, the book has influenced three generations of reader/riders to follow Verne’s example.
During the dark days of the 1950s when equestrian travel nearly went
extinct, young Tex Cashner helped keep the
ancient art of equestrian travel alive. By the time Cashner stepped down
from the saddle at the end of a difficult journey, he was on the other side
of an invisible barrier that would forever set him slightly apart from those
he left behind. Yet Cashner wasn’t content to just travel. For nearly
seventy years he preserved vital equestrian travel wisdom for posterity. His
knowledge is now enshrined in the
Encyclopaedia of Equestrian Exploration.
To mark his 85th birthday, Tex Cashner is the first Long Rider to be
designated as a Living Treasure by the Long Riders’ Guild.
In 2007 Bonnie Folkins was the first Long Rider to venture into the remote Altai Mountains of western Mongolia in search of an ancient tribe of mounted nomads. Folkins discovered the Kazakhs, descendants of nomads who had fled the cultural genocide unleashed in the 1930s by Soviet dictator, Josef Stalin. With an estimated two million people dead on the Kazakh steppes, the survivors sought refuge in Mongolia. Not only were the Kazakhs still mounted, they had also retained their ancient tribal custom of hunting wolves in winter with the help of specially trained golden eagles. The renowned photographer created astonishing images which formed a pioneering ethnic collection known as “Riding with the Eagles.”
Subsequent rides in Mongolia gave Bonnie a deep understanding of the nation and its historic equestrian culture. In 2009 an English company that specialized in enticing adventure-hungry tourists into paying large sums of money to race junk cars to distant national capitals announced that it planned to launch the largest non-sanctioned endurance race ever attempted. Nearly a thousand Mongolian horses had been drafted to run in a thousand kilometre long race which deliberately flaunted international endurance racing rules. To ensure a hefty profit, the company had charged foreign contestants nearly $5,000 each to participate. With the help of Buddhist monks, Bonnie presented a petition of protest to the President of Mongolia. As a result the Fédération Internationale Equestre in Geneva intervened and ensured that the race organizers provide veterinarian care for the horses.
During her journeys, Folkins has made a point of riding with local Mongol and Kazakh horsemen, who then in turn become Members of the Long Riders’ Guild.
Bonnie made contributions to all three-volumes of
The Encyclopaedia of Equestrian Exploration,
most notably in reference to that spiritual awakening known among Long
Riders as “the
A private passion, a belief in the common good of others, a devotion to
equestrian travel, and a blazing talent disguised under a travel-stained
cloak of modesty, that’s the way to describe Long Rider photographer, Bonnie
Legendary Long Rider Robin
Hanbury-Tenison has been designated a
by the Long Riders’ Guild.
Jeremy James is the English equestrian author who
undertook pioneering research into the role of the horse in the Ottoman
Empire before writing the historically accurate book,
The Byerley Turk.
Known as the “poet of the saddle,” he is the author of the equestrian
and Vagabond, which recount his journeys across Turkey and Europe. In
addition, Jeremy played an extraordinary role in the creation of
The Encyclopaedia of Equestrian Exploration.
Though more than
400 Long Riders contributed by sharing an essential bit of advice, Jeremy
made more than fifty contributions to the three volumes. In addition he
for the historic books. Jeremy’s life has been spent searching for
equestrian knowledge, exploring spirituality and showing kindness to other
For these reasons Jeremy has been designated a Living Treasure by the Long
represents “the lost generation” of Long Riders, i.e. those whose access to
equestrian travel knowledge was hampered by the demise of the cavalry and
prior to the dawning of the internet age. Having
determined to make an equestrian journey that would take her ocean to ocean
in both directions, Lucy
wrote to agriculture
extension agents along her route to gather information and make contacts in
preparation for the journey. One man responded along the lines of, "Of all
the unGodly things that have come across my desk, this idea of riding a
horse cross-country takes the cake." Despite the rejection, in 1973 Lucy
rode her horse, Igor, on a 7,000 mile journey that took them from Maine to
Oregon and then returned from California to
Virginia via a southern route.
As the 1970s drew to a close, Bob Orrell decided to embark on what he described as “an obscure ambition.” Having lived an adventurous life as a deep-water sailor, Bob was anxious to explore Great Britain on horseback. The problem was that all trace of equestrian travel wisdom, representing generations of knowledge, had vanished. Finding a empire era English cavalry saddle was the first step. Yet no one had seen a pack saddle in decades and knowledge of how to use this vital piece of equipment was lost. Thankfully Bob located a 1937 edition of the army’s Manual of Animal Transport. Using drawings from the book, Bob constructed a pack saddle and panniers. Finally equipped, Bob set off with his Fell ponies, Thor and Lucy. The trio explored the Scottish Highlands, the Lake District, and for the first time in living memory, the Isle of Man. The journeys inspired Bob to write, Saddle Tramp in the Lake District, Saddle Tramp in the Highlands, and Saddle Tramp on the Isle of Man. During his trips Bob followed the ancient trails used by teams of pack horses which had criss-crossed the country for centuries. In recognition of his efforts to preserve equestrian travel, both by his journeys and books, Bob has been designated a Living Treasure.
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