Ask anyone to name the most inspirational equestrian travel book ever written and they will respond, Tschiffely’s Ride. That is because it is the book that has encouraged generations of Long Riders to swing into the saddle and head towards the horizon in search of mounted adventure.
When John Labouchere rode 5,000 miles through the Andes Mountains, he cited Swiss Long Rider Aimé Tschiffely as his inspiration.
Margaret Leigh rode the length of England and fondly remembered Tschiffely as her guiding light.
Raul Vasconcellos rode from Arizona to Argentina after reading Tschiffely’s Ride.
Verne Albright followed in Tschiffely’s hoofprints when he rode from Peru to the United States.
Before he rode along China’s Great Wall, Robin Hanbury-Tenison recalled how he had been inspired by Tschiffely's extraordinary book.
Vladimir Fissenko rode 19,000 miles north from Patagonia to Alaska because of Tschiffely.
And Filipe Leite rode 10,000 miles south from Canada to Brazil because of one man – Aimé Tschiffely – the world's most improbable equestrian hero.
The list goes on and on and includes the names of Long Riders from all corners of the globe, each of whom became an equestrian explorer because of the astonishing book that changed the course of equestrian travel history forever.
The story of Tschiffely, Mancha and Gato, the heroes of the pampas, is the unlikely tale of a man and two horses who the world mocked. Decried as a suicidal Don Quixote with two old horses.
In 1925 Aimé Tschiffely, a Swiss teacher living in Argentina, set out on an epic ride with two Criollo horses, Mancha and Gato. The amateur explorer's goal was to travel ten thousand miles from Buenos Aires to Washington, DC, over some of the world's most inhospitable country. Their odyssey lasted two and a half years, forced horses and rider to survive through near-impossible conditions, and ended with a hero's welcome at the White House.
It also made Tschiffely the greatest Long Rider of the 20th century.
Mancha (the Spotted One) was an 18 -year-old red and white piebald and Gato (the Cat) was a 16-year-old buckskin dun. Both horses were owned by a Patagonian Indian and were unbroken and running free on the pampas of Argentina when they were brought down to a local estancia. As Tschiffely described the horses, ‘they were the wildest of the wild’ and would try and kick any one that came near them; in fact neither one of them had seen a stable before their journey. Over time the half-wild horses adapted and grew fond of Tschiffely.
During their three-year journey, the trio travelled approximately twenty miles a day through mud-holes, over quicksand bogs and across rivers through extreme hot and cold temperatures. They trekked high into the mountains of Bolivia at altitudes of 11,000 feet. They continued through the steep, rocky terrain of the Andes and the jungle valleys of Peru to Ecuador and Colombia. In Mexico, Gato went lame and Tschiffely shipped the horse to Mexico City to await his arrival. Mancha and Tschiffely continued along the way, finally reaching Mexico City where they were reunited with Gato. After this, they crossed into the US at Laredo, Texas where they were guests of the Texas Rangers. They rode through Oklahoma, the Ozarks, and on to St. Louis, crossed the Mississippi River and continued over the Blue Ridge Mountains. Before they reached Washington, DC an American motorist took deliberate aim at them, hit Mancha and sped away. Luckily the tough Criollo was unhurt and all three made it to the White House, where they received a hero’s welcome from President Coolidge and the National Geographic Society.
Tschiffely decided to ship Mancha and Gato to New York, in order to keep the horses safe from traffic on the roads. The two horses and their rider were greeted in New York with a full ticker-tape parade, the only one granted to a Long Rider. Tschiffely also received a New York City medal from Mayor James Walker. After their long journey, horses and rider travelled back to Buenos Aires by ship, arriving in Argentina almost three years to the day from their departure.
Following their marathon adventure, Mancha and Gato were retired to an estancia. Tschiffely returned to Argentina during World War II to visit his old friends, who had been running wild on the pampas since their return. Gato passed away first, at the age of 32, in 1944 and Mancha was 37 when he died in 1947.
Tschiffely and his horses’ legacy continues today: the Argentinean Congress passed a law in 1999 declaring September 20th of each year as ‘Día Nacional Del Caballo’ (National Day of the Horse), as this was the date Aimé arrived in New York in 1928. The book Tschiffely's Ride has sold more copies than any other equestrian travel tale in history and has inspired five generations to become equestrian travellers.
For more information on Tschiffely, Mancha and Gato, please visit the official Aimé Tschiffely website. Cover photograph courtesy of Basha O’Reilly, Executor of the Tschiffely Literary Estate.
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