The Long Riders' Guild

Equestrian Controversies

The primary mission of the Long Riders’ Guild is to preserve, protect and promote the ancient art of equestrian travel. On occasion it has been necessary for the Guild to assume a public role so as to protect the welfare of horses, to safeguard the safety of Long Riders or to ensure an accurate depiction of history.  The events listed below each have their own extensive collection of documents, research materials, published news accounts, photographs and maps.

3M and the Fake Saddle Pad

The Long Riders’ Guild grew suspicious when horses belonging to equestrian explorers in several countries were injured. An investigation revealed that in each case the Long Rider had inadvertently placed a fraudulent product under the saddle. The 3M Corporation, it was learned, was selling an abrasive bath mat as a saddle pad. Though 3M denied being involved in this practice, a Member of the Guild uncovered this 3M advert, which appeared in the May, 1971 issue of Western Horseman magazine. It clearly shows the fake saddle pad being sold by 3M. Click here to review the extensive documentation gathered by Long Riders’ Guild in exposing this deceptive practice.


The Long Riders’ Guild became alarmed in 2005 when horses belonging to equestrian explorers were injured after being fitted with what was being billed as the “no sweat pad” in America and the “cool breeze” saddle pad in England.


This international equestrian scandal was accidentally exposed when a British Long Rider discovered the “saddle pad” lying in front of a Chilean supermarket, where it was being used in its original application as a door mat. During the subsequent inquiry Long Riders in five countries discovered that a 3M product known as “Wet Area Matting 1500” was being knowingly sold by the corporation to individuals who then cut the coarse synthetic material into saddle sized pieces. The disguised floor mat, which 3M describes as being suitable for high traffic areas in sports centres, hotels and hospitals, was then remarketed as expensive saddle pads in the United States, England and Australia.


When contacted by The Long Riders’ Guild, a 3M spokesman at the company’s corporate headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota confirmed that the company knew horses were being scarred and injured by the misuse of their product. However, despite the Guild’s request that the company issue a public warning to horse owners worldwide, the 3M Corporation refused to acknowledge these documented concerns. Nor would the corporation admit that in the 1970s it had sold the bath mat under the guise of a saddle pad. Instead the company’s website was altered and incriminating photographs which might link the floor mat to the so-called saddle pad were removed by 3M.


Shortly thereafter an American Long Rider discovered a 3M advertisement which had been placed in Western Horseman magazine in 1971. It clearly showed the fake saddle pad being peddled to an unsuspecting public. The 3M Corporation has never admitted their original actions nor ceased their on-going participation in this misleading equestrian practice.

The Mongol Derby

The non-sanctioned endurance race known as the Mongol Derby required 25 foreign contestants to pay nearly $5,000 each to participate. To offset criticism that Mongolia was being used to foster a new type of equestrian colonialism, three days before the race was due to begin the organizers recruited an illiterate Mongolian shepherd to ride in the race. Because Shiravsamboo Galbadrakh (right) did not speak English he could not tell the other contestants that the organizers had secretly paid him 300,000 tugrugs, about $250, to ride in the race. Though Galbadrakh won the race, less than a week later the company revoked his victory without informing him.


In 2008 the Long Riders' Guild received an unsolicited email from a representative of the Adventurists, a company based in England that specialized in enticing adventure-hungry tourists into paying large sums of money to race junk cars to distant national capitals.


Though they lacked any equestrian experience, the Adventurists wrote to say they were now 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 twenty-five foreign contestants from America, England, New Zealand and other countries nearly $5,000 each to participate.


The Guild, alarmed at the company’s shocking disregard for safety and ethics, responded by explaining why the proposed event would result in injuries to the horses and riders. Those Long Riders who had intimate first hand knowledge of Mongolia offered their advice and assistance. The Guild concluded by warning the Adventurists that the poorly-planned event would become a lightning-rod of concern. The Adventurists did not accept the Guild's offers of assistance, nor heed the warning.


Instead they released a public statement which bragged, "It's dangerous, it's unsupported and you could die."


The company’s website also stated, “The Mongol Derby will see you tackle the challenge of semi-wild horses and surviving alone in the wild steppes of Mongolia. There’s no carefully marked course, no catering tent and no support; this is horse racing on a whole new scale. You will change steeds every 40 km so the horses will be fresh. Bleeding kidneys, broken limbs, open sores, moon stroke and a list of dangers longer than your arm stand between you and victory….You will have to navigate your way from one station to the next single-handedly; there's no marked course and there will be huge stretches with no paths or tracks at all. In fact even when there are tracks there is little chance they will be going in the right direction. You will be facing the wilderness alone,” touted the race organizers, who described the outlaw race as the “biggest, baddest equine affair on the planet.”


Contestant Hannah Ritchie told the press, “There is no marked course, no roads or tracks, we must find our own water and depend on the hospitality of the nomadic people we encounter along the way for food and shelter.”


As predicted, when it became known that the Adventurists planned to flaunt such basic rules as providing water for the horses and a marked course for the competitors, the proposed race created an equestrian fire-storm of protest, with editors, endurance racers, Long Riders and mainstream explorers, all joining their voices in an unprecedented condemnation of the dubious event.


At first the Adventurists scoffed at the criticism, circulating a press release wherein they posed the question, “I hope this email finds you revving up for a weekend of adventuring anarchy, drunken debauchery and general misdemeanours.”


During the ensuing months the Mongol Derby became a battleground over equestrian ethics, with an unprecedented international protest being raised about the welfare of the horses, the last minute financial involvement of a discredited foreign ruler and the revelation that the race organizers secretly paid the only Mongolian rider to participate and – according to him – then robbed him of his victory.


Horse-lovers from 26 nations added their voices to the international petition aimed at stopping the unethical Mongol Derby from being run. Letters of protest were sent to Mongolian President Tsakhiagin Elbegrorj, Princess Haya, the President of the Fédération Internationale Equestre and James Fitzpatrick, the British Minister of Horses.


As a result of the intense pressure brought about by the Guild’s campaign, the company relented. Though the route of the race was kept secret from the public and the press, veterinarians were eventually provided to protect the welfare of the horses and basic safety procedures were established for the riders.


During the lead-up to the race there had been questions raised about how Mongolia was being used to foster a new type of equestrian colonialism. To offset this specific criticism, three days before the race was due to begin the name of a Mongolian was suddenly listed as being a contestant. Unlike the twenty-five foreign riders, no hint was offered as to who this person was, what his equestrian experience consisted of, nor how he had managed to raise the large sum of money required of the other contestants. Only the name of the final contestant was presented to the public. Why? Only the Adventurists knew.


On August 29th the Adventurists website reported, “First across the line was the Mongolian Rider, followed only one minute later by the South African, Charles Van Wyk. “ Yet six days later the company retracted that statement. Shiravsamboo Galbadrakh, the Mongolian winner of the race, was air-brushed out when the Adventurists declared that the South African rider, who had strong commercial ties to the Barefoot Saddle Company which provided free saddles to the contestants, had been the winner.


Temuujin Zemuun is Mongolia’s first modern Long Rider. He journeyed across Mongolia to find Shiravsamboo Gulbadrakh, the illiterate young shepherd who had been recruited by the Adventurists to ride in the notorious race.


Gulbadrakh said agents of the Adventurists had deliberately sought him out three days prior to the start of the race. He had not been told that the foreign contestants had paid large sums of money to participate. Instead the company representatives secretly paid the unmarried Mongolian shepherd to take part in the race. He did not know that the Adventurists claimed that the foreign contestant who came in second was later declared the co-winner. Shiravsamboo insisted that he won all by himself and was adamant that he is the sole winner.


Though the entire equestrian world, both supporters and detractors, had been watching events from afar, no photos have ever been made available showing which rider was actually first across the finish line. Instead the Mongolian was removed in favour of the professional endurance rider from South Africa who basked in the glory.