Equestrian Traveller Daniel Robinson
Freed from Indian Prison
As reported in the Spring, 2007 edition of The Long Riders’ Guild website, the English equestrian traveller, Daniel Robinson, was imprisoned by the Indian authorities after he completed a historic journey along the ancient Tea Horse Trail from China, across Tibet and into India.
The Indian authorities were prepared to imprison Robinson for ten years for a simple visa violation. Yet thanks in part to an international equestrian campaign led by The Long Riders’ Guild and the British Horse Society, Daniel was freed on May 7th, 2007. Details of Daniel’s journey across Tibet, and the subsequent campaign to free him from an Indian prison, may be read in the Long Rider editorial, The Price of a Pilgrimage. And Daniel’s part in Tibetan equestrian travel history has been explained here.
The historic appeal issued by British Horse Society President, Noel Edmonds, may be viewed here.
Upon his return to England, Daniel telephoned The Long Riders’ Guild to express his appreciation to all of those who had assisted him during his time of need. He then emailed his thanks to the Friends and Members of The Guild.
Dear Long Riders,
At one point whilst in prison I had access to a mobile phone, so I called my friend Mary Pettet in England and asked: "What's going on?" The line was poor and her voice distant.
After the conversation I lay back on the concrete floor of my cell and considered what I had heard. Mary had said something about a man from America, whose name I couldn't remember, but coincidentally Mary had been given a dog, a few days before, and had called her new pet by the same name.
“It’s a sign, a good
sign! I can feel it!” she said. “These people have ways, ways of getting you
out!” and again, she expressed her positive feelings about this new development.
But I was left wondering, who were these people? And what had she called their
group, the Lone Rangers?
Over the next few days I pondered who this man and this group could be? Maybe it was some quack cult group from America, perhaps retired FBI agents fulfilling some fantasy, all the while camping out in the regions of the Pakistan/Afghan border, eating refried beans with one hand and grasping a Budweiser beer in the other, with guns in holsters, lariats on saddles and a pack of horny stallions standing by ready to storm the Haridwar jail and break me out?
Some weeks passed and a friend came to visit me in prison. He brought with him a letter from CuChullaine O’Reilly of The Long Riders’ Guild.
The name of the ancient Celtic warrior known as “the Hound of Ulster.”
Ah, Mary's new dog with the Irish name.
Now it all became clear
that the Long Riders were quite another matter than what I had imagined.
At first I was astonished that somehow, somewhere there was a man willing to help me, without question. Following that discovery some of the Guild members sent me enchanting letters about their own great equestrian journeys. Their sympathy brought hope and recognition. It was, I felt, a gift being delivered to me as I sat there surrounded by walls of confinement.
Before I embarked on my journey along the Tea Horse Trail, I had wished some day to meet a new circle of friends. I did not know how, but wished it so. Now I realize that this is a part of my dream which has come true. I am delighted and so proud to become a friend of the Long Rider's Guild. You were there when I really needed you and friends like you are a treasure hard to find. Now that I am free, I am trying to put my life back together again, which is a little strange. But be assured, I shall keep in touch.
Thank you all !
All my love,
While Daniel may have been left wondering about the motivations behind the global equestrian rescue effort being mounted on his behalf, Long Riders, Friends of The Guild, the British Horse Society, horse people around the world and members of the international media were busy combining their efforts so as to help the imprisoned traveller, his family and his pack animals.
With Daniel now safely at home, the legal struggle continues to regain his lap-top, which contains his diary and hundreds of photographs, from the clutches of the Indian police. Additionally, Daniel’s trusty pack animals are also still in Indian custody. Their release is also under further negotiation.
And in response to countless questions sent to The Guild, we can report that the mystery surrounding the origin of Daniel’s horses has been solved at last. It was thanks to Daniel’s attorney who, after finally locating and confirming that the animals were safe, reported that to his inexperienced eye both of the trusty pack animals looked “Chinese.” Armed with this vague equine definition, The Guild asked Daniel to provide the background of his mysterious equine companions. To which the newly freed traveller reported that the “Chinese horses” were in fact mules !
A number of international journalists reported on Daniel’s plight including reports from India, Czechoslovakia and Russia.
Out to Explore China, he lands in Indian Jail (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1780927.cms )
Cena za pout (http://www.equichannel.cz/clanek/ukaz6482)
“Я в тюрьме...А где мои лошади?" (http://www.equilaw.ru:80/news/13.html)
Yet while all of the news reports highlighted the injustice of Daniel’s case, an editorial by equestrian journalist Tom Moates highlighted the unique global equestrian endeavor which came to symbolize the unique effort organized to rescue the imprisoned traveller. This article is reprinted now with the courtesy of our editorial equestrian comrades at The Eclectic Horseman magazine.
In closing, on behalf of all the Long Riders in 36 countries, The Guild would like to welcome Daniel home. Additionally, we would like to thank the hundreds of people who worked so tirelessly on his behalf. Your emails, phone calls, offers of assistance and emotional support helped make the difference between liberty and imprisonment.
Fellowship Essay – Global
In the past two months, what is likely the single greatest example of international equestrian based cooperation of all time has unfolded—one producing real, if not amazing, results.
British horseman, Dan Robinson, very ill and in a crowded and remote prison in India, seemingly hidden and locked away from the world, is now the focal point of an outcry for mercy from people around the globe. In a crescendo that still swells, this chorus of voices petitioning for mercy in his case is made up of individuals as varied as the continents and countries from which they originate. All are motivated to act on his behalf simply because they understand a common language and experience originating with a common bond—that shared between human and horse.
It is the same thread drawing many of us together in our regular horse based circles. It draws us to teachers and clinics. It is what keeps us in active pursuit of personal progress with relationships to horses on all levels.
A few in our ranks, like Dan, become so enraptured with inspiration to experience the vastness of this world from the saddle that they seek journeys with horses of epic proportions. These horse folk have come to be known as “long riders.” These include all single continuous horseback journeys of a thousand miles or greater, with some of those clearing 10,000 miles, and others even 20,000 miles. An organization made up of these equestrian adventurers, The Long Riders’ Guild (www.thelongridersguild.com), is a central hub to their history and activity. Largely do to the tireless efforts of this group’s members, other horse enthusiasts like myself, and other contacts, joined the effort to work for justice in Dan’s situation.
Dan’s story is remarkable. This London chef left his job, family, and all he had known in life and traveled to southwestern China where he began the spiritual pilgrimage in the saddle, retracing the route of the ancient Tea Horse Trail which leads through the beautiful yet brutal Himalayas and deep into Tibet. After trekking nearly 2000 miles over some of the harshest environments on earth, and surviving a year on the trail while doing it, Dan and both his horses fell ill. Their course was one of high altitude, and when heavy winter weather set in, Dan choose to save his horses’ lives and his own and detour to lower areas and seek medical attention, food, and shelter. This detour led him across a disputed border with India. He voluntarily made contact with officials in the area at the first opportunity, aware of his violation.
The authorities arrested Dan, confiscated his horses, and threw him in prison where he sat for half a year awaiting a day in court and the outcome of his fate. For a simple visa violation made under life saving circumstances, the Indian prosecutors asked for a 10 year prison sentence for this emaciated pilgrim.
To face a ride such as Dan did is to stare into death’s eyes. To endure any leg of that trip is to be so dependent on a horse for life as to become transformed by the experience. While Dan sought a most spiritual pilgrimage, his success on the Tea Horse Trail would be (and in fact already is) of historical significance as the first such passage horseback in recent times. This horseman’s tenacity is worthy of commendation, and his illegal action, while clearly unfortunate, likewise is clearly understandable, and quite honestly his only choice other than death for all three traveling companions.
After sitting in prison and facing that potential 10 year sentence, Dan had a day in court on 20 March 2007. The website dedicated to his release (www.freedan.co.uk) reported later that day:
“Justina (Dan's daughter) and Adam (Dan's brother) were there to support his legal team and to a packed courthouse, containing cameras and reporters from Indian national press and television, our lawyers, Mr. Sahoo and Mr. Pujari, eloquently pleaded for Dan's release. “They were fantastic!” Justina told me on the phone just now. “It went so well and the whole place was mesmerized! The prosecution was asking for a ten year sentence, but our lawyers, our petition and the assembled press really made the judge sit up and listen. It was so much better than that awful hearing we went to at Christmas. They think, when the appeal reconvenes on 24th March, that they will set my dad free!”
On the 24th of March, rather than being set free, the judge sentenced Dan to spend another 2 months in jail, at which point he should liberated. The question still remains if he will be reunited with his horses; at this point they are still in military custody, a point that has deeply disturbed him since the beginning, and is another situation the international equestrian community has worked hard to remedy.
While Dan Robinson’s story is itself worthy of attention and action and outrage on humanitarian and animal rights grounds, it is important to see orbiting around the main stage of this event the fellowship of horse folk that have rallied in amazing ways to help this fellow equestrian. It is this bond that bore a striking list of results, on a global level, and in short time.
CuChullaine O’Reilly is one of the founding members of The Long Riders’ Guild. In a recent letter to me regarding Dan’s case he listed some of these remarkable actions. I’ll close by sharing some:
the course of the last two months Long Riders, and Friends of The Guild,
from Afghanistan, America, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Chile, Czech Republic,
England, France, Germany, India, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand,
Pakistan, Russia, Scotland, South Africa, Switzerland and Wales have:
nominated and elected Daniel to be a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society -
helped organize Daniel's legal defense in India -
provided numerous equestrian and exploration related documents to Daniel's legal team -
volunteered to fly to India to assist Daniel at personal expense -
offered to put up the bail to release Daniel -
sent messages of personal support to Daniel's mother and family -
provided information to the British Horse Society so it could issue a strong political statement in support of Daniel -
arranged for a news story to be published on the spot in London's leading equestrian magazine -
orchestrated the publication of Daniel's story in the Czech Republic -
given a live interview about Daniel's plight to the BBC nightly news television show -
provided information to an English photo-journalist willing to cover the appeal trial in India -
helped increase the website petition signers from 800 to nearly 2500 -
enlisted the aid of India's most powerful equestrian conservation movement -
coordinated an equestrian rescue effort designed to find and care for Daniel's horses -
attempted to recruit India's most famous actor to our cause -
negotiated with the leaders of the London Hindu community -
obtained information from the British Foreign Office regarding Daniel's legal rights -
written letters to the Indian Prime Minister, the Indian High Commissioner and the British High Commissioner appealing for Daniel's