Carrying the Long Riders’ Guild Flag
Brazilian Long Rider Felipe Leite (left) rode from Canada to Brazil. Upon reaching Costa Rica, Felipe was greeted by American Long Rider Orion Krauss (right), one of the many Long Riders from around the world who mentored Felipe prior to his departure.
The Long Riders’ Guild flag represents those horse-humans who protect, preserve and promote the ancient art of equestrian travel.
During the twenty years since the Guild was formulated Long Riders have successfully journeyed across every continent except Antarctica. These trips required intrepid teams of humans and horses to survive innumerable dangers, overcome tremendous hardships and endure intense emotional challenges.
The Guild’s primary mission is to educate and encourage every human to acquire the wisdom needed to undertake their own life-changing equestrian journey. Yet we recognize that certain expeditions have an extraordinary quality about them. Such rare endeavours are granted the honour of carrying the Guild’s flag to the far corners of the planet.
No matter where these brave souls ride their message is the same. Regardless of where they were born, the mother tongue of all Long Riders is "horse."
The following Long Riders exemplify the various reasons they were entrusted to carry the Guild’s flag.
As you might expect, the history of equestrian travel has its tales of danger, sorrow and loss. We cannot expect to avoid unforeseen disaster in the saddle. Long Riders learn that trouble is what defines you in life. How you deal with it. How you overcome it. How you learn from it. How it makes you stronger, makes you better, makes you who you are. Long Riders don’t out-run trouble; they weather it and ride on.
South African Long Riders Billy Brenchley and Christine Henchie were the first equestrian travellers to carry the Guild’s flag. The couple set off in 2005, determined to complete the first ride from the most northern point of Africa, Cap Blanc in Tunisia to the most southern point of Africa, Cape Agulhas in South Africa. Ten countries and an untold number of hardships awaited them.
They endured the terrible heat of the Sahara by riding across Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. When they came to Sudan, they floated their horses down the Nile on a river barge. They made their way through war zones. When they reached the heart of Africa, they were surrounded by hundreds of curious natives who had never seen a horse. In Uganda Billy was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia. They stopped their journey long enough for him to recover – and then rode on.
After riding halfway across the African continent their journey was interrupted in Tanzania when an out-of-control bus struck the Long Riders. Christine was killed instantly. Billy escaped death by inches but suffered a broken leg. Both horses narrowly survived.
South African Long Riders Billy Brenchley (left) and Christine Henchie carried the first Long Riders’ Guild flag during their historic equestrian journey across Africa.
In these days of “Health and Safety”, when children are discouraged from venturing outside, horses and ponies represent a healthy freedom which youngsters never find in front of a television or computer screen. Long Riders believe that every child and young person ought to have the opportunity to become familiar with horses and have fun. The journeys of one Long Rider symbolize the Guild’s policy of inclusion and encouragement of the young.
British Long Rider Jakki Cunningham realized that disadvantaged inner-city children were missing out on the wonderful relationships humans can have with horses. To remedy this Jakki organized a “Caravan of Hope.” Starting in 2006 Jakki led a remarkable 1800 kilometre ride from the south of France to London. Accompanying her were a group of inner-city youngsters with no previous equestrian travel experience.
Three such journeys have now taken place. Once they have swung into the saddle and have ridden far away from their inner-city homes, the young English and French riders discover each other’s culture and language, as well as learning how to respect horses and the environment. At the end of the journey the Camargue horses used for each trip are donated to Riding for the Disabled centres in England and France.
Having been granted the Guild flag to carry on the last expedition, Jakki wrote, “We are deeply honoured. We shall fly the flag in all humility and will respect the philosophy that the Long Riders’ Guild represents.
|English Long Rider Jakki Cunningham has led three “Caravans of Hope” which have brought happiness and hope to inner-city children. The young riders from the 2012 journey are seen here with the wagon that carried the caravan’s supplies.|
Long Riders have ridden ocean to ocean, over mountain ranges, through jungles and across a host of hostile terrains and climates. Like migrating birds these equestrian explorers are pulled towards the horizon by a silent song lodged deep within some secret, ancient part of their DNA.
History demonstrates that there are certain fundamental tenets connected to the practice of equestrian travel which apply in any age and in every country. One of these principles states that if hospitality is withheld the traveller and his horse will suffer or die. Historical Long Rider Charles Darwin discovered this when he made his ride through the dangerous mountains of Chile in 1834.
Darwin wrote, “Rode but a short distance and was then obliged to rest. Our course now lay directly to Valparaiso, Chile. We found a rich Haciendero, who received us in his house close to the sea. At night I was exceedingly exhausted but had the uncommon luck of obtaining some clean straw for my bed. I was amused afterwards by reflecting how truly comparative all comfort is. If I had been in England and very unwell, clean straw and stinking horse blankets would have been thought a very miserable bed.”
Outsiders tend to romanticize horse travel as a lonely pursuit. In fact a much deeper virtue arises from the demands it makes on us as social beings. The concept of hospitality is a two-edged sword. It is vitally important to the success of a Long Rider’s journey but receiving it depends upon the acceptance, trust, tolerance, assistance, patience and generosity of strangers.
Many cultures look upon hospitality as the first responsibility of civilized man. What is not reported is the guest’s equal duty to act in an ethical manner to his hosts. These strangers fed the weary traveller, quenched his horse’s thirst, soothed fears, shared their roof, called the Long Rider their own till the sun rose and it was time to ride on.
The actions of a Long Rider plant a seed which will gently echo through the lives of people they met and befriended. Perhaps a child who meets a Long Rider will one day tell his grandchild about the man on a horse that changed his life via a magical journey?
Decades may pass but these hosts shall utter the Long Rider’s name and honour her memory. Thus the Guild requires that the sacred bond of trust between a Long Rider and his hosts always be respected.
New Zealand Long Rider Pete Langford is one such example. In 2013 Pete carried the Guild flag during his ride across the length of that island nation. As he rode through that diverse country his philosophy was, “Expect nothing. Appreciate everything.”
Upon completing his journey, Pete Langford urged the public, “Take action and make it happen. Life’s too short for unfulfilled wishes.”
Sir Ahmed Mohammed Hassanein was the Egyptian Long Rider who made a remarkable seven month journey across the centre of Libya in 1923. At the end of his desert adventure he wrote that he feared that “Few will understand that I crave no statue in a public street nor a page of history to give my name.” He had not ridden for the sake of gold or fame. “Looking back over a thousand miles I saw no footsteps but my own. Thoughts were my treasures as I watched the dawn unfold. No one could make me as rich as I am.”
This wise Long Rider did not seek fame. Self-glory he disdained, in favour of knowledge. Truth he served, while pride he ignored. He understood that it is a mistake to confuse geographic arrival with personal success. On the one hand reaching the goal is of overt importance. Yet there are two journeys. Arriving at some distant spot on the map is what interests and attracts many people. A handful realizes that the true purpose of the journey is to arrive at a higher level of self-awareness. If successful, the journey will have made you a better human being.
An equestrian journey invariably throws an unexpected light on the equestrian explorer’s character. Some Long Riders turn their personal journey of discovery into something far greater than a mere accumulation of mileage. Some honour the Historical Long Riders who rode before.
One such notable Long Rider is Sea G Rhydr. She set off from California in 2011 with two goals. Sea was determined to reach the Atlantic Ocean more than 3000 miles away. This was also a courageous journey with a sense of higher purpose, because Sea was equally determined to honour the memory of the legendary Historical Long Rider Messanie Wilkins who had ridden “ocean to ocean” in 1950.
As she made her way across the country, Sea realized that what truly mattered was not where she went but what she stood for. By honouring the memory of those whose hoofprints she followed, Sea carried the message of the Guild, and its flag, from coast to coast.
Sea wrote, “I am not a joiner and I never have been. But becoming a Member of the Long Riders’ Guild mattered to me. These are my heroes. And you know what? This crew isn’t elitist! I’ve been welcomed in with open arms, given advice when I’ve asked for it, encouragement when I’ve needed it and treated as a peer - with my $1 Pinto pony and my funny little Fjord. I am so incredibly proud to be granted the right to carry the Long Rider Flag – and fiercely determined to live up to the standards of the Guild."
The symbol of the Knights Templar was of two knights riding on a single horse. This not only emphasized their poverty but also their brotherhood. The Long Riders’ Guild is not elitist. It also promotes the concept of true fraternity. Long Riders realize that each individual experience has a value all of its own, that other Long Riders are Comrades not Competitors and that at the end of the day what matters is personal validation.
One of the cornerstones of this equestrian brotherhood is that prior to departure an experienced Long Rider advises the would-be traveller. After the ride is completed, and the acolyte has gained the requisite knowledge, it will be his turn to share the hard won wisdom he found with those who follow in his hoofprints.
A heart-warming example of this philosophy was enacted in 2012 when Filipe Masetti Leite requested the help of the Guild and its Members. After being inspired by the legendary Swiss Long Rider, Aimé Tschiffely, Filipe set off on an historic journey from Toronto, Canada to his home in Espírito Santo do Pinhal, Brazil. But he did not depart unaided.
In addition to the Guild loaning Filipe valuable equipment, Long Riders from around the world were extremely generous about sharing information and mentoring him.
Filipe wrote, “I am so thankful to have had the amazing support of the Long Riders Guild. They put me in contact with some of the most important Long Riders of our day. Without them I would be nothing! CuChullaine and Basha O’Reilly, Bernice Ende, Pedro Luis de Aguiar, Stan Walchuk, Bonnie Folkins, Allen Russell, Katie Russell, Orion Kraus, Gunter Wamser, Andi Mills are just some of the Long Riders who helped me. These are men and women who have climbed into the saddle and carved a path into the unknown. I was lucky to have been able to learn from them. I also have the honour of carrying the Long Riders’ Guild flag with me during my trip.
Long Rider Stan Walchuk (right) operates a special school in the Canadian Rocky Mountains where he teaches classes on how to use pack saddles, to load horses and to travel safely on an equestrian expedition. Prior to departing on his 10,000 mile ride to Brazil, Filipe (left) was a guest at Stan’s Blue Creek Oufitters school.
The message of the Guild began with five Long Riders from three countries. It has now spread to more than 40 nations.
Having made their rides with a remarkable sense of grace, dignity, fortitude and courage, the special Long Riders who carried the flag have honoured the Guild. Years after the details of their individual journeys have been forgotten, their mounted legacy will be remembered. Their achievements will endure. These principles will triumph.
|The Long Riders’ Guild – A mounted brotherhood of travellers who inspire, encourage and educate one another.|
|South African Long Riders Billy Brenchley and Christine Henchie carried the first Long Riders’ Guild flag from the most northern point of Africa, Cap Blanc in Tunisia to Isela, Tanzania. They are seen in Uganda in 2010.|
|Sea G Rhydr set off in 2011 to ride from California to Maine. She was inspired by Mesannie Wilkins, who had ridden “ocean to ocean” in 1954. Sea reached the Atlantic Ocean in October, 2013.|
|British Long Riders Jakki Cunningham and Luke Tucker led the “Caravan of Hope” from the Mediterranean Sea to London, England in 2012.|
Pete Langford carried the LRG flag across the islands of New Zealand in 2013.
|Filipe Leite (right), was joined by his father Luis Corsi Leite during the Mexican portion of a journey from Canada to Brazil. After having ridden more than a thousand miles from Presidio, Texas, USA to the Basilica of Guadalupe, Mexico City, Mexico, Luis was made a Member of the Long Riders’ Guild. Filipe completed the journey in 2014.|
|Kohei Yamakawa completed a ride across Japan in 2015. He was inspired by Baron Fukushima, the legendary Long Rider who rode from Berlin to Tokyo in 1892.|
|In 2016 Bernice Ende became the first person to ride “ocean to ocean” across the United States in both directions on the same journey.|
Ian Robinson is the first Long Rider to explore Siberia since Alexandra Kudasheva rode there in 1913.
|Kimberley Delavere carried the flag across Australia, riding the length of the Bicentennial National Trail.|
In 2012, inspired by Long Rider Aimé Tschiffely’s 1925 long ride from Buenos Aires to Washington, D.C., Filipe Leite set out from Calgary, Canada and rode 16,000 kilometres (9,940 miles) to his native Brazil. In 2017 he completed a journey across Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and on to the tip of Patagonia..
After riding across Siberia and China, Jing Li carried the flag from the Caucasus Mountains north across Russia to Moscow in 2018.
During his fifth equestrian journey, Dalibor Balut carried the flag across Eastern Europe in 2019.
One of the Guild’s rare Living Treasures and the oldest Long Rider in the saddle, Pedroca de Aguiar, carried the flag across Brazil and arrived at the Atlantic Ocean on his 88th birthday. He was accompanied by Sebastiao Mlhareiro Neto.
|There are millions of horse riders in the world but only a handful of Long Riders. Even among the Long Riders there is an even smaller group which consists of those few people who have carried - and then signed - the Long Rider flag.|