The Long Riders' Guild

Historical Long Riders

Talbot.JPG (14688 bytes) F. A. Talbot - rode through the North West Passage of the Canadian Rockies in 1901. 
Richard "Diamond Dick" Tanner - rode his mare Gyp from Lincoln, Nebraska to New York City and back in 1893.





Unlike many people who struggle to know what their mission is in life, Annie Royle Taylor (1855-1922) decided at the age of thirteen that she was fated to become a Christian missionary and travel to foreign countries to share her spiritual beliefs. Despite her parent’s strong objections, the headstrong Annie converted to evangelical Christianity, studied medicine and got her start working in the slums of London. But her sights were set on distant countries.

She sailed to China in 1884 and immediately began her missionary duties. But having once described herself as a “lone wolf”, once again she was unsatisfied. In 1889 Annie first travelled to Darjeeling, India and then moved on to the small kingdom of Sikkim where she arranged for the priests in a Buddhist monastery to teach her Tibetan.

It was while she lived in Sikkim that she converted a young Tibetan named Pontso to Christianity. He agreed to accompany Annie on a daring horse ride to Lhasa, the forbidden capital of Tibet. Before they set out in September, 1892, Annie shaved her hair and donned Tibetan clothes in an attempt to disguise herself. Following the ancient “Tea Horse Trail,” which led from China to Lhasa, Annie and Pontso made their way across southwest Tibet.

Their progress was slowed when bandits stole some of their horses. As the weather became progressively worse more of their horses died from cold and lack of food. Finally, only three days away from Lhasa, Annie was detected by the Tibetan authorities and stopped. Despite being alone on the frozen Tibetan plain and surrounded by hostile Tibetans, Annie refused to surrender. When she realized the Tibetans would not compromise, she demanded that they provide her with horses and food for the return trip to China.

Annie and the faithful Pontso arrived in Kangding, China in April 1893, after which she returned to England where she became a minor celebrity.

terhune.JPG (66611 bytes) Albert Terhune - rode through Syria and the Middle East in 1894.  Terhune wrote, "I have heard among bards of the desert many songs in praise of love or horses, that have far more true poetry and vigour than all the magazine poems which purport to be Arabic translations."
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Maria "Nelly" Ternan - England's first female foreign correspondent, rode into the mountains of Algeria in search of lions in 1881. 

At the conclusion of the American Civil War in 1865, Confederate Colonel Alexander Watkins Terrell was faced with a difficult decision. If he remained in his native Texas he would find himself under the military rule of his former enemies. His other option was to saddle up and seek not only safety, but foreign aid for a possible extension of the southern cause. Terrell decided that Mexico, under the political rule of Emperor Maximilian, the French installed puppet ruler, was the place to find money, guns and shelter. Accompanied by his fellow Confederate officers, Colonels M. T. Johnson, George Flournoy and Peter Smith, the four Long Riders rode into exile. “We were all mounted on fine animals, “Terrell recounted in a rare account published just before his death in 1933. “Each of us rode one horse the entire distance. We stopped every thirty minutes, removed saddle and blankets, and permitted the horses to graze or rest for five minutes before remounting.” Though Terrill did meet Maximilian, the French emperor was soon captured and executed by Mexican partisans, thus destroying any dreams of resurrecting the American Confederacy. Yet Terrill’s amazing story served as the inspiration for at least two Hollywood films, “Vera Cruz” starring Gary Cooper and “The Undefeated” starring John Wayne. Both films depicted Confederate officers riding into Mexico in search of Maximilian’s help.
Charles Thurlow Craig - rode in Paraguay, Bolivia, Brazil and the Gran Chaco jungle during the early 1920s.  Here is an article about his adventures.

Count Ilia Tolstoy - rode from India to China, via Tibet, thereby accomplishing a secret diplomatic mission entrusted to him by the American president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Like all political events, there were public and private reasons behind this decision. By the spring of 1942 the war against Japan and the Nazis looked grim. The Japanese had conquered the eastern portion of the previously impregnable British Empire, starting with their capture of the fortress of Singapore and concluding with their occupation of Burma. With India threatened, and their allies in China surrounded by hostile Japanese forces, Roosevelt and Churchill hatched the idea of using the mountainous kingdom of Tibet as a transit station for supplies to be moved overland from India to China.
Mind you, there were a few small problems with this plan. In addition to climbing over the natural obstacle of the mighty Himalayan mountains, there was the danger of dying of altitude sickness brought on by trying to make your way across the highest country in the world, not to mention the legendary antagonism expressed by most Tibetans towards unwelcome outsiders.
But what the Tibetans didn’t know was that FDR was a fan of their country. Having read the romantic novel “Shangri-la,” the president became intrigued with the mysterious mountain kingdom. He even dubbed the presidential retreat Shangri-la, though more pragmatic presidents now call it Camp David.  So when the idea was presented to him for an official American diplomatic mission to ride from India, over the mountains to Lhasa, and then make their way overland through the backdoor of China, Roosevelt couldn’t say “no.”
Enter the most unlikely Long Rider in Tibet’s long history, the dashing Count Ilya Tolstoy. Roosevelt’s appointed Long Rider ambassador was a grandson of the famous Russian author, Leo Tolstoy. The elder Tolstoy was so passionate about horses that his friend and fellow author, Ivan Turgenev, accused him of having been a horse in his previous life!  The famous author of War and Peace, who had hosted the Swedish equestrian explorer Vladimir Langlet, rode right up to his death. Coming from such a strong equestrian background, it was no wonder the author’s grandson, who had studied and settled in America before the war, was chosen by Roosevelt to head this delicate equestrian diplomatic mission.
Accompanying Tolstoy was Captain Brooke Dolan, a brilliant Princeton University naturalist turned US army spy.
Their mission was simple. Go to India. Find horses. Ride over the Himalayas to Lhasa without getting killed. Introduce themselves to the Dalai Lama. Entice him to become a diplomatic ally. Then ride on to China before reporting back to Washington DC.
To assist them FDR provided the Long Rider ambassadors with a number of lovely gifts deemed appropriate for the young ruler of Tibet, including a silver framed photograph of the president and a precious gold chronograph watch.

After riding over 14,000 foot high passes, floating their horses across the Brahmaputra river on an ancient flat-bottomed barge, and convincing a number of suspicious Tibetan officials that they were ambassadors, Tolstoy and Dolan reached Lhasa, where they met the ten-year-old Dalai Lama.
With their mission essentially concluded, and no formal permission for a road having been granted, the Long Riders received permission to depart in February, 1943. Their equestrian journey didn’t end however until they rode into a Chinese frontier outpost on June 21st.
After their return to the United States, Dolan was sent back to China. Sadly, the young naturalist, turned army officer, was killed soon after combat had been officially concluded with Japan. So it was left to Tolstoy to record the tale of their remarkable equestrian journey in his “Story from the Road,” entitled Across Tibet from India to China.

Count Leo Tolstoy - was so passionate about horses that his friend and fellow author, Ivan Turgenev, accused him of having been a horse in his previous life!  The famous author of War and Peace rode frequently right up to his death.  The photograph on the left shows him in the saddle just before his 80th birthday.  He wrote a brilliant story about a horse called Kholstomeer.


Few people recall today that Germany and Afghanistan were once close friends, allied in their mutual distrust of the then still-powerful British Empire. Within the space of a few years the British had beaten the Germans on the battlefields of the First World War. A few years later these same English victors used their military machine, complete with state-of-the-art airplanes based in India, to bomb their Afghan neighbours into political submission. It was during the early 1920s, while both Germany and Afghanistan were thus licking their wounds and regaining their political power, that the German geologist Emile Trinkler made his legendary trip across the forbidden kingdom of Afghanistan. The Afghan king had shut his borders to the majority of outsiders, which further heightened the kingdom’s already famous isolation. Yet having arrived at the Afghan border via Russian Turkestan, Trinkler wasn’t about to go back. He mounted a local horse and rode off across the vast interior of that still-beautiful country. Through the Heart of Afghanistan describes his journey in a Central Asian world now passed into memory. Trinkler saw Afghanistan as she still was, asleep and dreaming in the last stages of her long medieval slumber.
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No one knew they were looking at a hero and his two horses. Instead the local press derided him as "a lunatic proposing to ride overland to New York."

The time was 1925. The place, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Standing on the threshold of equestrian travel history was a young Swiss Long Rider named Aimé Tschiffely. Next to him were his two faithful Criollo horses, Mancha and Gato. Their collective goal was to ride more than ten thousand miles from Buenos Aires to New York. No one had ever attempted such a journey. Everyone thought Tschiffely was mad.

Looking back on what would become the most famous equestrian journey of the modern age, it is difficult to believe that anyone doubted the abilities of the legendary Long Rider and his hardy horses. Yet the school teacher who became an equestrian explorer had been told he was too inexperienced, his horses too old, and the journey too difficult.

What Aimé Tschiffely was told was wrong.

This is the story of the greatest equestrian epic of the twentieth century, a journey that came about because a man and his horses refused to quit - ever! During the course of their travels Tschiffely, Mancha and Gato crossed deadly deserts, passed through jungles, traversed sky-high mountain passes - and rode on. They were assailed by vampire bats, mistaken for gods and navigated the Panama Canal - but rode on.

Nothing stopped them. No one since has rivalled their accomplishments. 

Tschiffely wrote a number of books about this adventure, and others, all of which can be found in the Tschiffely Collection.  There were also many articles written about him.

Here is an interesting story about Aimé's literary legacy and how it was handed down for seventy years.
For more information, please visit his official website.

Henry Tudor - set off from New York City in 1879 determined to ride to Punta Arenas, Patagonia.  The Guild can find no information to confirm he arrived at his far-off goal.

Ethel Tweedie - When this young equestrian traveller left London in 1888, she had not planned to forsake the sidesaddle favoured by other English women of her social class. Yet upon her arrival in Iceland, Ethel discovered that the local women rode astride like their male relations.
"Necessity gives courage in emergencies, so I determined to throw aside conventionality, and do in ‘Iceland as the Icelanders do.' The amusement of our party when I overtook them, and boldly trotted past, was intense; but I felt so comfortable in my altered seat that their derisive and chaffing remarks failed to disturb me. Riding man-fashion is less tiring than on a side-saddle, and I soon found it far more agreeable, especially when traversing rough ground. My success soon inspired Miss T. to summon up courage and follow my lead. Society is a hard task-master, yet for comfort and safety, I say ride like a man," Tweedie recalled. Upon her return to England, the Long Rider, turned social reformer, called for the abolishment of the sidesaddle for three reasons, safety, comfort and health. To read more about the issue of sidesaddles, view this story “Sidesaddles and Suffragettes.”


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