A few years ago my father sent me the link to a website that held the story of our beloved hero, Aimť Tschiffely, the most famous Long Rider of all time. He googled "Man rides from Buenos Aires to America" one night and the Long Riders Guild link was the first one to come up. After reading through the story he loved so much, he explored the website and found that there were other Long Riders just like Tschiffely all over the globe. Most importantly, he found out that there were still people jumping into the saddle to blaze a trail into the unknown. This excited him very much.
I remember reading my fatherís email and clicking on the link. I read Tschiffely's page and surfed the LRG site. I was as amazed as my father that there were still men and women making Long Rides out there.
When I started seriously thinking about going on my own ride, I revisited the website. It slowly became my Bible. I read about the many Long Riders who are Members of the Guild and their journeys. I read all the current expeditions. I read the equipment page. I read it all.
After a few weeks studying the site, I mustered the courage to email the Guild's Founder, CuChullaine O'Reilly. I was very scared! This Long Rider and journalist is the most knowledgeable human being when it comes to the subject of equestrian travel. "CuChullaine has spent thirty years studying equestrian travel techniques on every continent. He led the Karakorum Equestrian Expedition through Pakistan and was thereafter made a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society," as stated on the LRG website. The man is a living legend. In the email I asked him what three books he would advise one to read regarding Long Riding. He replied with three titles and with a question, "Why do you ask?"
That's when I notified him of my plans to ride from Canada to Brazil. I was hesitant because I had never done this before, yet was about to attempt one of the hardest rides to date. What if he laughed at me or thought I was just plain stupid? Luckily, he didn't! From that point on CuChullaine took me under his wing and put me in contact with some extraordinary folks from around the globe.
This is the beauty of the Long Ridersí Guild. With Members in 45 countries, the organization breaks down borders. It is not about competing or winning ribbons, but about helping one another explore this extraordinary world on horseback. Long Riders don't make tons of money nor do they become celebrities! But what they gain is much greater - a wealth of knowledge about the places they pass through and an abundance of new friends! The trail also teaches much about oneself. The rider at the end of a journey is no longer the person who started the trip.
These are all things I learned from phone conversations, emails and meetings with Long Riders like Englishwoman Basha O'Reilly, the Canadians Bonnie Folkins and Stan Walchuk, the American Bernice Ende, the Brazilian Pedro Luis de Aguiar, and the German Gunter Wamser. They are the international team of Long Riders who have helped me get to where I am today - more than 9000 kilometres from Calgary, Alberta about to fly my three ponies into Lima, Peru.
After a year and a half on the road, I now understand more than ever the importance of the Guild. I can't even begin to say how many times I have encountered a problem out here that I had already read about on the LRG website, or heard from one of the Long Riders who mentored me.
One example was while crossing a mountain in southern Wyoming. In the midst of one of the Unites States worst droughts my ponies and I began climbing. After four days we reached the summit only to discover all of the rivers were bone dry. With my horses having had their last drink hours ago, I was forced to call it a day as the sun started setting. Due to the amount of time they would spend without water until the next morning, I feared one of them might colic. Luckily, while spending a day with Bernice Ende in Saskatchewan, we went over the essentials she carries in her pack. She took out a bottle of cooking oil and said, "Always, always carry a bottle with you in case you end your day with no water for the horses. Don't let them graze a lot and give them a syringe of oil down their throats."
That's exactly what I did and the next morning when I unzipped my tent there were my ponies standing looking back at me. After two hours on the trail we came across a water hole and we all drank.
I can't thank the Long Ridersí Guild enough for all of the support and love! Know that my Long Ride is as much mine as all of the Long Riders whose names appear in the sites many pages. This now includes my father, Luis Corse Leite, after he rode 1000 miles with me from Presidio, Texas to the City of Mexico. It is thanks to my father that I embarked on my own Long Ride. Having him live out this dream with me was unbelievable. I can live another thousand years and I will never forget our ride together.
May the spirit of Aimť Tschiffely live on forever through the Long Ridersí Guild.
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