Long Rider Living Treasures
Why should traditional knowledge be preserved? Who are the “Living Treasures” who protect wisdom for posterity? To find the answer, we must look East, to the “Land of the Rising Sun.”
Bushido is a Japanese concept corresponding to the notion of chivalry. It is a code of ideals which demonstrates the struggle between the two sides of human nature. The samurai who practised bushido are often mistakenly believed to have been exclusively warriors. There were exceptions.
What has been overlooked is that the code of bushido encouraged samurais to undertake long pilgrimages, known as shugyo, to distant places. Spiritual enlightenment, they believed, could be achieved through endeavour and personal discomfort.
Baron Yasumasa Fukushima (above) was an extraordinary example. A scholar and linguist, Fukushima was sent to Germany to act as military attaché. When his duty was completed in 1892, instead of sailing home the Baron departed on a 14,000 kilometre (8,700 mile) equestrian journey.
After struggling 488 days on a ride across two continents, this modest man received a hero’s welcome when he reached Japan. In addition to an immense public reception, the weary traveller’s possessions were placed in a museum.
The Emperor of Japan invited Fukushima to the palace to discuss the journey. It was during one of these meetings that the Baron told the Emperor, “14,000 kilometres means that each hair on the horses has the value of 1000 gold pieces.”
Despite these unprecedented honours the Baron neither demanded nor expected any reward. The journey had required him to be supremely practical; but in addition he had become deeply spiritual. According to the concept of yugen, a samurai can achieve self-realisation by the simple perfection of an everyday task. To reach true harmony, there must be a soothing poetry of the soul to balance the hard bravery of the heart.
A Mounted Brotherhood
It would be a mistake to think that the Baron could have achieved his goal without the help of others. Three extraordinary 19th century Long Riders, Frederick Burnaby of England, Sven Hedin of Sweden and Januarius MacGahan of the USA, provided vital assistance to their Japanese protégé.
The concept of receiving wisdom from a wise elder reaches back to the days of the Trojan War. Prior to leaving his home, Odysseus entrusted the welfare and education of his son to his friend, Mentor. It is his name which has come down through the ages to represent a trusted teacher and guide.
Though the idea may be old, the practice remains alive today. Many notable examples of this philosophy have occurred amidst the Long Riders.
Hideyo Tsutsumi acted as mentor to Kohei Yamakawa, who completed the first modern equestrian journey across Japan. Gordon Naysmith, who rode from South Africa to Austria, mentored Esther Stein before her journey across Africa.
As these examples demonstrate, Sir Isaac Newton was correct when he wrote, "If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants."
The Guild has always been about aiding our fellows, not winning at their expense. That is why Brazilian Long Rider Filipe Leite said, “There is no competition. The horse unites us.”
The term “Living Treasure” designates those rare Long Riders who, like Baron Fukushima, attained a high degree of mastery regarding equestrian travel.
This honour is never bestowed because of mere mileage. It is not measured against how many dangers one has survived. It does not take into account the number of nations a person rode across. It is never linked to celebrity.
Being accounted a Living Treasure means the person is not only knowledgeable in a technical sense. This is an honour extended to a handful of the Guild’s tribal elders, each of whom achieved spiritual enlightenment during a difficult journey and then passed on their traditional knowledge to a younger generation.
|During the dark days of the 1950s when equestrian travel nearly went extinct, young Tex Cashner helped keep the ancient art of equestrian travel alive. By the time Cashner stepped down from the saddle at the end of a difficult journey, he was on the other side of an invisible barrier that would forever set him slightly apart from those he left behind. Yet Cashner wasn’t content to just travel. For nearly seventy years he preserved vital equestrian travel wisdom for posterity. His knowledge is now enshrined in the Encyclopaedia of Equestrian Exploration. To mark his 85th birthday, Tex Cashner is the first Long Rider to be designated as a Living Treasure by the Long Riders’ Guild.|
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