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.
Legendary Long Rider Robin
Hanbury-Tenison has been designated a
by the Long Riders’ Guild.
Jeremy James is the English equestrian author who
undertook pioneering research into the role of the horse in the Ottoman
Empire before writing the historically accurate book,
The Byerley Turk.
Known as the “poet of the saddle,” he is the author of the equestrian
and Vagabond, which recount his journeys across Turkey and Europe. In
addition, Jeremy played an extraordinary role in the creation of
The Encyclopaedia of Equestrian Exploration.
Though more than
400 Long Riders contributed by sharing an essential bit of advice, Jeremy
made more than fifty contributions to the three volumes. In addition he
for the historic books. Jeremy’s life has been spent searching for
equestrian knowledge, exploring spirituality and showing kindness to other
For these reasons Jeremy has been designated a Living Treasure by the Long
|In 1991 Pedro Luis de Aguiar (right) rode 19,000 kilometres (11,800 miles) from Sao Paulo to Uruguay, then south to the Brazil-French Guyana border and back to Sao Paulo. On March 15, 2005, twenty-eight Long Riders from five continents assembled in London at the Royal Geographical Society. During that meeting Sir John Ure greeted Pedroca, who had been made a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in recognition of his extraordinary equestrian journey. Like many others, Pedroca had been inspired to become a Long Rider due to the influence of Aimé Tschiffely. In 2012, prior to departing on a solo ride from Canada to Brazil, Filipe Leite (left) was mentored by Pedro. This special meeting was described in The Encyclopaedia of Equestrian Exploration. To celebrate Pedroca’s 86th birthday in 2019, he has been designated as one of the Guild’s "Living Treasures."|
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