The Long Riders' Guild

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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.”

The Baron

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.”

Living Treasures

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.

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."
 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 2007 Bonnie Folkins was the first Long Rider to venture into the remote Altai Mountains of western Mongolia in search of an ancient tribe of mounted nomads. Folkins discovered the Kazakhs, descendants of nomads who had fled the cultural genocide unleashed in the 1930s by Soviet dictator, Josef Stalin. With an estimated two million people dead on the Kazakh steppes, the survivors sought refuge in Mongolia. Not only were the Kazakhs still mounted, they had also retained their ancient tribal custom of hunting wolves in winter with the help of specially trained golden eagles. The renowned photographer created astonishing images which formed a pioneering ethnic collection known as Riding with the Eagles.”

Subsequent rides in Mongolia gave Bonnie a deep understanding of the nation and its historic equestrian culture. In 2009  an English company that specialized in enticing adventure-hungry tourists into paying large sums of money to race junk cars to distant national capitals announced that it planned to launch the largest non-sanctioned endurance race ever attempted. Nearly a thousand Mongolian horses had been drafted to run in a thousand kilometre long race which deliberately flaunted international endurance racing rules. To ensure a hefty profit, the company had charged foreign contestants nearly $5,000 each to participate. With the help of Buddhist monks, Bonnie presented a petition of protest to the President of Mongolia. As a result the Fédération Internationale Equestre in Geneva intervened and ensured that the race organizers provide veterinarian care for the horses.

Subsequently Bonnie explored Kazakhstan and documented her route, Across the Kazakh Steppes. She made nine equestrian journeys in Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Armenia.

During her journeys, Folkins has made a point of riding with local Mongol and Kazakh horsemen, who then in turn become Members of the Long Riders’ Guild.

Bonnie made contributions to all three-volumes of The Encyclopaedia of Equestrian Exploration, most notably in reference to that spiritual awakening known among Long Riders as “the long quiet.” A private passion, a belief in the common good of others, a devotion to equestrian travel, and a blazing talent disguised under a travel-stained cloak of modesty, that’s the way to describe Long Rider photographer, Bonnie Folkins.
 

Legendary Long Rider Robin Hanbury-Tenison has been designated a Living Treasure by the Long Riders’ Guild.
In addition to being one of the original Founding Members of the Long Riders’ Guild, Robin Hanbury-Tenison, explorer and equestrian traveller par excellence, was hailed by The Sunday Times as "the greatest explorer of the past twenty years." He made the first land crossing of South America at its widest point, led twenty-four expeditions and was awarded the Patron's Gold Medal by the Royal Geographical Society. When he wasn't in a jungle, Robin was turning his hand to helping others. He is President and co-founder of Survival International, a charity which helps tribal peoples defend their lives, protect their lands and determine their own futures.  Then, with his wife, Louella, Robin went on to make five wonderful equestrian journeys - across France, along China's Great Wall and through both islands of New Zealand, the pilgrimage to Spain's Santiago de Compostela and more recently a ride through Albania. In addition to writing five equestrian travel books, Robin wrote the Preface to the Encyclopaedia of Equestrian Exploration. Renowned for his generosity of wisdom and his encouragement of young travellers, Robin has mentored dozens of Long Riders for more than thirty years. To mark his 82nd birthday, Robin has been designated a Living Treasure 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 travel books Saddletramp 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 composed the Foreword for the historic books. Jeremy’s life has been spent searching for equestrian knowledge, exploring spirituality and showing kindness to other Long Riders. For these reasons Jeremy has been designated a Living Treasure by the Long Riders’ Guild.
 

 

 

Lucy Leaf represents “the lost generation” of Long Riders, i.e. those whose access to equestrian travel knowledge was hampered by the demise of the cavalry and prior to the dawning of the internet age. Having determined to make an equestrian journey that would take her ocean to ocean in both directions, Lucy wrote to agriculture extension agents along her route to gather information and make contacts in preparation for the journey. One man responded along the lines of, "Of all the unGodly things that have come across my desk, this idea of riding a horse cross-country takes the cake." Despite the rejection, in 1973 Lucy rode her horse, Igor, on a 7,000 mile journey that took them from Maine to Oregon and then returned from California to Virginia via a southern route.
Afterwards Lucy put her knowledge of the country to excellent use in 2013 when she mentored
Sea G Rhydr, who rode "ocean to ocean" from California to Maine, following in the hoofprints of Historical Long Rider Messanie Wilkins. In addition Lucy made vital academic contributions. Her historic report, Ticks and Travel – A Deadly Peril, was the first equine travel study to document how ticks carrying Lyme Disease represent one of the most frightening threats faced by Long Riders today. Lucy made contributions to all three-volumes of The Encyclopaedia of Equestrian Exploration, and then spent a year carefully copy-editing every line of text in the 1800 page magnum opus.


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