All we Long Riders have asked ourselves, “Why set off on a difficult, and often dangerous, equestrian journey?” Likewise, it is a question that intrigues the people who meet us. “Why are you doing this,” they’ve asked us in a multitude of tongues in countries scattered around the globe.
The Welsh have a word for it.
Roughly translated, it means “a yearning for we know not what.”
Long Riders such as Robin and Louella Hanbury-Tenison (pictured above), exemplify this ancient desire to mount their horses and set off into the unknown.
Ask any Long Riders, past or present, and they will tell you that the world looks different from atop a horse. No distance is too grand. No desert cannot be crossed. No mountain cannot be conquered. No river cannot be swum. No geographic obstacle has ever succeeded in defying the combined bravery of horse and human, because for countless generations this four-legged friend has taken horsemen to places beyond the daily definitions of dogmatic denizens.
Yet every generation of mankind has been supremely confident, arrogant in the recurring belief that theirs is the ultimate expression of the human experience. Meanwhile the horsemen and women of history have watched from the sidelines while fires were lit, wheels were invented, pyramids were built, railroad lines were laid, automobiles were driven, and computer screens were peered into. Throughout this vast never-ending stream of human experience and effort one thing has run through our collective unconsciousness, the need for terrestrial freedom.
This is a longing which doesn’t recognize money, or religion, or sex, or nationality. It is something which is lodged deep within the DNA of a few of us. It is what sets us apart. It is what burns us. It is what never gives us peace. It is what transforms men and women like CuChullaine and Basha O’Reilly into Long Riders.
For what that first Bronze-Age horseman, or woman, discovered still holds true.
Pedestrians stay in their villages.
Horse Humans roam the world.
Sadly, during the last fifty years, the world has been reduced to mediocrity by travel machines. Great distances that would have defied our ancestors are now easily obtainable. Foreign lands have lost their mystery. Forbidden continents lie conquered in hours. Oceans are merely nuisances overcome by a faceless pilot as passengers struggle to stay awake during the second in-flight movie. Although the origin of the word "travel" is "travail," as in "to labour," the modern world defines it in terms of jet lag instead of hardship. The dangers faced by countless early pioneers have been done away with. Modern adventurers fear a blow-out on the autobahn more than a brigand in the woods.
Nevertheless, even in an age of anonymous mechanized travel, which forces one to voyage within the confining steel cocoon of a plane or car, riding a horse links one to the incredible world around us. When you ride your horse in search of adventure you don’t watch the world flying by. You interact with it. You don’t travel at the speed of sound. You glide along at the pace of the wind. You don’t suffer through security checks. You slow down your heartbeat to join the rhythm of the horse’s hoof beats. You’re no longer encased like a nameless sheep in a corporate flying machine. You greet what you didn’t know you missed, aboard an animal who draws you into the natural world. You’ve broken free from the confines of today’s increasingly restrictive world and joined a mounted fraternity of men and women who have explored every corner of the planet, including Antarctica, with their horses.
Thus, despite the changing calendar, the rigours faced by modern equestrian explorers like the O’Reillys closely resemble those encountered by their forefathers, for they too will discover a host of geographic, climatic, governmental and equestrian challenges. Even so, at the dawning of this new millennium, the World Ride represents not a multi-billion dollar expansion into outer space but the affordable accomplishment of the following goals:
a) to make the first equestrian journey around the Earth
b) to map the route using GPS technology so as to allow others to follow in our horses’ hoofprints;
c) to create a scholastic internet network which encourages nine to twelve year old children to study geography, while interacting with the World Ride and each other’s classrooms;
d) to collect hair samples from every known horse breed so as to create the first complete equine DNA chain;
e) to promote the unity of mankind via our species’ ancient link with the horse.
If it is true that the age of national exploration is now past, the World Ride will demonstrate that we are witnessing the dawning of the age of the citizen-explorer, an enlightened era wherein individuals set out not to exploit the natural resources of their neighbours, nor to plant the flag of their country of origin atop a mighty peak in another land, but rather to explore the frontiers of this planet and our own souls.
Mankind is still the same. Little has changed since Cheops tricked, cajoled and enslaved thousands of others into building his pyramid. Which of you has not longed for an existence free of the dull checks and balances of how life has defined you - a clerk of mediocrity, a spoke in the wheel of some nameless corporate giant, the definition of your tribal soul mirrored by the brand name you wear, or drive, or strive for?
That is why the World Ride is not merely about covering vast amounts of mileage. It is the symbolic journey Basha and CuChullaine, along with their horses, will take together to reach borders of an otherwise invisible place. For though the O’Reillys are ostensibly aiming toward a distant spot on a physical map, they are seeking a place known as ‘Elsewhere.’ Such a journey is about displacement as much as discovery, yours as well as theirs.
Equestrian travel continues to thrill not because it has changed through the ages, but because it hasn’t and the World Ride fulfils a collective craving for adventure, travel and excitement. This journey is not about one country, language or breed of horse. It is about the planet.
Visit the Website. Saddle your Horse. Explore the World.