Riding the Equestrian Equator
Centuries before the origin of the Silk Road there was another ancient highway. The Equestrian Equator was the equine equivalent of the internet of antiquity. For across this ocean of grass mankind’s earliest discoveries were transmitted at the speed of the horse.
This vast steppe extended thousands of kilometres from Europe to China. With the dense Siberian forest to the north, and inhospitable desert to the south, the Equestrian Equator formed the ancient navel of the horse world, the centre from which history flowed east and west. Mankind first mounted the horse and set off to explore the world along this ridden route five thousand years ago. And it is via this primeval path that Basha and CuChullaine O’Reilly intend to encircle the globe in the twenty-first century.
This won’t be the first time history has unfolded to the sound of thunderous hooves as horses gallop again across the Equestrian Equator. The Babylonians were shocked at the appearance of mounted nomads in 900 B.C. Greek historians expressed amazement when they discovered tremendous mounted societies inhabiting the steppes. And Philip of Macedon was smart enough to strengthen his political career by importing twenty-thousand horses from the Equestrian Equator.
Though the history of warfare is well documented, what is seldom investigated is mankind’s desire to become a mounted wanderer. In addition to establishing the theory of evolution, Charles Darwin presented a plausible explanation for why the original Bronze Age Dawn Riders ventured out to explore the Equestrian Equator.
When not aboard his ship, the Beagle, Darwin was an eager equestrian explorer himself. During the five years in which he made his scientific journey, he took every opportunity to investigate the continents of South America, Australia and Africa on horseback. It was while he was enjoying, "The pleasure of living in the open air with the sky for a roof and the ground for a table," that the famous scientist realized that the migratory urge is the strongest of all animal instincts. Hence he deduced that early mounted humans moved because it was natural to be in motion. Like the birds above, the call of the far horizon became a life-enhancing necessity for horse-humans.
Thus, while sedentary pedestrians were huddling in cities, or sweating over the drudgery of the plough, an alternative mounted lifestyle arose along the length of the Equestrian Equator. Home to these kindred spirits was where they were, not where they came from. In such an environment of space and silence, a symbiotic relationship arose between the two great lovers of freedom, man and mount.
There were tremendous historical consequences from the bonding of man’s brain and the horse’s speed. Sadly much of recorded history was deliberately twisted so as to portray the horsemen as Barbarians. These tales revolve around the myth of civilized people whose empires were threatened by mounted savages.
No one has received worse press from the pedestrian world than Genghis Khan.
Derided as a tyrant, the critics ignore the astonishing accomplishments of the Mongol’s mounted empire, which hosted an estimated twenty million horses and stretched from Vienna to Peking. But this was no mere warlord. Under his leadership, the Mongol empire encouraged diplomacy, protected travellers and created the world’s first long-distance communications system by employing riders whose message could travel 600 kilometres a day. Genghis also instituted protection to the horses which had brought him to power.
“Take care of the horses in your troop,” he warned. “Do not let the men tie anything to the back of the saddle. Bridles may not be worn on the march, so that the horses' may have their mouths free to eat. If this order is disobeyed, the offenders are to be executed.”
Soon after Genghis Khan died in the saddle, a Mongol ambassador rode 7,000 miles to the English court. Despite such impressive horsemanship, the history of the Equestrian Equator began to be effaced, as the free roaming cultural carriers were too often a people without a written history. Thus their achievements slowly dissipated like smoke, which in turn ensured that by the time mankind became motorized, it had developed a case of equestrian amnesia in regards to the enormous equine way which still silently encircles the globe.
Yet how could a forgotten highway of historical equestrian events be of any importance today? What could possibly await the World Riders who venture in search of the Equestrian Equator?