Who would be better suited for a Long Ride on horseback (a continuous journey of a thousand or more miles), a nine-year-old child or a sixty-nine-year-old grandfather? Do you know that five- and nine-year-old boys hold the record for riding horseback across the United States, ocean to ocean?
Bud and Temple Abernathy rode across the U.S. in 1910 in 62 days, and hold the record to date. You may be asking yourself, “What kind of mother would let those young boys do that?” Well actually, their mother died shortly before their journey began. But their father was a loving and caring man, though he may be guilty of exploiting his courageous sons. He was also a U.S. Marshall and a friend of Theodore Roosevelt.
Bud and Temple Abernathy’s wild adventures included their first Long Ride from Oklahoma to New York, to ride in Theodore Roosevelt’s homecoming parade as he returned from Europe. Then their father purchased a car for the boys to drive and return to Oklahoma. Their stories can be found in the delightful book titled, Bud and Me; The True Adventures of the Abernathy Boys.
Do you know the record for the first horseback ride from the Arctic Circle in Canada to the Equator in Ecuador was completed by a man who just celebrated his sixty-ninth birthday and he is currently on another Long Ride? Gene Glasscock rode his historic ride from the Arctic Circle to the Equator in 1984. He is currently riding on a three-year journey to all the state capitals of the lower 48 states. Gene has been meeting with Governors from each state, and he has currently ridden over 4000 miles of his 20,000-mile journey. While heading towards the White House, Gene had hopes of meeting President George Bush and possibly having him sit upon his horse (also named George). Getting “George on George” had become part of Gene’s mission. But White House staff advised Gene that the President would not be able to meet with him. Gene’s horse George is named after the famous Long Rider George Beck, who has special meaning to this ride. The last Long Rider honored by a U.S. president was in 1928, when President Calvin Coolidge greeted Aime Tschiffely at the White House.
Aime Tschiffely, a Swiss man, made one of the most historically significant equestrian trips of the 20th century when he rode more than 10,000 miles from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Washington, D.C. in 1928. Aime had no previous equestrian experience and no one thought he would reach America alive. But he went on to be greeted at the White House by President Calvin Coolidge, the only Long Rider ever honored this way. His book, Tschiffely’s Ride, is one of the most famous equestrian books ever written. This trip paved the way for all future American Long Riders.
Gene Glasscock will not be the first to ride horseback to all fifty states. That honor goes to George Beck and the Overland Riders (whom Gene’s horse is named after). George and his horse, Pinto, made their historic ride in 1912. They ended their ride in San Francisco, expecting a hero’s welcome. Instead, they were hardly noticed. They both died tragic deaths without fame or fortune.
Long Riding is steeped in a worldwide tradition and a couple, Basha and CuChullaine O’Reilly, (both Long Riders themselves), have worked hard to document and preserve that history with the Long Riders Guild. As stated on their website, The Long Riders’ Guild is the world’s first international association of equestrian explorers. It was formed in 1994 to represent men and women of all nations who have ridden more than 1,000 continuous miles on a single equestrian journey. Members currently reside in at least 35 countries. The website tracks current expeditions (as they did my trip from March to June of 2003, when I rode the length of California,) as well as those Long Riders of the past.
Basha O’Reilly, who designed The Long Riders’ Guild website, rode from Russia to England. She is also the Author of “Bandits and Bureaucrats”. CuChullaine O’Reilly led a record-breaking expedition in the Karakorum mountains of Pakistan, and he has authored Khyber Knights and The Long Riders – an Equestrian Travel Anthology. Together they are planning the first non-stop around-the-world equestrian journey! This three-year, 20,000-mile trip is scheduled to begin in 2005 in Paris, France.
According to Basha, there are currently about 200 Long Riders alive worldwide, and about fifty who are alive or rode in the U.S. That is not many when you consider over 1700 people have climbed to the summit of Mt. Everest in the last fifty years. That number is incredibly low when you learn there are about 1.9 million horse owners in the US and 6.9 million horses.
Who is best suited for a Long Ride? Basha O’Reilly once said, The Long Riders Guild is the most exclusive club, yet the easiest to get in. Some may argue that riding a thousand miles isn’t easy, but being a Long Rider is open to anyone, and anyone who rides a 1000+ mile journey is in. There are many great equestrian travelers who had no previous equine experience. Long Riding or equestrian travel isn’t about making history, as much as it is a personal journey. My adventure fulfilled a long-time dream of mine. It’s not about being first or fastest. And unlike sports with rules and competition, in Long Riding each individual sets out and defines his or her own path and journey. Many people allow their dreams to run free, few have the courage to follow them. Long Riding is for anyone who desires a journey on horseback and has the courage to make their dreams come true. I offer my best wishes and hopes to Gene on his 69th birthday, Basha and Cuchullaine as they plan their journey, and to anyone else who follows their dreams on a horse.