George Beck and his Morab gelding, Pinto, (above) who travelled 20,352 miles to all 48 American state capitals during the years 1912 -15.
Early in the morning of May 1, 1912 a remarkable man named George Beck swung into the saddle. A logger by trade, he knew nothing about equestrian travel. What he had realized was that the unprecedented journey he was about to set off on would require him to leave behind everything he knew, including family, home and financial security.
Though he lacked many things, George Beck was richer than most people because he had two treasures; an incredible dream and an extraordinary horse.
Courage isn’t restricted to the battle field. It isn’t always clothed in khaki. The history of equestrian travel proves that this rare element in humanity appears in unexpected guises.
Beck was endowed with this type of unique bravery. He seldom had enough to eat during his journey and at one point was forced to sell his winter coat to obtain enough money to buy food. For three years he spent most of his nights sleeping in hay stacks, barns, livery stables or underneath the stars. As the years rolled by the Long Rider alternately either froze or roasted in the saddle.
Through it all Beck had the physical support and emotional devotion of one of history’s unsung equine heroes, the outstanding Pinto.
After having travelled for a record 20,352 miles together, Beck and Pinto reached Sacramento, their 48th and last state capital on May 24, 1915. They had been on the road for three years and one month, a record 1127 days of that time riding.
Beck was many things, including a man of vision. But foremost among Beck’s commendable qualities was his commitment to Pinto, the loyal horse who had turned Beck’s equestrian dream into a reality. Their legendary friendship is one of the greatest examples of the consensual relationship which exists between the Long Rider and the Road Horse. Beck’s devotion to Pinto also acts as the bedrock for the Long Riders’ Guild’s stern sense of equestrian ethics.
One hundred years after Beck departed another young Long Rider left behind the everyday world which had comforted him and boldly rode into the unknown.
At the dawning of 2012 Filipe Masetti Leite knew no more about equestrian travel than George Beck had. Like his predecessor, Filipe took a deep breath and departed, intent on riding 10,000 miles from his Canadian university to his family home in Brazil.
Though a century had passed since Beck departed, Leite expressed sentiments which his predecessor would have understood.
“People today have a hard time realizing that a horse is an animal with a heart and a soul who feels pain and sadness. Instead there are too many people who think of horses as a machine like a motorcycle or a car. They don’t understand that, unlike machines, horses need to rest and be taken care of twenty-four hours a day. In my opinion this has to be the hardest part of my becoming a Long Rider; the constant need to care for the horses like they are your children while travelling dusty trails and dangerous roads. Every day, when my horses’ day ends, mine continues. I drink after my horses drink. I eat after my horses have eaten. I sleep after I know my horses are safe. These horses are the true heroes of my Long Ride,” Filipe wrote to the Guild.
|At the beginning of his long journey from Canada to Brazil, Filipe told the Canadian press, “My route was drawn up with the horses’ health in mind. I only ride five days a week and never more than thirty kilometres a day. I stop every hour for ten minutes to let the horses graze and drink water. At lunch-time I stop for an hour and let them relax. If the horses are sore, I stop until they’re well. I only travel if they are healthy and happy to go on.”|
Time has marched on since the days of Beck and Pinto. Yet other modern Long Riders have also demonstrated their determination to put the horse’s physical safety and emotional comfort before their human egos.
After spending many years riding 20,000 kilometres from Patagonia, German Long Rider Günter Wamser concluded his journey prematurely in the centre of Alaska, rather than continue on to the top of state as he originally planned.
“The true heroes of the trip are my horses. That is why I decided to end the trip in the green heart of Alaska, as I’m not likely to find a horse paradise at some oil field on the shores of the Arctic Ocean.”
New Zealand Long Rider Ian Robinson also put his horse’s needs before his cherished travel plans. Despite having spent years preparing to ride solo along Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor and into the remote Pamir Mountains, when his horse was injured Ian didn’t hesitate to turn back and return on foot.
British Long Riders Jamie Maddison and Matt Traver dismounted and walked across the deserts of Kazakhstan in 40 Centigrade (104 Fahrenheit) summer heat rather than push their tired horses too hard.
When her pack horse sustained a saddle sore North American Long Rider Sea G Rhydr spent several weeks living in isolation and great hardship in the Arizona desert so as to allow the animal to heal.
|German Long Rider Günter Wamser is a Founding Member of the Long Riders’ Guild who spent twenty years riding from Patagonia to Alaska. Despite having encountered a host of hardships and dangers, the safety of his horses was always Günter’s number one priority.|
Each of these Long Riders could have travelled on, knowing they were pushing their horse beyond its limits. If they had made that decision the chances are that no one would have known. Instead each of them realized that their journey had brought them to an invisible place on the map of their souls.
Did they put their egotistical desires above the physical needs of the animal which had borne them so bravely across a hostile landscape? Or did they curtail their journey and place the horse's welfare before their own long-cherished dreams?
None of these Long Riders tasted the dregs of defeat.
When they came to that ethical crossroads, each of them made the proper decision. They had learned that a silent oath exists between a Long Rider and his horse. Rather than sacrifice their integrity for the sake of a fleeting moment of glory, they championed the horses who gave so much to carry them so far.
Like George Beck who blazed that moral trail, each of them won our respect.
No animal has impacted the development of our species to such an extent as the horse. It transformed our ancestors from plodding pedestrians into a race of roamers. Thanks to its eternal charisma the horse is accounted the most powerful animal totem worldwide. The flying horse is the inclusive icon of all humanity which symbolizes the international equestrian brotherhood represented by the Long Riders’ Guild.
|This Long Riders’ Guild flag bears the signatures of the twenty-eight equestrian explorers, who flew to London from five continents in March, 2005, so as to attend a historic meeting of the Guild|
A different cycle of events shapes each generation of horse-humans. That is why it is necessary to acknowledge the existence of a dark side in the modern horse world. Most competitive equestrian events come draped with an air of glamour and ritual. Lurking behind this mask of respectability is a different reality.
Contestants who find their gain in the loss of others become immune to guilt. Trainers become hardened to the practice of cruelty. The use of performance-enhancing drugs, in some cases facilitated by organised crime, becomes common place. A high level of corporate complicity encourages these travesties to continue.
Those humans who win at the expense of the horse in such self-reverential public rituals invariably fight to protect their own interests. Calls for reform are seen as an attack on their collective identity. They wield the words “culture” and “tradition” in an effort to justify the self-deception and viciousness underlying outdated equestrian practices which have for too long been the subject of sentimental celebration.
Unlike highly-paid human athletes, the horse has no way to object when he finds himself alone in such an ethical vacuum. His biological integrity is sacrificed on the altar of the human's greed for money and fame.
By the year 2050 an estimated 70% of humanity will live an urban existence. Because they no longer ride or work horses on a daily basis, as did their forefathers, these modern humans increasingly view the horse as a symbol of personal liberty.
Many quiet millions have grown disillusioned with the current reality wherein competition horses are exposed to endless aggression. There is a growing chorus of relentless public criticism calling for the need to overturn frivolous traditions and expose a system of illusions that ruthlessly devours the horses it claims to champion. People around the world understand the time has come for the horse to become a symbol of renewal in this new century.
Not all deceptions are equal; but they are all deceptions nonetheless. Far too much of the modern horse world has been turned into a circus of cruelty and an immoral compromise with evil.
That is why scores have asked, “Where is the conscience of the world when it comes to horses?”
People in many nations recognize that the need to overturn corruption in the horse world has never been stronger nor more obvious. They know that cynicism cannot be seen to triumph over sincerity and that cruelty cannot be allowed to overcome justice.
Unlike the entrenched equestrian sports world, which often turns a blind eye to abuse and cruelty so long as it does not disrupt their income stream, the Long Riders’ Guild is intent on maintaining the highest ethical standards in the equestrian world. It encourages harmony between horse and human. Its mission is to care for the vulnerable and speak up for the voiceless. Admittance is never a foregone conclusion based upon the accumulation of mere miles.
It is job of the Guild to reassure the public that they can trust the word of a Long Rider. Therefore, in accordance with the published rules of the Long Riders’ Guild, Members agree to abide by this equestrian code of ethical conduct:
- A determination to put the horse’s welfare above their own
- Acknowledgement of the assistance of The Long Riders' Guild and a copy of the LRG logo on their website
- A willingness to describe themselves as Long Riders on their website and to the press
- At the conclusion of their journey, a readiness to share their wisdom with would-be Long Riders
- If the ride is for a charity, the funds will be accounted for at the conclusion of the journey.
The Long Riders' Guild will in turn make a consistent effort to:
a) Ensure the would-be equestrian traveller is properly educated and equipped prior to departure
b) Will never tolerate any abuse to the road horse or pack animal
c) Will confirm that the facts associated with the journey are accurate
d) No equestrian traveller guilty of equine abuse or ethical malpractice will ever be admitted
e) Those people discovered perpetrating equestrian travel crimes will be listed in the Guild’s "Hall of Shame."
The world isn’t a perfect place but a few in every generation strive to make it so. Abusive equestrian practices will continue to occur unless we change them. In order to create a new equestrian world we should think afresh and abandon outdated traditions.
|Long Rider Margrit Rumple and her horse Gallipolis, who journeyed from their home in Eastern Austria to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, symbolize the power of the ancient inter-species relationship that exists between horse and human.|
The Guild's ethical beliefs may be summed up as being:
Principles, not profits
Preserve the public's trust
Protect our comrades from outside assault
Honour, Loyalty and Trust to each other
In a word, chivalry, whose root word is "cheval," horse.
Back to Home page