So what is the Long Riders Guild? In the words of the founders, "The World's First International Association of Equestrian Explorers."
In early 2004 as I began to plan for the journey by horse from Mongolia to Hungary, I knew that doing the research, getting the right advice from the right people was going to be crucial. I had little experience with horses let alone travel with them, and most people who own horses in the Western world - although they arguable know volumes about these wonderful animals- were very little help.
(Sam and Brent Watson from Horses & Horsemen, and Kath and Steve Baird at Bogong Horseback Adventure are exceptions to this).
Then I found the Long Riders Guild and began corresponding with CuChullaine and Basha O'Reilly, two extraordinary adventurers themselves, and founders of this unique association. At first CuChullaine wrote something like: 'Well I hope you realise that this journey will test you to limits you could never imagine. Horses could turn your bones to dust at any given moment. Then there is the bureaucracy....have a long hard think Tim. Do you really want to do this? It would of course be one of the most important equestrian journeys of our time, and certainly of the early 21st century. "
From that day on, Basha and CuChullaine have been with me every step of the way.
Their website as a starting reference drew together a huge number of fascinating adventurers and travellers. Having collated invaluable advice about equestrian travel from all corners of the globe it allowed me to intelligently plan and anticipate the long haul ahead. Whats more, CuChullaine and Basha had reprinted in excess of 100 equestrian travel books, (many of which had been long out of print) and made perfect background reading for inspiration, practical, and historical information.
It was Basha and CuuChullaine who instigated the historic meeting in London of 'long riders' in March 2005 where I was accepted as a fellow of the Royal Geographic Society. Throughout my toughest times, they have only been a satellite phone call away with a listening ear at any time of the day. They continue to energize and keep me positive with proactive support and an incredible network of people who continue to come to the party in times of need.
One instance when their support was invaluabe, was when I was stuck on the border between Russia and Kazakhstan. They sent official letters from the guild to the Russian authorities, and contacted all manner of people to help. This all contributed to my crossing in December 2005 on the last day of my visa! Without getting through that problem I would have been forced to abandon my horses and dog.
Quite simply, I wouldn't be where I am now without the guild, and I believe that the ethos of equestrian explorers helps to keep a sense of fresh adventure in society. They also keep an eye on the equestrian world, exposing phoney adventurer claims, bad equestrian travel equipment, and have their finger on the pulse of all that happens in the genuine adventure travel society. Whats more, they do not accept any advertising money, and so all advice is 100 percent independent.
I would recommend all armchair, and active travellers to bookmark their website, and make regularly checks for news. Of course for anyone remotely interested in equestrian assisted travel, the 'Long Rider's Guild' should be your first port of call.
Basha and CuChullaine, I cannot repay you for your immeasurable moral and logistical support. May your forthcoming own equestrian world ride be a lucky one!
For all Equestrian Travel and adventure books that have been reprinted by the Long Riders Guild visit: