What is the Long Riders’ Guild

Twenty years ago, I owned a mule named Woody. Woody was cantankerous. I wanted to ride him across North Carolina – and maybe a whole lot farther. Too bad nobody could tell me how to ride a mule 300 miles. This is the post I wish I’d read all those years ago.

Woody and me trying to figure out how to ride across North Carolina. I had no idea what we were doing but figured feeding him apples was a good step in the right direction. So I fed him a lot of apples. (Foxtrack Training Center, Southern Pines, North Carolina)

I grew up riding horses. I galloped races horses and rode as a steeplechase jockey. I gave riding lessons and enjoyed trail riding. But that wasn’t the same as riding a mule across my home state of North Carolina. That called for a whole different skill set. Like how to tie a mule out safely overnight. Like how to take care of his feet when I didn’t know how to shoe a horse. Like how to feed him when there were no feed stores around. Nobody could tell me what I needed to know because no one I knew had taken a trip like that.

Then I discovered the Long Riders’ Guild.

The Long Riders’ Guild

The Long Riders’ Guild (which I’ll abbreviate as the LRG) is an organization dedicated to helping riders and their mounts undertake long-distance voyages under saddle. Here, in the words of the LRG, is what the organization does:

The Long Riders’ Guild is the world’s first international association of equestrian explorers, and is an invitation-only organization. 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.

It marks the first time in modern equestrian history that like-minded men and women are combining efforts to preserve a hitherto unmarked heritage and provide an international forum to discuss our mutual love of horses and travel.

With Members in more than forty countries, every major equestrian explorer alive today belongs to The Guild, including Hadji Shamsuddin of Afghanistan, who rode a thousand miles through that war-zone, Jean-Louis Gouraud of France, who rode 3,000 miles from Paris to Moscow, Claudia Gottet of Switzerland, who rode 8,000 miles from Arabia to the Alps, Adnan Azzam of Syria, who rode 10,000 miles from Madrid to Mecca, and Vladimir Fissenko of Russia, who rode 19,000 miles from the bottom of Patagonia to the top of Alaska.

The LRG describes itself as an “invitation-only organization”. That only means that, in order to be asked to join, a person has to ride 1,000 miles. Anyone, though, can have access to the mountain of information the LRG has made accessible to the public. You can read the rest of that document called “What is the Long Riders’ Guild” right here.

Navigating the Long Riders’ Guild Website

Here is how the LRG describes what it does. It contains all the links you need to point you in whatever direction you’re interested in going. According to the LRG:

The Guild is an academic, not a commercial, endeavour whose mission is to protect, preserve and promote the ancient art of equestrian travel. It has mentored or equipped Long Riders on every continent except Antarctica.
(http://www.thelongridersguild.com/completed.htm )

If you are planning an equestrian expedition and seek the Guild’s assistance, please review the list of relevant questions provided on the Preparation page, then send your answers to the webmaster.
(http://www.thelongridersguild.com/preparation.htm )

If you are searching for advice on how to make an equestrian journey, the Encyclopaedia of Equestrian Exploration contains the practical wisdom gained from more than 400 of the most knowledgeable Long Riders.
(http://www.thelongridersguild.com/Books/eee.htm )

“The Encyclopaedia of Equestrian Exploration” (the 3-part volume is available at Amazon.com)

Additional information can be found in the Horse Travel Handbook, a cavalry-style manual that is small enough to fit into a saddlebag and contains the most critically important information that a Long Rider may need to consult while travelling.
(http://www.thelongridersguild.com/Books/Horse%20Travel%20Handbook.htm )

“The Horse Travel Handbook” (available at Amazon.com)

Questions regarding qualifications for admittance to this equestrian honour society can be found on the Guild website.
(http://www.thelongridersguild.com/how-to-join.htm )

If you believe you qualify to become a Member of The Long Riders’ Guild, please provide details of your journey to the webmaster.

If you are a Long Rider on a current expedition facing an emergency in the field, send an email with the word “Urgent” in the subject line.

The Guild strictly protects the privacy of its Members and never discloses personal information to unauthorized parties. Because the Long Riders’ Guild believes in social internet responsibility, it is “Facebook Free” and does not interact with any social media. The LRG does not require you to provide any personal information, does not require registration, is committed to protecting the privacy of its readers and does not use browser cookies.

All matters relating to the Long Riders’ Guild, including equestrian research questions should be addressed to the Guild Webmaster. 


Thanks, CuChullaine and Basha

I began this post by saying how I discovered the Long Riders’ Guild when I wanted to ride my mule Woody across North Carolina. I contacted the Guild and the founder, CuChullaine O’Reilly, wrote me back. Over the course of my preparations, and later my journey, he and his wife Basha encouraged and educated me as needed. I ended up way over-shooting my initial goal of riding across the Tarheel State. Thirteen months after I left Oriental, North Carolina, I arrived in San Diego, California.

Thanks, CuChullaine and Basha, for all the help! I am honored to be a member of the Long Riders’ Guild.

Meet Long Rider Filipe Leite

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of meeting fellow long rider Filipe Leite at the Beaufort International Film Festival. Filipe was there for the debut of his movie “The Long Rider”.

My wife Julia and I (on the left) with Filipe Leite and his wife Clara at the premiere of his movie “The Long Rider” (Sean Cisterna director/producer)

“The Long Rider” is about Filipe’s 26,000-kilometer saddle voyage through North and South America. I interviewed Filipe about his journey and look forward to sharing what we spoke about in a future post.

Let me Tell You About my Newest Book

My mule Cracker outside my tent. I traveled with him and my mule Brick 2,300 miles through America. (Outside Picabo, Idaho)

I’d love to give you a heads up when my new book “Trash to Triumph” comes out. It’s about my 7-month saddle journey from North Carolina to Idaho with my mules Brick and Cracker. Just sign up for the Newsletter and I’ll send you an email when the book comes out. You can sign up right here.

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Earle de Blonville
Earle de Blonville
2 years ago

Dear Bernie,

Your excellent page sadly has a comment which is a personal and very nasty attack on probably the world’s greatest authority on expedition horsemanship, and certainly one of its finest historians and writers.

The attacker, obviously filled with bile and vindictive pettiness, calls himself Kent Madin. Basically, he’s an old age pensioner who lives alone in Montana and has done nothing with his life except hate others who have succeeded in life.

He has been attacking these people, who are scattered worldwide, for some 12 years. All of them are strangers to him. I’ll let you work out why a so-called grown man would stoop so low.

In case you have not researched Kent Madin before publishing him, and hosting his bile, this site might help you.

As you will read, he is known to the FBI and Police in five countries.


With best wishes for a better future,

Earle de Blonville

2 years ago

Hi Earle,
Great to hear from you.Looks like you’ve done some great cold water travel! I really enjoyed reading your “Noisy Wilderness” article. This reminds me of voyaging down to South Georgia in the wood ketch “Windora” (and getting a hole knocked in the hull and patching it with copper tingles in front of Ernie Shackleton’s grave in Grytviken). Nothing sounds quite like ice graunching against a hull.
Happy ocean rambling, Earle!

Kent Madin
2 years ago

Congratulations on your riding accomplishments. And congratulations for being on the good side of Cuchullaine. He has a dark side epitomized by the fact that the LRG website has no mechanism for comments (like yours here) and the O’Reilly’s have always carefully cherry-picked the riders they feature and exalt and excoriate anyone who crosses them or has an alternative view. You have only to visit the “Hall of Shame” that Cuchullaine maintains where he is sole judge and jury. The hypocritical exclusivity of Cuchullaine/LRG is plain to see in the story of the disaterous “World Ride”. As a historic event in human history, the O’Reilly’s literally compared their planned trek to the Moon landing. They sought donations (never revealed what amounts they had received) and finally went to France with the aging “Count Pompeii” and a brand new horse for Cuchullaine which he bought without seeing it or riding it. Then, according to the O’Reillys the trusted female, French horse trainer to whom they had shipped their horses, intentionally abused the two horses and rendered them unridable. The World Ride died a muffled death. If ever there was an arch-villain in the equestrian world, someone who deserved to have their name and perfidy exposed to the world, surely it was this French woman. But no! The O’Reilly’s went to great lengths to blame her for the collapse of the Ride but never named her. The other remarkable thing about the World Ride is that this couple, the self-appointed world experts on equestrian travel, never published ANY detail about the planning for their magnum opus. Were they going to ride those same two horses all the way? Would they be completely alone or met and travel with others? Saddle bags, pack horses, a sag wagon? Throwing themselves on the mercy of people to take them in each night and feed, house their horses? Yet they literally got to the point of shipping the horses ahead to France and setting a departure date without ever providing the most basic details on how they planned to proceed. One conclusion is that the O’Reilly’s talked a good line but were not personally very adept “Long Riders”. Cuchullaine’s “qualifying ride” (as covered in his fictional book, Khyber Knights) hardly was self-sufficient. Basha’s much touted ride across Russia took 6 months of which she was only riding for two and she had a sag wagon and left the horse and returned to England for other business on several occaisions. It’s in her book. So, I don’t doubt you have had great riding experiences and gleaned good information from the O’Reillys but be aware That the image they (well Cuchullaine now, with Basha gone) portray is one they have carefully created and manicured and maintained and is not authentic.

Ed Ross
Ed Ross
2 years ago

Have read your first book, really enjoyed it. Looking forward to your second book.i pack each summer, but to do a long ride, one must have no obligations like Leite or Bernice. Anyway, still interested.

Bernie Harberts
2 years ago
Reply to  Ed Ross

Hi Ed, Thanks for your kind words about “Too Proud”. If you enjoyed “Too Proud”, I think you’ll really enjoy “Trash to Triumph”. It’s five times as long and gives a really deep dive look into life on the road with two mules. It’s great to hear you pack each summer. Where do you pack? Do you have a trip planned for this summer? Have a great weekend, Ed. Bernie

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