Long Riders Guild: "we are determined to lead from the saddle

Posted: Oct 15, 2009 04:02 pm EDT

(ThePoles.com) The Long Riders' Guild Academic Foundation has developed a new Equestrian Exploration Program. Swedish adventurer and long rider, Mikael Strandberg, will be overseeing this program.

ExWeb readers might recall Mikael's sledge-haul winter journey across Siberia a few years back. This time Mikael is preparing for a camel journey from Oman to Morocco.

Strandberg will be giving a presentation in London on 19 October and here goes the Long Riders Guild press release with more about Mikael and their Academic Foundations program.

Equestrian Exploration Program Developed
Leading Explorer Oversees Historic Effort

By CuChullaine OReilly FRGS

Mikael Strandberg

Mikael Strandberg isnt very tall but his name carries a lot of weight in the international exploration community.

He started his professional career as an explorer two decades ago by bicycling 27,500 kilometres from Patagonia to Alaska, via the infamous Darien Gap jungle. Then he pedaled another 90,000 kilometres from New Zealand to Cairo.

After that he parked the bike and explored Latin America on horseback, which won him admittance into the Long Riders Guild, the worlds first international association of equestrian explorers. When he hung up his saddle, he spent a year living among the Masai in Kenya.

Then in 2004 Strandberg made an astonishing winter crossing through Siberia. During this five-month sledge journey, mainly done in utter darkness, he experienced a terrifying cold with average temperatures around -50°F, day and night.

This trip through the coldest inhabited place on earth caused the King of Sweden to award his intrepid subject a silver medal for courage.

Strandberg has produced three internationally renowned television documentaries, written six books, lectured around the world and been deemed the best contemporary explorer in the world by the Explorers Club in London.

Now hes preparing to begin the Great Desert Expedition a camel journey that will take him from Oman to Morocco.

Equestrian Exploration Department

But before departing on that adventure, the Swedish Long Rider will tackle a unique educational challenge. He has agreed to assume responsibility for developing a new Equestrian Exploration Department for the Long Riders' Guild Academic Foundation.

With Mongolia having become the fortieth country to field Long Riders and join the Guild, there is ample evidence to demonstrate that interest in equestrian exploration is exploding, said Basha OReilly, one of the Guilds Founding Members.

Earlier this year an impassioned debate was held regarding the fact that a London-based geographic society hadnt fielded a single expedition in more than a decade. While other organizations vote themselves into obscurity, the Guild has sponsored, mentored or encouraged more than a hundred equestrian expeditions on every continent except Antarctica in less than ten years.

Highest principled standards

Yet while enthusiasm runs high, OReilly reported, leaders of the equestrian exploration movement remain concerned that this mounted renaissance must adhere to the highest principled standards. As Director of Exploration for the Guild, Strandberg will help the LRGAF promote and develop ethical, safe and responsible equestrian exploration and long distance travel.

This is an honour that I accept with dignity. I am looking forward to using my experience in organizing different types of expeditions so as to encourage and educate would-be Long Riders around the world, Strandberg said.

Leading from the saddle

Skeptics may argue that Strandberg and his fellow Long Riders stand little chance of encouraging a generation to take to the saddle and explore Earth. Yet history demonstrates that one persons passion for exploration and education can indeed change the course of events.

This occurred in the fifteenth century when Prince Henry of Portugal established the worlds first school for explorers. At Sagres, on the southwestern tip of Europe, he brought together geographers, cartographers, instrument-makers, astronomers, and mathematicians. The institute was designed to teach navigation, to collect geographical data, invent seafaring equipment and to sponsor expeditions.

The sturdy Swedish explorer is a modern day graduate of that school of thought who has already shared his expertise with the first team of Afghan mountain climbers and a Scandinavian camel expedition crossing the Sahara, not to mention dozens of young adventurers eager for more generalized advice. Strandberg now believes he can help inspire others to explore the world as their forefathers did.

Although Prince Henry never sailed on any of his expeditions, he is credited with instigating the Age of Discovery. Unlike Henry, who inspired but did not travel, we modern Long Riders Guild are determined to lead from the saddle.

In Strandbergs case, this means a camel saddle, not an equestrian one.

Cultural and religious challenges

Though the intrepid Swede has more than twenty years of experience surviving in dangerous places, overcoming tropical diseases, etc., he is about to venture deep into a remote part of the Muslim world on a desert expedition which will certainly require him to deal with cultural and religious challenges, as well as the everyday dangers of trying to survive a trip that would cause Ibn Battuta to have second thoughts.

Ive just returned from studying Arabic and Islam in Yemen. The wonderful experiences I enjoyed there have convinced me that this trip will allow me to build a bridge of exploration which runs between the Islamic world and the West, the enthusiastic explorer explained.

Camel travel division

While the Long Riders Guild is famous for having protected the ancient art of equestrian travel from going extinct, the organization has spent the last two years quietly working to create a new camel travel division as well.

The worlds leading camel travel experts, such as Arita Baaijens who travelled across the Sahara with her dromedary camels and John Hare who journeyed across the Gobi with Bactrian camels, have agreed to lend their academic support to this unique educational effort.

Because of the length and significance of Strandbergs journey, the Guild has honoured him by presenting the explorer with the first LRG flag to accompany a camel expedition.

Insh'Allah, we're going to make exploration history of an unexpected and unprecedented nature, Strandberg said.

A new type of exploration foundation

When asked to explain what prompted the equestrian organization to include Strandberg and his camels, Basha OReilly of the Guild replied, What we envision is an organization that grows out of the original Long Riders' Guild, and goes on to publish books, sponsor new research, and provide funds and equipment to Long Riders."

"This is a new type of exploration foundation, one that preserves mankinds ancient methods of travelling safely and successfully with horses, and now camels. Regardless of what he is riding, Mikael is a perfect example of this blending of mounted courage. END

CuChullaine OReilly has spent more than thirty years studying equestrian travel techniques on four continents. After making lengthy trips by horseback across Afghanistan and Pakistan, he was thereafter made a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. One of the Founding Members of the Long Riders Guild, CuChullaine is the publisher of the worlds largest collection of equestrian travel wisdom, the director of the equestrian academic research organization LRGAF, and the author of Khyber Knights and The Horse Travel Handbook.

Basha OReilly is a Founding Member of The Guild who has also suffered in the saddle in Mongolia. In 1995 she rode from Volgograd to London, becoming the only person in the twentieth century to ride out of Russia. After riding the infamous Outlaw Trail from Mexico to Wyoming, she was made a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in recognition of her equestrian explorations. Yet she began her exploration career as Russian interpreter for a mounted scientific expedition in the Mongolian mountains.

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Swedish explorer Mikael Strandberg in Yemen preparing for his camel expedition from Oman to Morocco (click to enlarge)
Mikael enduring minus 57 degree weather during his sledge-haul journey across Siberia (click to enlarge)
Mikael Strandberg awarded a medal by King of Sweden. Images courtesy of the Long Riders Guild (click to enlarge)

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