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If one wished to find an example of equestrian courage, and intellectual bravery, one need look no further than Marie Isabelle. This amazing horse trainer’s abilities were so extraordinary that the French government employed her in 1853 to teach their cavalry officers and horses using her ground-breaking new methods. The subsequent uproar from chauvinistic traditionalists ripped the French horse world apart.
Sadly, even though Marie Isabelle’s philosophy was, "Down with routine and false equestrian principles,” all traces of this talented equestrian trainer and philosopher have been lost.
With the help of the global equestrian community, The Long Riders’ Guild is hoping to bring about the end of a long intellectual drought by undertaking a global search for the equestrian wisdom of people like Marie Isabelle.
With a host of rare equestrian books and primary research documents on hand, and with the help of Long Riders residing in fifty countries, The Long Riders’ Guild Press wishes to work with writers willing to investigate a host of daring equestrian topics deemed too risky to be tackled by the main-stream publishing world. With more than two hundred books currently in print in eight languages, The Guild will be willing to work with authors to create new works based on hitherto neglected equestrian ideas, personalities, and practices.
These projects require creativity and emotional energy, the twin movers of intellectual enterprise, and a willingness to question the group canon.
The Guild, which has primary material on a number of topics of equestrian interest, would be interested in publishing in-depth articles or books about these neglected equestrian issues.
Here are a few examples.
The LRG-AF believes there is an immediate need to instigate an equestrian investigation into one of the modern world's most famous tales, namely Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy.
What is not needed is a recitation of equestrian events in the LOTR. What the LRG-AF would like to demonstrate is how incredibly accurate Professor Tolkien was in terms of his equestrian writing. While others have previously explored, and documented, how Tolkien went to great lengths to weave fact-based linguistic, historical and cultural research into his work, no one has yet to document how accurate the Professor's equestrian observations were. This would therefore be the first equestrian study done on the LOTR that the LRG-AF is aware of.
In order to set the correct tone, we would ask a qualified writer to please provide a background on Tolkien's own equestrian background. Is there any information about his family having been riders? Where did JRRT learn to ride? What equestrian activities do we know he did? Did he ride during the First World War. In other words, the article would need to provide actual equestrian evidence which would serve as the practical background for the equestrian events depicted in the Lord of the Rings. Also, are there any known literary links from books JRRT read, which included depictions of equestrian events, that might have served as literary equestrian influences for the LOTR?
With the background established, we would be curious to learn about the following issues:
* how Tolkien created an equestrian culture in Rohan and how he contrasted that lifestyle against the pedestrians who occupied Middle Earth, i.e. dwarves, elves, hobbits and orcs
* how Tolkien contrasted the two primary alpha male heroes, Gandalf and Aragorn, as horseman and "strider"
* how Tolkien used his knowledge of English/European equestrian culture, history and events to accurately depict how Bill the pack pony was incorporated into the narrative, ( for example was this horse's role based on the widely known use of Fell ponies as pack horses?)
* how Tolkien used Gandalf's role as a "Long Rider" to introduce the concept of equestrian travel into the narrative -
* how Tolkien maintained the accuracy of his travel story by moving the characters, and their horses, across the imaginary landscape at the speed of the horses, unlike Hollywood with its lightning fast cinematic cowboys who gallop everywhere and set up camp with previously undisclosed coffee pots, etc.
These are some of the types of equestrian factors which our readers would be interested in knowing, though we would welcome the writer's input into addressing other equestrian areas of interest or concern which might arise during the investigation. With the background laid, it would certainly be worth while to ask Christopher Tolkien, the author's son, to grant the LRG-AF writer an interview.
The LRG-AF would also enjoy publishing passages from the three books that depicted the horses and equestrian events being investigated. Here is an excellent example which we discovered on a LOTR fan website, entitled "Ride Light."
"Ride light. Carry food and fodder to last until Mundberg; we need look no further.” Their captain glanced around the encampment. “Leave the tents; take only your bedrolls. Let us sleep behind the City walls, if that is our fate.”
The men sorted their gear as they packed. They had brought small comforts from their farmsteads--
Cooking pots, a sack of walnuts,
Feather pillows, oil lamps,
Folding stools, a painted chessboard.
As they set these goods aside, they bid their homes a last farewell. Then they turned the horses to the south. No longer encumbered, they rode the more swiftly."
To put The Long Riders' Guild's equestrian exploration efforts into proper perspective, earlier today a North American Long Rider offered this bit of advice to a would-be equestrian traveller.
"The bottom line for Long Riders is always weight. If the total of your cantle and horn bags is more than 18 pounds, you are reducing your chances of success & increasing the chances you will walk more than ride across the country."
As this modern Long Rider conversation proves, JRRT was providing his readers with equestrian travel principles that were not only time-honoured but are still in use today.
Moreover, Tolkien's equestrian influence has indeed been much more widespread than people suspect. Most markedly, the noted British equestrian historian, Dr. Elaine Walker, recently listed "Tolkien's Rohirrim" as her strongest literary influence. This is a truly historic equestrian investigation and the LRG-AF would be immensely pleased if this overlooked story could be presented to our international audience of equestrian explorers and equestrian academics.
Citizen Scientist – The Story of Mary Littauer
In an equestrian world dominated by stories regarding people who become rich by riding in circles or jumping horses over painted sticks, it is tragic loss to mankind that no one has enshrined the academic achievements of Mary Littauer.
She was married to the noted Russian rider and author, Vladimir Littauer, who encouraged Mary to try her hand at writing. Though her scholarly career did not commence until her mid-50s, Littauer became one of the world’s leading experts on chariots and early horse domestication. Disregarding the fact that she never attended college, Littauer co-authored books with the Dutch expert, Dr. Joost Crouwell, which are classics of equestrian research. Additionally, she inspired many of today’s leading equestrian scientists, including Dr. Sandra Olsen, Curator of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Sadly, the inspiring story of this citizen scientist is yet to be recorded.
Furusiyya – Mounted Wisdom of the Mamluk Warriors
The Mamluks were the mounted warriors who ruled Egypt from 1250 until their defeat by Napoleon. These knights of the Islamic world maintained a strict equestrian protocol which educated them on the arts of horsemanship, including riding, veterinary science and mounted archery. Several books were written by leading equestrian experts of the time, wherein the wisdom of the Muslim mounted world was carefully preserved and passed on to the Mamluk reader/riders. Who were the Mamluks and what did they learn when they studied Furusiyya? That story has yet to be told.
Roman Races - Though it is commonly remembered that the Romans loved chariot races, what has been largely forgotten is how this equestrian activity was connected to pagan beliefs and practices. As the sport began to receive imperial support, its religious dimension also increased, until it became perceived as an expression of paganism. Various aspects of the game had astrological significance and the chariots represented different Roman gods and goddesses. Yet with the exception of the film, Ben Hur, little common knowledge has been presented about what was once the world’s most expensive equestrian event
Destination Gobi – Every war has its secrets and its spymasters. But could an American espionage outfit have allied itself with Mongols fighting the Japanese? That’s what the evidence suggests: during the 1940s a highly secretive US naval spy ring assisted the descendants of Genghis Khan by supplying them with US cavalry saddles. Sound far-fetched? Then ask yourself why in 1953 Hollywood made a film describes how American servicemen rode and fought alongside Mongolian nomads, thanks to the prior donation of nearly 100 used McClellan saddles, which had been authorized by US spies, then dropped in by American air transport. Was this film really "based on a true story"?
Soviet Salami – While most eyes were focused on the falling of the notorious Berlin Wall, an infamous, and largely undocumented, equestrian slaughter was quietly under way in eastern Europe. With the fall of the Soviet Union came an unprecedented equestrian opportunity. Because of its Soviet era dependency on equine transport and agricultural methods, eastern Europe was home to millions of horses. Yet with the withdrawal of Russian money and military might, farmers in countries like Poland, Romania and Yugoslavia were cash-strapped and horse wealthy. So, according to confidential Long Rider sources, Mafia-connected buyers from Italy were able to purchase horses for pennies on the pound, transport them to abattoirs via cruel trucking methods, and turn an impressive culinary profit. The resultant equinocide was responsible for the loss of millions of horses and the believed extinction of at least one breed, the Croatian Marsh Horse.
A Tolerance for Cruelty – An equestrian philosopher once wrote, “If God gave us a larger brain to outwit the horse, He also gave us a sense of morality to guide us in how we treat them.” While it is well known how the 19th century horse world eventually outlawed the practices of docking horses’ tails for appearance sake, or slitting their nostrils to supposedly improve their breathing, a number of modern equine practices, sports and events are being perpetrated with no regard for the immense equine cruelty involved in their practice. The most notorious North American example is the Omak Stampede, whereby Indian riders force their horses to plunge off a cliff at night time, stumble down a steep hill in the dark, swim across a river, and, if they survive, race on to a nearby rodeo arena where the winner claims a cash prize. Though routinely denounced because of the number of horses who die in this brief event, those with a financial stake in perpetrating this wretched event claim it is based on an Native American equestrian tradition. The Long Riders’ Guild has research material indicating that this barbaric race was actually conceived by a Caucasian rodeo promoter in the early 1930s.