October 17, 2008
This article was first published in the United States by Western Horseman magazine and is based on original research done by the Long Riders' Guild Academic Foundation. For more information, please visit their websites: www.lrgaf.org, www.thelongridersguild.com, or www.horsetravelbooks.com.
The setting of a new record for mileage in competitive trail-riding by 37-year-old Elmer Bandit is a remarkable effort. CuChullaine O'Reilly delves back nearly 100 years to describe another astonishing feat of equine endurance.
In 1912, four riders embarked on a 20,000 mile cross-country trip they hoped would bring them fortune and fame. One magnificent horse made their dream a reality.
It was called the ride of the century, a 20,000-mile, three-year odyssey through desert, mountain, and swamp that four young horsemen dreamed would make them famous.
Instead, they rode into oblivion.
The year was 1912, and as George Beck, part-time Washington logger, sometimes visionary, and full-time horseman explained to his three closest companions, fame and fortune lay in the saddle, not with the axe.
"Logging is a lousy business," he said. "We're lucky if we work 6 months a year. In the meantime, there's a World's Fair, the Panama Pacific International Exposition, comin' up in San Francisco in 1915. The gold is there. We have the nags and gear. Let's ride to every state capital in the Union. Let's make the longest horse ride on record and get ourselves a reputation. We'll win fame. We'll write an adventure book. We'll put on a show on the midway at the Exposition. There's a pot of gold out there and we'll find it," Beck assured his friends.