Cuchullaine and Basha O'Reilly, founders of The Long Riders Guild, have unabashedly established themselves as experts on the subject of equestrian travel and history of equestrian travel. Cuchullaine O'Reill has been very public with denunciations of people and events that do not meet his own standards of equestrian behavior. He has also been very vocal in criticizing any institution (The Explorers Club, the Royal Geographical Society) and any person who does not share both his views and the primacy of his views.

In 2010 the O'Reilly's promoted creation of a law to regulate horse trainers. They also broadly impugned the horse training methods commonly known today as "Natural Horsemanship". After declaring they would depart on The World Ride in 2008, an event they equated in historical significance with landing on the moon, the O'Reilly's finally traveled to Europe in 2010 to begin The World Ride. When Cuchullaine's horse, purchased without him ever riding it, was allegedly "ruined" by an unnamed horse trainer in France, they postponed The World Ride until the following Spring, 2011. Since that time the website for The World Ride has gone dark and there has been little to nothing heard from them other than Cuchullaine promoting his controversial book 'Deadly Equines: The Shocking True Story of Meat-Eating and Murderous Horses'.

Given the role they have chosen for themselves as experts and arbiters of the aforementioned subjects, it seems reasonable to ask some questions about the O'Reillys' background and qualifications.

These are the stated qualifications to be a member of the "Long Riders Guild":

Cuchullaine and Basha O'Reilly being the founders and first members of the Long Riders Guild, it can be illustrative to look at the rides they did to qualify for their very club over which they exercise complete control.

Cuchualline's qualification as a Long Rider appears to be solely based on a horseback trip in Pakistan in 1988. In spite of the assertion by Cuchullaine in his own LRG biography (written in self-interview format) that he did this trip solo, in the fictionalized account he clearly had several companions including a primary companion, Noor Khan. Mr. Khan is another American who, like Cuchullaine, converted to Islam and took an Islamic name. Mr. Khan also wrote a book, a NON-fictional account of the same journey upon which Cuchullaine based his fiction. One of the prime directives of journalism is keeping your story straight, an area where Cuchullaine O'Reilly seems to fall short.

Given that Mr. O'Reilly makes much of his training, degree and practice of journalism, this all begs the question of whether or not any fictionalized account of an equestrian journey qualifies the author for membership in the LRG. If one reads Cuchullaine's book and then Noor Khan's book, you can presumably separate the fact from the fiction. Cuchullaine has chosen to remove entire, significant events that affected the dynamic of the trip, for instance, his own wedding in Pakistan and the inclusion of his wife at the time on the trip. While that decision may have good reasoning behind it, it leaves the author free to unleash his imagination when describing his own actions and the level of derring-do he exhibited on the trip. And yet, here, Basha O'Reilly declares “Every word you read is true. A few names have been changed here and there, but that was basically what happened.”

Ultimately this points out an uncomfortable truth; that Mr. O'Reilly, qualified by his own fiction, is the LRG's arbiter of what qualifies for membership.

Basha O'Reilly's qualification as a Long Rider is based, according to LRG documents, interviews, etc. on two events. The first was a ride from Volgograd to London in 1995. In a radio interview in 2008 she explains how the journey occured over a 6 month period though she only rode for two months of that time. She also reveals that she had a truck follow her every day, carrying her supplies and meeting her at the end of the riding day. No pack animals or inn to inn ride. Equestrian travelers will note the resemblance of such a ride to the format of many commercial "adventure travel" rides. Cuchullaine holds in low esteem commercial "pony treks" as he calls them.

Basha's second qualifying ride was the Outlaw Trail. Basha rode from the Mexican border to Hole in the Wall with two men, Richard Adamson and Simon Casson. Casson and Adamson continued on to the Canadian border. They used pack horses and the story is documented in "Riding the Outlaw Trail" by Casson and Adamson via Amazon. This was apparently a very challenging trip, both in terms of the logistics and the interpersonal dynamics. It is still unclear why Basha refuses to make any comment on the trip. Adamson was one of the "sag wagon" drivers for Basha on her ride across Russia.

Basha also claims to have been the Russian language translator on a "scientific expedition" (basically a commercial pony trek with a veneer of science) in Mongolia in 1994. In 1995, on her "qualifying" Long Ride across Russia, she declares that she doesn't speak Russian. There may be a perfectly sensible explanation for that discrepancy, but just asking the question has sent the O'Reilly's into panic mode. More questions for Basha here.

None of this information is presented to suggest that the LRG and LRAF haven't done valuable and estimable work in finding and resurrecting many books about equestrian travel. But as examples like Lance Armstrong and Greg Mortensen illustrate, doing good works does not release one from responsiblity to personal integrity and honest representation of your experiences and qualifications. Good works do not immunize you from the responsibility to answer questions raised about your professional claims.

I would point out this quote from a Long Rider Academic Foundation page, presumably written by one or more of the O'Reillys.

"The Threat of Internet Ignorance
Science is mankind’s one truly global culture, whose common vision transcends all differences of nationality and faith. However, as equestrian wisdom has declined, ignorance and superstition increased. The result is that we are witnessing the rise of an age of equestrian disinformation, one where a trusting public can graze on nonsense packaged to look like fact. In such a horse world the expert is all too often the one who has a talent, not for science, but self-promotion. Unless steps are taken, orthodox equestrian scholarship will be undermined by the infection of irrationality

Does it not stand to reason that those who most vociferously declare themselves experts and arbiters of truth should properly be most candid and open about their claims to expertise? The Long Riders website and Long Riders Academic Foundation website are massive in word count but essentially stem from the perspective of two self-declared experts who indignantly resist any basic scrutiny of the basis for their claims to expertise. When you build a very bully pulpit, the public has every right to pull back the colorful bunting around the base of that pulpit and inspect it for soundness and integrity.