1. Equine snowshoes used in Sweden (click to enlarge).
2. Equine snowshoes used by Norwegian cavalry.(click to enlarge).
Horse snowshoes found left behind in Scott's hut.
courtesy www.thelongridersguild.com, SOURCE
ExWeb Special part 1: "Equine snowshoes could have saved Captain Robert Scott," The Long Riders' Guild finds

Posted: Jul 18, 2007 10:03 pm EDT
(ThePoles.com) Two weeks back, an email arrived to ExWeb from The Long Riders' Guild. Subject: "Captain Robert Scott and his team would not have died on their return journey from the South Pole in 1912 if they had used the equine snowshoes available to them."

"What we uncovered was alarming"

CuChullaine O'Reilly, one of the Founding Members of The Long Riders' Guild, has an important equestrian discovery to share. The Long Riders' Guild Press, which publishes Classic Travel Books, had just completed, with the assistance of Edmund Hillary, Alexandra Shackleton and Falcon Scott, new editions of three important Antarctic exploration books.

While doing the research for these books, The Long Riders' Guild said they realised the magnitude of equestrian mistakes committed in Antarctica by British explorers. "What we uncovered was alarming, yet the lack of knowledge surrounding these events amounted to the most incredible act of equestrian exploration amnesia in history!" CuChullaine writes.

"For example, one of London's leading equestrian editors was astonished to learn that horses were used in Antarctica."

Here goes part one of the Long Riders' Guild report:

A brick wall of misunderstanding

What The Guild discovered was that a brick wall of misunderstanding existed between equestrians and Antarctic experts: i.e. the equestrian community had forgotten these poor ponies had ever existed, while pedestrian Antarctic historians have made a point of poking fun at the snow-shoes, the value of
which they still don't understand.

This equestrian breakthrough came about thanks to New Zealand's Antarctic preservationists. Our research began when Nigel Watson sent us a photo of two equine snow-shoes the AHT had just excavated from under the ice in Scott's stable.

These snow-shoes were identical to the ones used by the Norwegian military in the Arctic Circle today! (See photographs of 3. Equine Snowshoes discovered in Scott's hut and 2. Equine snowshoes used by Norwegian cavalry).

Snow shoes were left behind at Base Camp!

The Belgian Long Rider and military historian, Robert Wauters, who had documented the Norwegian equine snow-shoes, consulted his fellow military experts in Europe. They quickly confirmed that this historically vital piece of equestrian equipment had been in constant use for at least 500 years. (See photograph 1. Equine snowshoes used in Sweden).

Confronted with this new evidence, it suddenly dawned on us that Captain Robert Scott, who died with four of his team members only 11 miles from safety, might not have perished had they used equine snow-shoes! For reasons still under investigation, all but one of the sets of snow shoes were left behind at Base Camp.

Scott wrote in his expedition diary, "though Oates hasn't any faith in them.... the effect was magical..."

Yet Scott himself knew they could double the speed of the horses. In his diary he wrote: "One thing is certain. A good snow-shoe would be worth its weight in gold on this surface, and if we can get something really practical we ought to greatly increase our distances next year." And when a set was put on the pony Scott wrote in his expedition diary, "though Oates hasn't any faith in them.... the effect was magical..." Scott went on to write about "the triumph of the snow-shoe" and said they were "worth their weight in gold."

Ironically, it was Captain Oates - who famously declared "I am just going outside and could be some time" when bravely sacrificing his life in the hope his companions might live - who though he had been hired to oversee the expedition's equestrian matters, considered the critically important snow shoes an "unmitigated nuisance".

No experience

What no-one until now has appreciated is that Oates' equestrian experience did not match the requirements of this equestrian exploration. Oates had no experience with horses in a Polar setting. Antarctic historians have mistakenly believed that because Oates had ridden with the cavalry in South Africa, played polo in India, hunted in Ireland and raced thoroughbreds in England, that these experiences in temperate or hot climates prepared him for Polar equestrian exploration.

In fact The Guild has now confirmed that the only training the semi-wild Manchurian ponies received came about thanks to a brief episode provided by a New Zealand trainer, and not because of Oates, whose only contribution seems to have been the deliverance of two generalized lectures about equestrian matters while the expedition was wintering in Antarctica.

Here again, this part of the equestrian mystery has never been documented or understood.

Indeed, just last week one leading Antarctic historian talked about the "eccentric" use of horses in Polar regions. And when the LRGAF asked the experts at the Scott Polar Research Institute to tell us who had informed Scott about the use of equine snow-shoes, these Antarctic experts replied, "There are no details in any archival material that we can find."

Tomorrow, part 2 final: "There was nothing Johnny Foreigner had to teach the British"!

The Long Riders' Guild is the world's only international association of equestrian explorers and long distance equestrian travellers. It began with five equestrian explorers from three countries. Today they have Members in 32 countries, all of whom have ridden a minimum of 1,000 continuous miles on an equestrian journey. Every major equestrian explorer alive today belongs to the Guild, including:

Hadji Shamsuddin, of Afghanistan, who just rode 1,000 miles through that war-zone; Jean Louis Gourard, 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 Patagonia to Alaska.

At one thousand pages, and still growing, The Long Riders' Guild website is the repository of the largest collection of equestrian travel information in history. This open-source, academic website serves as a commercial-free Guild Hall, library, equipment room and meeting place for the world's mounted explorers.

The Guild has recently launched The Long Riders' Guild Academic Foundation, an international research project devoted to all Hippological Arts and Sciences.

The Guild maintains its own publishing house, offering the world's greatest equestrian travel books. The Long Riders' Literary Collection houses more than one hundred titles in seven languages, all of which are published via the most environmentally friendly methods available.

The Guild also operates the Classic Travel Books project, which has now published nearly one hundred travel titles in the last year including the works of living authors such as Christopher Ondaatje, Ranulph Fiennes and Robin Hanbury-Tenison, as well as classic authors such as George Borrow, Isabella Bird and Robert Cunninghame Graham.

They just completed, with the assistance of Edmund Hillary, Alexandra Shackleton and Falcon Scott, new editions of three of the most important Antarctic exploration books of all time. The royalties from these books will be donated to the New Zealand based Antarctic Heritage Trust's efforts to preserve the Scott and Shackleton Antarctic huts. Because of these efforts to support the AHT rescue plans that The Guild received letters of thanks and acknowledgement from the New Zealand Prime Minister and HRH Princess Anne.