I’m reposting this post below about Aime Tschiffely and his 10,000 mile journey with his horses because I have now just finished reading, THE TALE OF TWO HORSES also by Aime Tschiffely. Basically, he and his two horses traveled from Argentina to Washington, DC in 1925.
And while the book, THE TALE OF TWO HORSES profiles this incredible journey, it is not your ordinary travel book…
It is written as if Tschiffely’s horses, Gato and Mancha wrote it – except as you read the book, you realize that Tschiffely knew his horses so well (and truly loved them), it is he who speaks the story of his beloved friends.
It was almost as if Tschiffely was compelled to write from his compadres’ view points. How could he not? He traveled with them and them alone – for a very, very long time.
So, if you are interested in this epic, amazing journey, you can read it from several angles… ;)
A reader sent in this topic and I am grateful. After doing the research, I find the story fascinating. I have the book on order!
OK, here goes… I’m going to tell the story as I interpreted it.
FROM 1925 – 1928, this new horseman took newly gentled wild Criollo horses on a 10,000 mile trek from Buenos Aires to New York City – alone. Just the three of them!
AIME TSCHIFFELY (pronounced “Chiffayly”) was born in 1895 in Switzerland. At a young age, he moved to England and tried his hand at prizefighting. That didn’t work out so well… But, he was noticed for his scholarly ability – being an avid reader and writer, so Tschiffely was asked to teach at a prominent private school in Buenos Aires. Oh, and while there, he decided to learn how to ride a horse.
Now, does this 29 year-old guy sound like the guy who would decided to take two wild horses on a 10,000 mile horseback trek along rugged terrain over 3 years? Nope. You’d probably believe the story a bit better if some lifelong ranchhand took is young and fit ranch horses on a ride like that. Or maybe a Hun warrior. But a tiny, red haired man from Switzerland with two unbroken Criollo horses? Nah.
But, he did. He did it safely and returned with all three being one big happy, healthy family.
WHERE IT ALL STARTED
I’m not sure how he got the wild hair to make the horseback trip from Buenos Aires to New York, but once it settled, it grew fast in his mind.
Of course, Aime needed horses so he turned to his friend and veterinarian, Emilio Solanet. Solanet was a prominent breeder of the Criollo horse on his large estate, “El Cardal,” in Argentina. The legend goes that Emilio went up into the hillside and brought down two, wild Criollo horses. He had just procured them from a Patagonian Indian. These two horses were currently unbroken and running free on the Argentine pampas before embarking on the 1000 mile drive to bring the horses to the city. In Aime’s own words, “they were the wildest of the wild.”
The vet told Aime that these two, older horses would be his best mounts. Sure, they were wild, but these horses had survived for a very long time out in the wilds with hardly any food. So, that would be a great start…
But, you know what was even more impressive than picking wild horses for this extreme ride? These horses were 15 and 16 respectively. Wow. I have a mare who is 16 this year and I keep thinking I need to retire her for one of my younger horses. Ha! She’s probably just warming up!
Anyway, evidently Mancha and Gato got with the program quickly and became excellent mounts.
Here is how the breed is described:
“The Criollos are the descendants of a few horses brought to Argentina in 1535 by Don Pedro Mendoza, the founder of the city of Buenos Aires. These animals were the finest Spanish stock, at that time the best in Europe, with an admixture of Arab and Barb blood. That they were the finest horses in America is borne out by history and tradition.”
Later, when Buenos Aires was sacked by Indians and its inhabitants massacred, the descendants of these Spanish horses were abandoned to wander over the desolated country. They lived and bred for hundreds of years by the laws of nature. Hunted by Indians and wild animals, they learned to survive with droughts and a harsh climate that allowed only the fittest to survive.”
I tried to find breeders or any available Criollo horses in the US and only found one, who had been sold and lives in Hawaii. Most of the breed lives in Europe and South America. There is a breeder in the UK that had a robust website in English. Here is the link.
THE HORSES: MANCHA AND GATO
Mancha and Gato were amazing individuals who have quite a celebrity status in Buenos Aires. There are statues erected and I’ve even seen photos of a glass case that looks to hold both of their fully tacked bodies. However, I have also learned that they reside in a huge crypt on the ranch, El Cardal, owned by the veterinarian who bred the Criollos and who initially gave these horses to Aime. But, maybe the crypt is just a monument and the two horses are behind the glass. Dunno.
Also, I don’t know if they were geldings. I’m guessing they were but I have not found verification.
Anyway, this is how the Mancha and Gato were described:
“Mancha, (The Spotted One), was a red and white piebald, 16 years old when they started, who delighted in attacking and kicking anyone foolish enough to come near him. His companion, Gato, (The Cat), a 15-year-old buckskin (dun), was only slightly less murderous. Neither horse had ever seen a city, houses, automobiles or a stable. They ignored the luscious alfalfa and oats put before them, instead devouring with relish the straw put down for bedding.
These wild equines were not physically attractive, having none of the finer points of conformation that appealed to the haughty hidalgos of Buenos Aires.
Tschiffely admits as much when he recalls, “Their sturdy legs, short thick necks and Roman noses are as far removed from the points of a first-class English hunter as the North Pole from the South. Handsome is as handsome does, however, and I am willing to state my opinion boldly that no other breed in the world has the capacity of the Criollo for continuous hard work.
Firm comradeship and trust quickly developed between Tschiffely and his half-wild horses. Gato had tamed down quickly. When he found out that bucking and all his repertoire of nasty tricks to unload his rider failed, Gato became resigned to his fate and took things philosophically. Of the two horses, he was the more willing, being the type of horse, Tschiffely says, that if ridden by a brutal man would gallop until he dropped dead. His eyes had a childish, dreamy look. He also possessed a rare instinct for avoiding bogs, quicksand and deadly mud-holes, something his inexperienced rider soon learned to have complete faith in.
Mancha was always alert, an excellent watchdog, who distrusted strangers and would let no-one except Tschiffely saddle or ride him. He completely bossed Gato, who never retaliated. He had fiery eyes, which he used to scan the horizon constantly. Of the two, he never ate too much.”
I also read that Aime never had to tie his horses. To them, Tschiffely was part of their little herd and they never left him. At night, Aime would go to sleep and in the morning, the horses would be there to greet him with a nicker.
Here is a quote from Aime about his very loved steeds:
“If my two Criollos had the faculty of human speech and understanding, I would go to Gato to tell him my troubles and secrets. But if I wanted to step out and do the rounds in style, I’d certainly go to Mancha. His personality was the stronger.”
Oy. Can you imagine crossing on horse back from Buenos Aires to NY? I can’t.
The topography was described at desert, mountain, boggy, quicksand, hot, cold… just about everything. For sure it took 3 years but the mileage is in debate. I see it listed as 10,000 miles and also 15,000 miles. As the crow flies, it is 5253 miles from Buenos Aires to New York City. Whatever, as much as I’d like to, you wouldn’t see me doing it…
Here is an excerpt about the prep and first day: April 23, 1925
In preparation, Tschiffely chose a traditional gaucho saddle, made up of a “light framework, about two feet long, over which is stretched a covering of hide. This sits easily on the horse and being covered with loose sheepskins, makes a comfortable bed at night.” A local pack saddle was found as well.
Equipment for the extensive trip was kept to a minimum. Tschiffely carried a .45 Smith & Wesson, a 12-gauge shotgun, a Winchester .44, maps, passport, letters of credit, compass, barometer, woolen blanket, light rubber poncho, goggles, a large mosquito netting which fitted over his broad-brimmed sombrero. Additionally, he carried a supply of silver coins in his saddlebags in order to pay Indian guides who might refuse paper money.
On the night before his departure, the intrepid horseman recalled that suddenly the carping of his critics and his own inexperience caused him “to be assailed by a sickly feeling, as if my stomach were a vacuum.” Like many before him, his longing for adventure had brought him to the point of no return. The historic horseback ride which had previously sounded so thrilling, was now looming with all its dangers, real and imagined, only a few hours away.
Word had been leaked to the press the next morning, as he prepared to depart. He consented to pose for them, alongside Mancha, who was to serve as packhorse, and Gato, whom he proposed to ride. Rain was falling and the roads leading out of Buenos Aires were already hock-keep in thick, sticky mud. The reporters regarded the whole thing as a huge joke: “A lunatic proposing to travel overland to New York,” – ran one story.
Years later he recalled that after the press bowed and retired with ill-concealed chuckles at his idiocy, he wanted to tell them, “Let fools laugh; wise men dare and win.” But the rain was coming down harder and his own self-doubts kept his opinions to himself.
That first morning, a local stable boy had volunteered to ride beside Tschiffely and show him the best way out of town. The lad was mounted on a big thoroughbred which made the traveller’s stocky little animals look more diminutive than ever. After about an hour they came to a newly-made dirt road, and his guide informed him that by following it he would find his way clear to open country. His deed done, the boy turned his horse and headed home.
“His thoroughbred was steaming with perspiration while my two Criollos showed no sign of having travelled at all,” Tschiffely wrote.
I want to point out the unusual headgear worn by both horses…
AFTER THE RIDE
We all know that they arrived in NY without incident and were wildly received. The threesome were heroes and fanfare was everywhere.
After that, Aime wrote his story. He didn’t have anyone to publish it, however. Everyone turned him down. This seems so odd to me as the story itself is amazing. (But, I might find out once I read it… )
Anyway, Aime was in London shopping his manuscript. As I said, no one took it. But, on a chance introduction, Aime met another amazing man, Robert Graham, who is described as a Member of Parliament, a gaucho in South America, a fencing master, a founder member of both the Independent Labour Party and the Scottish National Party, a rancher, horse-trainer, buffalo hunter and Long Rider through North and South America — he wrote prolifically. Known as “Don Roberto,” he was the author of travel books, a biography, eleven histories of Latin America and fourteen volumes of short stories and sketches.
Graham, who had heard of Aime’s incredible travels, made sure the book was published.
Mancha and Gato marched in the funeral procession for Graham when he died…
Here is a link which holds information on the books written by Aime Tschiffely. I am going to read his book about this epic journey, TSCHIFFELY’S RIDE and I also want to read his loving missive describing his horses, THE TALE OF TWO HORSES.
The end for Manch and Gato came gracefully. They were well cared for an loved. Gato died first in 1944 at the age of 32. Mancha followed in 1947 at the age of 37. Aime passed in 1954.
The Criollo horses were not so well known or preserved before this epic adventure with Tschiffely, Mancha and Gato. They, along with Emilio Solanet are credited with saving the breed.
HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth… if you like this, please pass it around!