The Long Riders Guild Academic Foundation
The world’s first global hippological study


Foreword to The Centaur Legacy  by Jeremy James

When a book comes along and bangs you round the head, seizes you by the lapels, leaves you staring into space, head filling with questions, head ringing with answers – what do you do? What do you do? I know what you do: you go and yell at somebody about it: talk to them: lend it to them - dash round to their place and shout: “Hoi! look! Drop whatever you are doing and READ THIS!” Push it into their hands. Then go home. Twiddle your thumbs. Wait. Wait for them to call. When they call – and they will – there will be a minute’s hesitation before they speak: a minute’s pause before the torrent comes. Then you will know that they too have encountered what you did. And that’s a terrific moment.

When first handed this book by The Long Riders’ Guild, I approached it hesitantly. It seemed perhaps somehow abstract, not that I dislike the abstract, far from it, but abstract in a way which didn’t have much relevance for me. Moreover the fact that the author Bjarke Rink himself called it an anthology of essays made it sound remote and perhaps overly academic for my palate. I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting into because the publishers said nothing. On reflection, thinking about it, I realise now what the enigmatic smiles were all about.

Anyway, I took the book, grunted something, closed my door, sighed, sat back, opened the book and began reading.

The words moved: the pages turned. All distractions faded. Noises from the outside world silenced. Everything around my peripheral vision vanished. Just those words stayed. Moving on the page. 

Sitting bolt upright at my desk, holding this book in both hands, eyes wide open and hearing myself saying: “good grief!” again and again, I glanced at my watch. Four hours had passed.

That is the first time a book had seized me like that since I read Dudinsev in the 1970’s.

The Centaur Legacy is a staggering work. It is profound. It is erudite. It is elegant. It is absolutely surprising. It takes your breath away. It is pithy; it is witty, it is full of fun. It is rude. It’s great!  It takes you down alleys no-one has ever trod, makes connections that no-one has spotted. This book brings out the richness of the entire philosophy of equitation which no-one has ever assembled, and in so doing, is the first complete Philosophy of Equitation ever composed. And that on its own is a stunning achievement.

But it is so much more.

When I was young, there were a number of wonderful television series screened in England. One was Lord Clarke’s Civilisation, the other Jakob Bronowski’s The Ascent of Man and the last, Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. Each of these programmes had a remarkable effect: you could actually feel your mind being expanded, being taken in head-bending directions, have things revealed to you that had profound impact upon your thinking. I remember sitting cross-legged on our sitting room floor as a teenager, mouth open and moved to tears as Jakob Bronowski explained to me, in my family sitting room, how the Theory of Relativity worked. I, who had failed every exam in mathematics: I, who was condemned never to be allowed to take Physics as a subject because I was too stupid. I understood the Theory of Relativity at a stroke, in my family sitting room, because of Jakob Bronowski’s ability to present it in a cogent form. Not only was I able to understand but actually repeat it. These three series were fabulously enriching. And they were watched by millions. From all walks of life. They topped the soaps, they topped the every day programmes: they were unmissable.

This book, The Centaur Legacy, falls into precisely the same category. Like the three distinguished men from these three distinguished productions, Bjarke never talks down to you. He never assumes superiority, never takes the high ground. Instead, like them, he takes you by the hand and shows you. Reveals it you. Look, he says, see for yourself. I’m just laying it out in front of you. It’s all there. Always been there. Like the master of his craft, like Bronowski, Sagan and Clarke, he has no time for artificial props: gone is obscurity: gone is myth; gone is the hocus-pocus. He offers room to neither mystery nor mystique, so-called horse lore, the mumbo jumbo of secrecy, horse whispering, special knowledge, all the tosh and nonsense that goes with those who can neither explain nor properly understand their subject. Any claim for the need to belong to some kind of special adept to understand or to control horses is rightly dismissed for the rot it is. He articulates what you have sensed intuitively but never put into words.  He gives you the facts, the truth, laid out, bare, lucidly, comprehensible and absolutely emulateable. All you have to do is sit back and take it in.

How many people can actually manage that? How many people can present complex ideas in the simplest terms, as though you have known these things all your life,  as though all Bjarke has done, is turn on the light.

Isn’t it wonderful when intellect speaks to you like this? It’s so comfortable. It’s so reassuring. It’s so dazzlingly enlightening.  It’s like seeing something for the first time, seeing something when the veils are ripped off.

I am not going to attempt to explain what lies in these pages but leave you the reader, to find out for yourself. Let Bjarke take you there. It’s a memorable journey. A journey that might leave you with one final insight, with which I was left. I felt that had I not read this work, I would have missed out on a whole new world of horsemanship that had not only improved my understanding of it, but made me grasp a human-horse relationship I had not previously appreciated was even there. Bjarke had shown me, better than anyone I have ever read, or known, how to be with a horse and left me knowing for certain, that if I had not read this book, I should not be keeping horses at all.  

Jeremy James, FRGS

Powys, Wales

February 2005

Jeremy James is the author of Saddletramp, Vagabond, The Byerley Turk and Debt of Honour-The Story of the International League for the Protection of Horses.  A Founding Member of The Long Riders’ Guild, Jeremy was made a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in recognition of his equestrian explorations.