Think of all the clichés that come to mind when you consider the romantic word “Hawaii.” Palm trees, hula dancers, sun-drenched beaches, an untouched tropical culture. Now interject a group of hard-riding Mexican vaqueros chasing herds of imported wild cattle across the lush green mountain sides. Throw in a crew of Yankee swindlers and missionaries bent on conquering the island. Bring on board the local king, who is trying to preserve his realm from outsiders, and you will begin to understand the equestrian kingdom of Hawaii circa 1872. It was into this equine maelstrom that Isabella Bird had wandered by mistake. Bound from New Zealand to San Francisco, Isabella had come ashore at Hawaii on an impulse. What she discovered was not what she had been expecting. Soon after cattle were introduced onto the island, they went wild and could not be managed by islanders on foot. The King therefore enlisted the aid of imported Mexican vaqueros, who brought with them not only their horses and saddles, but also their sense of equestrian panache. When Isabella Bird landed she discovered a still untrammelled tropical paradise. However, the once pedestrian Hawaiians had taken to the saddle with a vengeance. The islanders rode – everywhere – and the clergyman’s daughter soon joined them. Having never ridden astride because of the English cultural taboo, Isabella was reluctant to cast aside her native equestrian traditions. When she did, the greatest female equestrian traveller of the Victorian age came to life. This book recounts the first of Isabella Bird’s remarkable mounted adventures. Though she went on to explore the Rocky Mountains, Japan, Persia, and Tibet on horseback, Isabella first stepped into the saddle and onto the pages of Long Rider history in Hawaii. This classic account of thrilling equestrian adventure tells the story of one woman’s discovery of both her own soul and the wide world beyond.
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