This post is for the people who have no clue how I’m caring for Roxy. Those who assume I’m overusing her or abusing her. It’s also for the curious and interested.
3 years ago, I bought Roxy specifically for this trip. I wanted a fast walker that was tough. She was sold to me as a 6 yr old green broke gaited Morgan mare with papers.
As soon as I decided to ride from Canada to Guatemala I wanted to know everything that was necessary to care for a horse while riding 20-50 kms a day.
The four books I read were:
The cavalry horse and his pack
By Col John J Boniface
Trail riding, packing and training
By Stan Walchuk
Endurance riding from beginning to winning
By Lew Hollander
The Horse Travel Handbook
By CuChullaine O’Reilly
I also read thru www.thelongridersguild.com
The 5 resources above were invaluable.
I also spoke with people who had previously done such rides. I read a lot, I trained a lot and I bought a lot of new tack and gear.
Prior to preparing for this 5000 mile ride, I was a handler for a professional sprint racing sled dog operation. The last year I did this, my boss won at every event we attended, and I got 2nd or 3rd with the B teams at times. It was there, and at the previous kennel I worked at, that I learned about harnessing maximum performance. I learned that you can’t win races without the best dogs. But, sometimes, you could beat better teams if you had a better training and feeding program. Vice versa, great dogs were ruined by bad, unobservant training and care.
We would train 1 day in harness, then rest the next day. This was the best way to keep the dogs fresh and eager.
As I read the info on how to use horses for travel, I decided I was not going to do the 5 on 2 off routine. Or even worse, 2 weeks at a time. I was going to go for rest days way more often.
Throughout this trip, over the last 9 months, we have ridden 2 to 4 days then taken 1 to 2 days off. Once, I rode 5 short days in a row, then took 3 days off. We ride 450-650 kms a month. Every 800 kms I rest Roxy up to 7 days. We ride 20 days a month.
My goal from before I started, was to finish the trip with a healthy horse that I could use for many years afterwards. I am on track towards that goal. EVERY vet who has looked over my horse has had positive feedback.
I don’t know where some people are getting the idea that I’m over using my horse. Maybe because they are comparing me to people who go on long trips with little consideration for their animals. Who go for weeks without resting their animals. Whose animals fail or die, because it was the wrong animal, it was overworked, or it was badly taken care of.
I can’t help that there are people who do this. It upsets me greatly that people do these long trips with very little preparation. Furthermore, being compared to those in a recent popular horse travel movie is a bad joke. What I’m doing, and how I’m doing it, is NOTHING like those in that movie.
I spent 3 years of my life preparing for this trip. Throughout this trip, the rules have been:
The questions, photos, parties, horse rides, and so on after.
These rules have pissed off and astounded some people along the way. They can’t believe that I actually don’t give a crap about getting to know them until my horse is taken care of. But it’s my trip, and Roxys’ wellbeing is EVERYTHING.
I continue to walk up and down steep hills even tho those who accompany me don’t. I continue giving her grass and water along the road each day. I continue to give her food and water a certain way every day. I continue to check her back, feet, and attitude. And I continue to refuse advice from horse people who use their horses recreationally or in different disciplines, if it doesn’t relate to what I’m doing.
And this is why she looks so good and continues to perform well.
The right horse. The right preparation. The right exertion. The right rest. The right feeding program.
Please don’t compare what I’m doing to anyone else’s trip. They are all unique.
And before judging, you should know what IS possible first. Just because others have failed, or your horse can’t perform at a high level, doesn’t mean I won’t succeed with a COMPLETELY healthy and happy animal.
Be sure to check out detailed accounts of our feeding program, tack, gear, riding schedule and more in our 5000 miles of hope book!