Don't give up!
-- A stranger
I am feeling, to put it simply, overwhelmed.
-- A stranger
I am feeling, to put it simply, overwhelmed.
I went to the Western States Horse Expo today. It was very enjoyable, I learned quite a bit, got some free samples and many, many ads for equine products. I had more information thrown at me than I am able to process. Overall, it was fun and (I think!) worthwhile.
But it has also brought all my doubts about my Centauride plans into the forefront of my mind…
- Is it possible to ride a horse to all the locations I am planning, especially in high-traffic areas?
- Will I be able to find safe and legal places to stop each night?
- Will my horse and I both ever be ready to ride in the conditions we’ll meet (bikes, cars, bridges, etc), much less “on time”?
- Will I be able to afford the journey?
- Is it even legal these days?
As I walked around the several buildings full of vendor booths, looking at all the displayed wares proclaiming Comfort! Health! Safety! Necessity! I started to wonder again at what I will actually need. Doubtless much of the advertising is simply good marketing strategy, but some of it is true: I do need a good saddle, first aid kit, various horse camping equipment, etc. But can I get by with second-hand equipment? Will it hold up? How important will it actually be to get the best quality, lightest weight gear? Probably pretty important, as my experience and what I have heard from other longriders (those who I endearingly refer to in my mind as “trailblazers”). But all this gear is so expensive. My day job only makes slightly above minimum wage – enough to provide my bare essentials of living plus board for my horse. And that is not even beginning to consider the potential legal debt I might have when the divorce is eventually finalized. But I put that aside… there are plenty of (legal!) ways to raise money, and even more ways to cut back on expenses. Plus, I will have to travel very light, and that in of itself limits the amount of equipment and gear I can bring. I guess I can get by without that dreamy cowgirl hat.
Watching the clinicians talk about and demonstrate horse training techniques, and showcase the skills of their well-trained horses, it seems like I have a long way to go before my horse is good enough for such an adventure as that on which I plan to take him. He has a lot of skills to learn, and so do I. We have a lot of practicing to do. And I cannot take 15 years to do it. I would like to have him be as “soft” as a Kerry Kuhn colt, as responsive to the slightest touch as a Kalley Krickeburg horse, as educated as a Charles Wilhelm Super Horse, and as willing and confident as a Parelli Savvy graduate. I want him to be able to ride through anything with hardly a flinch, turn on a dime, stop on a pin, stand like a statue, and do it all with no bridle. But I know that I don’t actually need him to be perfect to go on this ride. Even the demo horses were not all perfect. He can be close enough. After all, I won’t be doing the ride without a bridle!
But the part of the Expo that brought up my biggest doubts was one lady. One “experienced trail rider.” She gave a talk on horse camping and trail riding, and had some valid and useful insights into trip planning and trail safety. She mentioned some places that allow horses overnight, such as many fairgrounds and a few rest stops. After the talk, I asked her about the facilities at such places, in her experience, and told her I was planning on riding into those places. She was confused why I would be riding on city streets, and was certain it was illegal to do so without a permit or other permissions from the local government. And into a big city, like Sacramento! Certainly not! No one would ever allow it without police escort! I admit, I hadn’t worried about the legality of riding a horse on a city street (or sidewalk)… I know it is legal in Denver (as they inform everyone who attends the annual stock show parade). And I know that you cannot ride (or lead) a hose across the Golden Gate Bridge (I checked, just in case the route could go that way – how cool that would have been!) But other places? Maybe she’s right! Yet I should not let her scare me – she only rides “real” trails, and had never heard of a longride when I asked her some follow up questions, and looked like she thought it was crazy to be out of range of a horse trailer at any time… she reminded me of RV campers who are shocked and appalled at the idea of backcountry backpacking, and would in their fear of the great outdoors tell you that it cannot be done. And anyway, I can call all the municipalities my route is planned through, just to double check. A time consuming task, to be sure, but not insurmountable. And plenty of people ride their horses along city streets, whether around their neighborhoods, for downtown carriage rides (maybe requiring a permit, but legal all the same), for parades (again, legal by some means), or whatever. Not to mention the other longriders who have already ridden in such places along their own routes!
Whenever I have these moments of doubt, I remember the stranger who – seemingly randomly, but at the perfect time – told me “don’t give up” on planning my longride. He had only just heard about it, knew next to nothing about it, but his earnestness was remarkable, and his words and the almost urgent tone in which he spoke them stuck with me. When I doubt the possibility of making this longride, The Centauride, happen, I think of him. He believed in it. With all the challenges that I’ll face, I can still believe in it too.
Now it’s back to the (map-)drawing board. And the barn. And the trails. There’s a lot of work to be done, but I guess it’s not insurmountable after all.