Monday, 16 June 2008

An American Long Ride, and why I’m doing it.

After endless months of research, planning, telephone calls, and emails the time is fast approaching when I will be flying out to America for the start of my 2,000-mile long ride. It is my intention to undertake a solo ride from Canada to Mexico, starting off on the border in North Dakota, and all being well, finishing in El Paso, Texas. The trip has been planned to take around five months and I will be using two horses that I have recently bought, one to ride and one to pack. Both are Quarter Horses, and are very similar at 15.2 hands and around eight years old.
As the time draws near, with my excitement beginning to grow I sometimes wonder why I decided to do this at all, especially when you consider that up until six months ago my only experience with our equine friends was on Weston-Super-Mare beach, when my children were young. I think they were called donkeys.
Well, it all started just over a year ago, I had just retired and sold my business, and my children had grown up and left home. So, what was I going to do, I had time on my hands, I was still reasonably fit and active, and I felt much too young to settle down with pipe and slippers. I knew I needed a fresh challenge, something worthwhile and meaningful, but what? Months and months went by and I couldn’t think of a thing, nothing grabbed me, Climb a mountain? No, much to old. Sail around the world? No, not rich enough. Go to the North Pole? No, not brave enough. Oh what could I do? Then, in a wink of an eye it hit me, I knew exactly what I was going to do.
I’m a big Country and Western fan, and I was sitting down listening to some music, as you do, It was the late, great, Marty Robbins. Now Marty recorded a lot of cowboy songs, and with cowboy songs you get a lot of horses, and in this particular song he was relating the story of a cowboy riding to El Paso. Well, it hit me like a train; in that moment I made the decision. I was gonna ride to El Paso. Now the fact that I couldn’t ride didn’t come into it, after all, how hard could that be (wasn’t I the clever one)? So, that song was my main inspiration, however it was allied to the fact that I like America and the people that live in the small towns there, and the thought of meeting them, whilst being on horseback just feels right. About seven years ago, some friends and I were sat outside an old bar in Bandera, Texas, when in the distance we could see a guy on horseback trotting towards us leading a packhorse. Well, he rode up to the bar, tied the horses to the hitching post in front of us and came in to have a beer, luckily he sat down beside us, and we got chatting. He was a Frenchman and he was riding from California to Cuba and he seemed to be just fine. So that also told me that riding through America could be done.
I have had a lot of help, advice and logistical support from a body known as “The Long Riders’ Guild” a group of equestrian explorers, dedicated to helping other long distance riders. They have been kind enough to mention my ride on their website. This is the address, should you care to take a look.
Having now decided to do a long ride, I had to learn to ride, and learn Western style, luckily for me there was a Western riding stable fairly close by, It was called “The Mendip Stud”, I made an appointment for a Western experience day towards the end of last November, where I met John, Lou, and Lisa, feeling slightly foolish I explained that I wanted to ride down through America, and could they help me, and could they teach me to ride by July. To their great credit and without any hesitation they said they could, and the rest as they say, is history.I would like to express my gratitude to John, Lou, and Lisa who have helped me over and above the call of duty, and not only has Lisa taught me to ride, she has also given me truckloads of advice and many hours of her own time, which I know will prove invaluable in the months to come. My thanks also to RL, Mo, Smarty, Jarvis, et al. For their tolerance, and forgiving natures during the last six months.


John at TMS said...

To say Bob is one of a kind is an understatement.

He is his own kind. Successful in business, a family man, honest, even-tempered, courageous and brave but above all a real adventurer in the classical sense.

Bob is setting out on a journey – in countryside and temperatures he is unused to – using a vehicle he has only just learned to ride – across one of the world’s great continents - without a support team travelling behind him in a truck – on his own – and doing it not for financial reward but because its there do to …… and all that after raising a family and working all his life. As I said a true adventurer

Bob came to us asking for help to get himself ready for this trip some six plus months ago. What was clear from the outset was that Bob WAS going to do this with or without our help and that if we wanted to get involved we’d better jump on the bandwagon with him. That we did albeit with a little sense of scepticism and concern in the early days.

It is a mammoth undertaking that Bob had set himself and we have seen him put in countless hours of effort and determination to get himself prepared as best he can for his Journey. He has met every challenge and has come through a tough and at times hard learning curve with his humour, wit and dignity in tact………..he has already achieved more than most.

Bob has become a friend over the time he has been coming here learning the basics of riding and preparing himself for his trip – we admire his tenacity and courage and wish him well in the months to come. We will be monitoring his travels on our website and I’m sure Bob will be replaying Lisa words of wisdom over and over again in the months to come.

Good luck and God’s speed Bob.

John, Lou, Lisa and all two and four- leggeds at The Mendip Stud.

Ride em out Bob see ya in five months !

Jazz said...

Dear Bob, so glad to see you have made it here. Your site looks great, so does your gear and horses. Looks like you are already a pro. I LOVE your saddle ! I want your saddle, lol I need your saddle. Call me if you need anything I'll be checking here daily for updates.
Jan: if you need my phone or whatever just email me private and I'll get that to you right away.
Good Luc Bob, hope all goes well.
Your friend Sue

Jazz said...

Hiya Bob,
Hoping all is going well with you. I'll bet you can't wait to start out.
Hoping to see some pictures soon as possible.
YF Sue

Jazz said...

Hi Bob and Jan,
I hope that its not so hot by you as it is here. 90's and so still that its suffocating.
I will be heading to driving school in about 12 days. I got a high speed driving award in Kentucky a week ago and have to go to court on the 30th. That has delayed my departure by about 2 weeks.
Else I would be emailing this from North Carolina.
I hope that all is well with you two and that you are finding the weather and the horses and traveling all falling into place and that you stay safe and healthy.
Take care

John at TMS said...

Hi bob,

Greetings from all of us at Mendip.

We are including you in our programme and teling everyone about your trip - can you send us a update and message through Jan please.

be safe and well - all at TMS

Vicki O said...

Bob - I am Sharon and Jim Molines neighbor. May you truly enjoy the Mah Ha Dey Trail - I have ridden the North Unit. What a Blessed place. But Watch for the Sink Holes - Occasional Buffalo - Cows -some snakes (sometimes rattlers) and I and my Horse Robbie found Quik Sand. I took the saddle off to lighten his load.. Then a Real Cowboy rode up and said Big Mistake..Keep the Saddle on so if Horse cannot get out they rope the saddle horn to pull them out. I only found it once so..Just try stay on the current trail that others or other animals have used. Bless you in your travels. Enjoy the Badlands..I know I cherished every second there. Happy Trails. Vicki O