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. http://www.thelongridersguild.com/jones.htm
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.