River Pilot has successfully completed the Fall 2011 Southeast Horse Scouting Evolution. The entire team did a wonderful job and all are well.
Here are the final details of the scouting trip:
The purpose of this evolution was to:
Scout the American southeast for upcoming tours.
Test horses and equipment for upcoming River Pilot Tours.
Create a "Long Distance Horse Riding - Best Practices, Procedures and Equipment" document.
This trip was planned as a way to learn about the people and culture of the southeast U.S. for future tours with the premise of being an unsupported evolution that would ultimately prove that a person or group could travel for extended periods of time on horses without a support vehicle or detailed preliminary planning, while maintaining proper horse nutrition and health. With this event that concept and objective was successfully completed.
The most rewarding part of this evolution was the reinforcement that there remains intact in the U.S., some of the most thoughtful, friendly and welcoming people on the planet. The overwhelming hospitality was so gracious at times that River thought he was merely staying with extended family. That was a welcome and rewarding experience. River described it as, "One person reaching out to another to create an environment that ensured success and to achieve delineated goals." River is grateful for all the folks that just wanted to be part of something close to their home, community or interests. To all of those folks, too numerous to list here, River says, “Thank You”
River was able to see some of the most interesting countryside in the southeast. For over 30 years, River has traveled throughout the U.S. and world numerous times but this event allowed him to explore small corridors of the southeast that is difficult to do either in a car or motorcycle. River says, "The ability to be outside, hearing and seeing the wildlife, slowly taking in the colors and nuance of the surrounding area while leisurely meeting people for a conversation was exactly what I was seeking. These are the experiences we intend to bring to our tours."
River continued to appreciate a warm shower, an old barn and a warm cup of coffee. The simplest things in life that we might take for granted in a civilized world continue to impress him as the luxuries that transform us from one state to another. River stayed in a hay wagon, many old barns, in extravagant homes, moderate and meager surroundings, upstairs apartments, in the forest and in many a field while on this evolution. In reflection, he couldn't say one is any more necessary than another. It worked out that as long as he had a place to sleep and the horses were watered and fed, all of the team members were happy and content.
The ride had some humorous and odd things happen. Four dogs decided to follow River during the 48 days. Two went back home by themselves and the other two were taken back. The horses decided they wanted to walk away from River in the middle of the tour in a remote area. They actually ended up running away so River had to walk a half mile up a hill to retrieve them and get back on track. A fun day was when River spent the night in a safari around giraffe, hyena and monkeys who ran all over their cage while swinging... like monkeys! One morning, River saw a coyote walking 50 yards from his tent, inquisitive about the strange brown shape and when River opened the tent door the coyote took a whiff of his scent and bolted. River quipped, "I think he smelled me and realized that the “thing” in the tent hadn’t showered in a week!"
For tracking and emergencies River carried a cell phone, GPS and a Spot Satellite tracker. Equipment for horse and rider was thoroughly tested during this evolution. A major component of the ride was to perfect the equipment and to ensure that long distance riding could be done safely while ensuring a successful and fun ride. River had ridden in Australia in 2009 and made almost every mistake a beginner could make. He wanted to take that knowledge and experience, improve on the gear and come back around to see if he could build on what he had learned. The two important items he wanted to focus on were the horse shoes and the expectation that the horses could survive on local grass. After many hours on the internet, lengthy phone calls and numerous conversations searching for "best in class" products, River decided on processes, gear and tack he suspected would work. He was ultimately able to prove that the new tack made of Cordura, high tech fabrics and Beta-Biothane are in most cases, more appropriate for this kind of horse touring than traditional leather tack. Of course, the horses well being was first on his list and he never had to start buying grain to supplement readily available grass or remove them from the event. He is proud of that and he and the horses are still friends! He must have done something right…
The horses performed great. River purchased two large paint mares, one a Quarter horse and the other a gaited horse. River always wanted to own and travel on two paint horses and this event saw another dream realized. With such little time to train and prepare for this event, they learned what they needed to in a safe environment and they executed on that training flawlessly from then on. River would ride one and pack the other. Then he would switch to ensure they both were equally utilized and conditioned. One horse (P.J.) specialized in making time and distance while the other (Dolly) navigated the difficult situations with aplomb. They lived mostly on grass and were given feed and grain by folks as it was presented.
After the event, the horses were successfully placed with caring owners and are now living on a farm. They will be well taken care of and will spend their days with other farm animals. River says, "As a cowboy recently told me, fresh air, exercise and something to do is a horses life.”
At the completion of the evolution, the Powder Springs Messenger assisted with summarizing the accomplishment. A free PDF download entitled "Long Distance Horse Riding - Best Practices, Procedures and Equipment" can be downloaded from the Travel Documents page or here under LDRBP. All interested parties on this or future horse riding events of their own are welcome to contact River Pilot by phone or e-mail for support, advice or assistance. River seeks to help others achieve any length of ride they desire, appreciate the excitement of horse riding and have some fun. With this event and document, we have finally compiled information, equipment and procedures that will help them achieve it.