Looking at the images of the unchartered Wild West, it is remarkable to think anyone would voluntarily forge into the rugged unknown on horseback, or horse-drawn wagon. What were they thinking? The dangers seem way too extreme to take such chances without coercion. It seems crazy. But to George Henry Carter IV, such adventures were not only a good idea, they were a calling... he lavished in the persistent need to tackle undeveloped terrain on horseback, in areas no one had attempted on horseback before.
George Henry Carter IV was born in Quincy, Massachusetts in 1955, but you would think he belonged to a generation who lived at least 100 years earlier. He had a literal ache for untamed territory. We would often joke about George having a "mind like a map," as he was always charting his course, no matter where he was. He had a keen sense of direction, and masterful navigation instincts. He could often be found pouring over topography maps, analyzing river beds and natural ground formations. He was a modern-day “Lewis and Clark,” looking to map expeditions through unchartered land.
Along with his wanderlust, George enjoyed a natural and almost psychic relationship with animals. He was often called a “bird, dog and horse whisperer” because of his ability to tame, train, and teach animals. He often would say that he had a better relationship with his pets than other humans. Watching George with his Saddlebred horse, Will Rogers, it was clear they had a secret language with each other. They were truly each other’s best friend. Nearly 17 hands and very spirited, Will Rogers was as adventurous as George!
George also had a deep faith in the Lord, and truly believed that God protected him and guided his path. You can see glimpses of this confidence in his own words on this website where he shares his adventures traveling across the United States with his horse, Will Rogers - God is right there with him.
Trust in the Lord, trust in his connection with his horse Will Rogers, and trust in his ability to navigate the unknown is all George needed to forge out on his 4-6 day journey on horseback across San Diego County’s untouched terrain. With its canyons, mountains, coastal sage and desert landscape, San Diego County is home to a wide variety of critters that can kill or seriously harm a human. Mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, snakes (including several varieties of rattle snakes), scorpions, skunks, opossums, raccoons, spiders (including black widows and brown recluse), hornets, wasps, bees, cougars, wolves, foxes and hyenas are living and hunting for food in this region. And of course, there was no guarantee that humans wouldn’t be hiding in the mountains or canyons to escape the law, potentially armed and dangerous themselves. Fortunately, George, who carried no gun and relied on pepper spray for defense, never had to defend himself during his trips.
Preparing for the trip from the beach in Del Mar to Cyamaca Group Horse Camp would takes months of endurance training for both George and Will Rogers. George and Will would need to traverse frequently-changing elevation, varying temperatures and often strong wind conditions. George spent months studying Will Rogers’ feet, and worked diligently to ensure he was conditioned, with the right horseshoes for the journey. By the time they left on the trip, both were in strong athletic shape. George had to worry about the amount of weight Will Rogers carried, so they traveled light, relying heavily on apples to provide much needed water on the journey.
This rugged, unchartered area of San Diego County does not have cellular phone coverage or service, so George was truly on his own. If anything happened, there wasn’t any way to even identify his location since there was no trail system and he was creating the path as he went. George maintains that he was never afraid - he felt connection with Will and the loving watchfulness of the Lord.
When cancer struck and forced George to abandon his saddle, he remained engaged in working with animals and supporting the County’s preservation efforts, advocating for protection of our natural habitat and development of a formal trail system to enjoy its beauty. By the time George was diagnosed, he was already Stage 4, and the doctors gave him only two years to live. He battled the disease courageously for seven years before the Lord took him home. Never during any of that time did George lose his positive attitude and optimism. He always saw the magic of possibilities. He loved life as much or more than anyone who has ever lived, and he made sure that he relished every minute he could by exploring God’s beautiful handiwork.
His advice to all….. don’t wait! Live honestly. Love Deeply. Explore Adventurously. Enjoy the Ride.