More Fun Adventures –
Traveling the U.S. with My Horse, Will Rogers
Greetings! I hope this update finds you all coming off a great ride with your horse and peace in your heart. Thanks so much for all your emails and questions/suggestions about my travels.
I just hope by letting you know about my trip that it will make yours that much safer and more enjoyable. In the last newsletter, I talked about traveling from San Diego to Kentucky. Along the way, we rode in many, many state parks and forests (I do miss the corrals of Cuyamaca State Park!) and occasionally rode with people from the stables I was visiting. If it were a shorter ride, we would continue trailering afterwards to the next location; and if it was really nice, we stayed a day or two to enjoy.
Well, after a few days in Louisville, KY, I was headed for the largest sulky training facility in Ohio. It was by far the nicest place for my horse to visit so far. 400 acres, two 1 ¼ mile sulky racing tracks and 6 humongous barns so incredible that they made other fancy places look like a storage shed. Will (who I also drive a lot) was really in his element being in the middle of a barn full of sulky racers! I hung out with the Australian crew. One guy is the top sulky racer in all of Australia, his family has been at it for generations and he was also a farrier, chiropractor and masseur for his horses. Another guy was a vet. They were all so nice and were really interested in showing me how they do every little thing! I was so appreciative they made me feel at home and let me do whatever I wanted. They even encouraged me to use the beautiful green pastures. So I led Will out to put him in when I noticed the next fence was a half mile away! I was afraid my horse would never come back! So I opted for the small one.
After a couple of days learning from this top racing crew, I was on my way contemplating the many suggestions I received for great riding destinations. My alternatives were to visit more Amish country, ride the Appalachian Trail, head to the ocean or to the New England fall foliage. Well, New England, where I grew up and had relatives and maybe a few friends still around, seemed so close from Ohio that I decided it would be a shame not to travel a few states further east to see them with my horse. As I traveled, I began to get itchy feet for swimming with my horse in the ocean (which I figure Will and I did well over 100 times at Dog Beach in Del Mar).
So we began to make time thru Pennsylvania, stopped at the same overnite stables the Budweiser Clydesdales use, two state parks in the Poconos Mountain area of New York and stayed at a neat, very old New England barn in Connecticut (that also gave trail rides to the public); and explored nice trails with creeks everywhere. The next day after trailering 4 hours, I was calling my mother at 7am saying I was driving in the driveway - she nearly flipped! The first thing I did was ride right into the ocean behind her house! It felt so good!
During the last couple of weeks, I've relaxed at Mom's house with my horse by making a make-shift corral that has a rope for a gate and the house breezeway for cover from the rain - blocked in by a ladder set sideways across 2 benches! He's been so good not to leave. I've been traveling continuously while using my Mom's house on Cape Cod as a base. We've been to the local state parks nearly everyday and have trailered 3 hours to mid-Massachusetts to stay overnight at my sister's house with Will tied to the trailer in the driveway of her fancy, residential neighborhood. He has been so calm giving all the kids buggy rides and even letting the 7 year olds ride him all by themselves! The most fun has been looking up a couple of old neighbors in the state and riding or driving Will right into their driveway, yelling for them to come out with no advance phone call after 20 years. As you can imagine, it's been fun.
Having buggied around the 4-H grounds where I grew up, I'm now patiently waiting to go camping with a couple of local riding and driving clubs in northern Massachusetts to see the fall foliage. In the meantime here on Cape Cod, life is so relaxing when you can get some time off from work! We've been swimming in the ocean behind my Mom's house nearly everyday. It's protected from the open sea so there's no waves making it perfect for taking Will in over his head ... and you should see the horseshoe crabs run for cover when they see Will coming!
Since arriving, I've had to change Will's diet to what's locally available. There's really no alfalfa so he gets all the Timothy hay he wants, grain and com oil because he needs to gain some weight. After 7 weeks from leaving San Diego, I got him new shoes and he received a glowing health report from the top vet here. Now my only worry is the abundance of ticks with lyme disease (unlike the Southwest). People here say not to worry but I point out to them that a recent Tufts University report showed half the horses on the Cape my have Lyme disease. They think I'm a little paranoid to refuse to ride through long grass or go down a trail through branches. But I say, “I didn't bring my horse all the way from California to get lyme disease - and it'll only take me a minute and I'll be headed right back to San Diego!”
For what it's worth, here's a few unexpected/strange facts about my trip so far, as well as some traveling tips that may make your journey smoother:
Most importantly, there are 2 nationwide stabling guides that make a trip like this possible as they allow you to reserve a stall on short notice - so necessary because you don't know how far you'll trailer each day. You simply look at its map, pick the stables along your intended route, read the descriptions about them, pick the one you want and give them a call on the cell phone. You need both stabling guides because each one has additional stables.
On this trip, I over-prepared, mostly because I was traveling alone. I had every tool and medicine for my horse. You should prepare too and then "just do it." After you've trailered a week, it gets easy and your horse gets so comfortable, you could do it forever.
I was always looking out for "troublemakers" lurking and I haven't seen any yet and I've been gone nearly 2 months. So don't let that deter you. The people at the stables are often very friendly and there are so many gas stations with food marts along the way, you always feel safe with all the people around. I elected not to take a gun, but I do have pepper spray.
As long as you're not in the Rocky Mountains, trailering probably won't be a problem. My Ford F250 truck with a Lance camper and Circle J 2-horse trailer had plenty of power all the way across the country as I only bumped into one hill as hard as the Alpine grade in San Diego.
I felt much safer not only having a cell phone but also a CB, scanner, radio and CDs. When you're out in the middle of nowhere and the radio doesn't work, there’s nothing like having your CDs to keep you awake!
For the first few weeks, I carried the same hay and water from San Diego because Will was used to it. I used only my hay although the hay at all the different stables happened to look fine. I had plenty of San Diego water for all my stops along the road and he didn't have any problem drinking the water from whatever stable I was staying at. But in case he became fussy, I had the water he was used to.
On a warm day while trailering, if I stopped and Will didn't drink, it made me feel better to pour a bottle of water or Gatorade in his mouth or give him juicy apples. I would have worried a lot less if I had thought of my newest trick earlier. .. that being to give him his favorite - watermelon, which must hold a quart of water.
I was extra cautious about him getting hot in the trailer, so to monitor the temperature in the trailer, I had 2 thermometers and I traveled without the AC on so I always would have an idea how warm it was. (In dry heat, your horse doesn't sweat so he can look fine and still be in trouble.)
The gas stations were so frequent that I have yet to pull into a rest area (where weirdos tend to be and the trucks are passing close by). I preferred to pull off an exit where we could be away from traffic, let him out and give him hay and water.
I came so close to buying a new, aluminum slant load trailer before I left on my trip; thinking if I wanted him to be comfortable on such a long trip it would be necessary. I'm so glad I didn't! He has been so happy in my 2-horse straight load that I think you can most likely work with the trailer you have for a trip like this. I took off one top back door to give him plenty of air flow on hot days and found it made him so comfortable that he got over his claustrophobic feelings.
To prevent travel sickness from long periods of trailering where his eyes and nose are exposed to dust from hay and shavings, I put a fly mask on him and didn't use shavings. He got used to the routine and knew I would be stopping after not too long and he would pee outside.
Once I was out of the Southwest, riding on trails actually felt safer because we no longer could encounter rattlesnakes, scorpions, black widows, tarantulas, cougars or bears; only ticks (which so far we haven't had) and horseflies.
It's been surprising to me that the whole way from San Diego to Kentucky, I only passed 2 trucks while zillions have passed me. I travel 65 and the trucks (all brand new looking and really quiet) fly by at 75 mph - requiring me to really concentrate to prevent from having my camper blown off the road. And the roads are all smooth until you get past Missouri into the northeast where the trucks are older, noisy and have slower speed limits. I can't believe it but I've only seen 2 motor homes, 2 horse trailers and 2 police cars since leaving San Diego!
I thought my horse would be less willing to go in the trailer the longer we traveled but it has been just the opposite! I think he figures if he goes in, I'll take him home! A little sad but true. He used to dance in the trailer when I entered the driveway to his stables, Far West Farms in San Diego, because he was so excited to be back after trailering out to ride. I can just imagine how excited he would be to be back there now!
Oh and this will make you feel safer while trailering. I had a blow out on the tire under my horse's front feet and never even felt it. I noticed it when I pulled into a ranch for the evening. I guess that's a great reason to have 4 tires!
Lastly, I always figure out the direction and strength of strong winds by opening the windows (when there's no trees around to judge by). I did this traveling to Amarillo and there was no wind, I thought, then all of a sudden I had all I could do to keep my rig on the road. I slowed to 30 and for some reason had no control. I was sure my steering busted or I had a blow out and I pulled over figuring I was stuck hours away from even the closest lizard! It was the only time I came within an eyelash of flipping my whole rig and killing us. Well nothing was wrong with the truck. It turned out the wind was coming exactly head on to my truck so I couldn't notice it and there was no wind coming in the windows. So it fooled me and when I turned my camper off heading directly into the wind, it acted like a huge sail and was impossible to control with the strength of the gusts that can come out of nowhere in East New Mexico and Texas.
I MISS YOU ALL! AND STILL HAVE NOT SEEN ANYWHERE I'D TRADE FOR CUYAMACA!
And remember to ride now while you can. Trips like this really are as easy as riding at home ... and they're really no more expensive than staying home. And don't feel left out because you're invited to stay with me while I'm on Cape Cod (with or without your horse)!
By the way, I think Will has to be the only horse in the country to swim so much in both oceans, don't you think? That's all till the next newsletter.
Merry Christmas, wish you were here!
George and Will Rogers