Once we made the commitment to move to Georgia to be near family, the thought of leaving Idaho with 4 horses, 4 dogs and 2 cats was overwhelming to put it mildly. I honestly didn’t know where to begin. I googled and googled for advice and tips to no avail. There were no real stories, or accounts regarding how to move across the country with a trailer full of horses and gear. At this point, I was feeling like we were the new pioneers on a modern day wagon train.
I had been taking lessons with Jodi Simpson Horse Training and Riding Instruction for few months before we made the decision to move. It was while I was in a riding lesson with my instructor Jodi, I mustered the courage to ask a ton of questions. “How long can they travel” “How do you feed them” “Do you take them out when you stop”? Jodi, being a seasoned horse instructor reassured us about how horses endure the traveling and mentioned “Horse Hotels.” The longest we ever traveled with our horses in the trailer was an hour and sometimes we would take longer than that to just get them to reload. I was thinking to myself about those times and wondered if one of us was going to have to ride and pony the others all the way to Georgia if they didn’t cooperate. I admit, I was scared. Thankfully, I have a wonderful husband with an awesome sense of humor, and he didn’t let on he was scared too.
So after more planning, more googling about Horse Hotels, visiting Dr. Rustebakke for the required documentation, and talking to even more friends who show in various areas, we formed an itinerary. We were going to travel at least 8 hours a day and along the way stop at these Horse Hotels. We mapped it accordingly with the hours, making reservations and saying lots of prayers. Our sources were horsemotel.com, horsetrip.com, horsemotel.net, and travelinghorse.com. We had it all figured out, or so we thought.
Day 1, April 1, 2015
After prepping our horses, truck, stock trailer, saying our goodbyes to our Idaho family and good friends, leaving the best job and set of co-workers I’ve ever had, then looking into my horses’ eyes hoping they would forgive us; we set out like a western version of the Beverly HillBillies towards the East. Wagons HO! Here we GO!
We headed towards Montana first, leaving our rugged mountains, crystal clear streams and all we knew and loved towards the unknown. Our weather was beautiful until we hit the Lolo pass. A whiteout blizzard…figures. No cell reception, of course. We managed to go slowly up and even slower down making it through. When we stopped for gas, I checked on everyone and they seemed to be just fine. Phew! 4 hours down only 32 more to go!
First stop Clinton, Montana. Whoa! Not so fast….our trailer got a flat. Thankfully we came prepared with a same size trailer spare! We did have to stop in Billings and get that repaired. At first the tire shop, Tire-Rama, said they could repair it and replace it with the horses in the trailer…..then they tried. Um no, we had to take them out. The voice of Jodi runs through my head at this time: Rule #1, never ever take the horses out until you are at your stop. Well we didn’t have a choice if we wanted to keep moving east, so the guys closed the back gates to the fenced garage car lot and we began to take the horses out among the scattered piles of junk. I couldn’t help thinking BAD IDEA! Well they were out and looked like very large junkyard dogs behind the chain link fencing. They were spooked due to the noise of the tire compressors and the workers were just as afraid of the horses. The workers were extremly motivated to fix our tire so we could reload the horses and get them the heck out of there. Thankfully it didn’t take too long and we were on the road again.
Once we arrived at the Equine Motel, our first stop for the night, we were greeted by a wonderful lady who welcomed us to make ourselves at home. We unloaded everyone and they got to romp in an outdoor arena, surrounded by beauty. We all still had daylight, and they enjoyed the space and room to run. In the barn they all had their own private stalls next to one another, lots of hay, water and fresh shavings. This was amazing! We were right next door in the barn apartment, with a hot shower, mini fridge and comfy bed. We all slept like logs, and got going in the morning before they could change their minds about getting into the trailer. Wagons HO!
Day 2, April 2
We managed to get through the days travel without any incidents, making our next stop at the very end of Montana. We stayed in a Quality Inn across the freeway, while our horses stayed at a barn known as the Happy Horse House. It wasn’t as gracious as the former stop but we were just glad to be done for the day. The horses were kept away from other horses and given a nice clean stall, but there was no water or buckets, and no shavings. We had to haul everything in and clean up everything in the morning and the weather was freezing. The horses were starting to get grumpy and I think that was due to no turn out time. The feeling was mutual…
Day 3, April 3
Waking up early getting a good start, we headed east on the I-90 interstate. Enjoying the sun and listening to books on tape kept our minds from worrying about the kicks, stomps and occasional shifts in the trailer. Since we were making good time, we passed on one horse hotel heading up the road to another. We were in luck, our next stop had room, but just for the horses. The guest house had no water or electricity at the time.
The Ashley Ranch and Arena, in Pukwana, SD was very cool. It was a real rodeo and cattle
ranch that had been in the family for over 150 years. The older couple and their kids still lived on the 140 acres, raised cattle and it still had the original homestead and school house for that area. As we settled our horses into a working arena, (thank goodness! Play time!) The owners informed us about the history, as well as giving a hand to get everyone watered and fed. We got the grand tour and were directed to go for dinner, and get a hotel for the night. The rancher said he would come out at night before bed to double check the horses and take care of their needs if need be. He had to check on his cows, so it was no trouble according to him.
Like a mother leaving her children for the first day of kindergarten, I walked away looking over my shoulder and my heart in my throat and realized they didn’t give a rip that we were leaving, they were all happily playing with each other and bucking a fart! Part of me was annoyed, the other relieved that each day they were adjusting to their adventures just fine. I kept saying to myself, according to Jodi the horses are adaptable and resilient, much more than people.
After some good down home cooking of mashed potatoes, and meatloaf, a hot shower, we finally rested our minds, bodies and souls.
Day 4, April 4
The time zone changes began causing us to get a later start each day but that also meant that we were getting closer to our final destination…..Georgia, Aunt Karen and Uncle Tom’s ranch! Mom, Dad and our son Ryan. So we gassed up the truck, got coffee and popped in the next book on tape/cd….we finally started settling in to a travel groove when we felt a crash in the back of our truck. We both looked at each other and thought; oh crud not another flat…well no, not exactly another flat….the whole frickin’ back wheel flew off!. And we had no idea where we were on the interstate; it was in between towns with no services. Awesome.