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Best of America by Horseback 3 - The Ride is Underway

May 4, 2009
Riders gather by the Rio Grande.
Riders gather by the Rio Grande.

Best of America by Horseback’s Mexico to Canada Trail Ride started at the border at Santa Teresa, New Mexico on April 21. It will continue north through New Mexico, reaching Colorado in early June. From there, the group will pass through Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota, and finally reach the Canadian border the first week of September. Throughout the ride, Best of America will be filming its adventures for future television shows. Tom Seay is the host of the show. Until then, follow the ride with Ride! Magazine.

The Ride is Underway
by Julia Dillon, Rider
As New Mexico unfolded before us we were becoming a bonded family group. Forty-seven determined and excited members of the Best of America by Horseback Trail Ride Club had gathered together and embarked upon a journey toward the unknown, toward themselves and toward each other. From many faiths and cultures our lives have intertwined into a rich tapestry of texture and color, creating a new and unique image of a family in the making. Individually, we are intent and strong in our collective goal to experience this remarkable opportunity as we saddle our horses and ride northward each day through this great land.

At the El Paso County Sheriff’s Posse Headquarters, everyone met for the first time. In the days before the official start of the ride we gathered with our horses and rode along the Rio Grande River. It was the first taste of what the wild and beautiful terrain would promise in the weeks to come on the New Mexico trail toward the Colorado border. The gentlemen of the ‘Posse’ welcomed us with lovely and delicious meals and bid us farewell as we started our trek into the desert.

Chip Johns’ JCJ Ranch hosted our first night’s camp on the trail with a wild-west spirit torn from the page of a historic American novel. The lovely JCJ Hacienda and its gardens were a gentle introduction to what would later be a daunting experience as we began to court the desert and discover the dangerous charms within.

Morning chill greeted us on the first day. Though the dividing line between our country and Mexico is an imposing metal structure, we each lightheartedly reached out to touch the fence any way our horses would allow as many of our animals were intimidated by the nature and size of the huge black metal grid. And now, we had sanctified the

“Mexican Border” part of our journey making the beginning of our journey official.
Even though it was early spring, the dry heat of the desert challenged and surprised many of us, especially those from the humid lake regions. Though beautiful, the stark terrain of sand goes on forever with mountains on every side. As we began to know the desert we were encouraged and beckoned onward by thermals of cool air that softened the transition for horse and riders. Those of us who had never known the desert wondered at spirits of the pioneers that had come before us and how they survived such conditions without the modern luxuries of bottled water half frozen in our satchels and the air-conditioned living quarters awaiting us at the end of the day’s ride.

In Old Mesilla, Tom and Pat Seay hosted the ride “kick-off” banquet dinner at the historic Double Eagle restaurant. Keynote speaker, Rick Potts, Chief of the Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Division of the National Park Service, added a feeling of great emotion and purpose to the journey ahead. Other guests at the banquet dinner included Old Mesilla’s Mayor, Michael Cadenas as well as representatives from several of our sponsors, including Platinum Coach Trailers, Cavallo Horse & Rider, Wahl Clippers, KD Western Works Catch Mask, and Step Above Ladders.

The next day the riders paraded through the town square of Mesilla, carrying flags from their various states. The parade concluded in front of the Basilica of San Antonio for the “Blessing of the Ride” given by Rev. Richard Catanach, Rector of the Catholic Church, as well as our Cowboy pastor and singer, Del Shields. Hundreds were gathered there to wish us well and pray for our safety and the fulfillment of reaching our goal of the Canadian Border.

We give thanks for the opportunity we have to cultivate our horsemanship and the personal relationships with our horses and mules on a day-to-day basis. Some have brought young horses and others older companions to build and strengthen the bonds with the animals that bring us comfort and connection to the land.

And so these are the images of our beginning. And there will be many more stories of celebration and loss to follow as we continue on our way discovering the land ahead. We are living the dream of a lifetime and have chosen and been chosen to be a part of the Best of America by Horseback due to the efforts of our host, caretaker and friend, Tom Seay. Tom and his wife Pat are brave and generous for putting together this opportunity of a lifetime and allowing us to enter their world by becoming a part of this life-changing experience. With Tom and Pat leading, the great crew and our new family of riders, it is the greatest summer camp ever and we are children again with eyes wide, filled with amazing images that lift our spirits in wonder.

Throughout our travels in this beautiful southwestern New Mexico stretch of desert, we are heartened, hosted and welcomed by the kindness and encouragement of the people that live here and love this stark and breath-taking country. The encouragement of these generous Americans make us all proud to be a part of this great land and also a part of this dream of a trial ride.

The next leg of our horseback adventure to Canada takes our riders through the perilous 100 mile stretch of the “Jornada del Muerto,” the “Journey of Death” along the El Camino Real Trail.

Julie Dillon is a certified riding instructor who travels with Best of America and gives clinics on riding gaited horses.

Journals of Other Best of America by Horseback Adventurers

Mike Phillips, Core Rider
May 2, 2009
We are in Truth Or Consequences, NM for a few days of festivities and rest. We are camped at the Sierra County Sheriff’s Posse rodeo grounds, where they are having their annual fiesta and rodeo. Monday we will be back on the trail. We have been riding along the “Jornada del Muerto,” part of El Camino Real, which is the old spanish trail from Mexico City to Santa Fe.
It is very harsh country, with very little water, and I can understand why so many died trying to cross it. Of course we have trucks bringing water for us and the horses every few miles, so it is not so dangerous for us. We have a good time riding along, telling funny stories and jokes. Tom Seay is a good storyteller, and often tells the same stories, changing them each time to fit the situation. We have a group of good people, and everyone seems to be enjoying the ride. It seems a little bit amazing that so many people from so many different backgrounds can get along so well together. Everyone helps each other when needed, and this is what will get us all to Canada.

Tom Seay, Ride Master
May 9, 2009
We’ve just finished crossing the White Sands Desert, and we are now headed north towards Moriarty, New Mexico. The winds are about 30/35mph and it’s very dry and dusty here.
Everyone is in great spirits and all the horses are excellent! We’ve spent the past three nights under the stars and plan to do the same tonight.
As a special treat to all our riders, we had Kyles Crawfish flown into the desert for dinner. We had an authentic Southern Crawfish Boil for dinner and it was excellent! Thanks to Bobby Horton for hosting this event.
We are going to ride 17.5 miles today — 507 total miles for the group so far. The Best of America Team is fast approaching its 90,000 mileage mark overall. What an accomplishment.
The ride so far has been an overwhelming experience. I would not trade it for anything.
Stay tuned for more updates.