This past winter, Dr. Susan Dent took a sabbatical from her veterinary practice and traveled south from Alaska with her border collie, Tesla, and Icelandic horse, Blackbird, to the Lower 48 in order to compete in and become a certified judge for horse trail events.
The events are known in the horse world as AERC (American Endurance Riding Conference) and NATRC (North American Trail Riding Conference), and are distance trail rides by horseback where both the rider and the horse are judged on everything from fitness to trail manners throughout the course, as well as coming in within a specified time. Only one official trail ride event is held each year in Alaska, therefore it was necessary to travel outside of the 49th state in order to do the apprenticeship work to become a certified judge.
During the course of their 7-month adventure, in her 24-foot Class C motorhome pulling a 4-horse trailer, Susan, Tesla, and Blackbird covered over 21,000 miles.
They visited 10 Western states (WA, OR, CA, NV, MT, ID, UT, AZ, NM, and TX), competed in 10 horse races (and judged 6), rode over 1,000 miles on horseback, completed 37 hours of veterinary continuing education classes, wore out 6 motorhome tires, gave 240 exams to horses, fed a giraffe, vaccinated and tagged 12 calves, and Tesla had 7 baths due to her tendency to roll in nasty things. To accommodate Tesla’s stinky habits, an outdoor shower was the perfect DIY modification to the motorhome setup.
The other must-have piece of equipment in Susan’s list is a good lawn chair! Susan says the thing she missed the most while on the road was her claw foot bathtub, but since she’s a person who is both a homebody and loves to travel, RVing is a great way to go.
Susan prefers boondocking to have the space she enjoys but says it is nice to find an RV park with connections for power and water at least once a week.
Traveling with horses can pose challenges, as many RV parks and established campgrounds are not suitable for horses. You also have to be sure to have the appropriate health certificates and medical records with you, particularly if you are traveling through Canada.
Backing a Class C rig with a 4-horse trailer on busy city streets or narrow roads can be quite unnerving, but Susan has learned to relax and focus and ask others to help when needed in these situations. Susan says that the friendly nature of people she met during her travels were some of the pleasant unexpected perks of her adventure. “I truly did not expect so many people to be so caring.”
Of the 16 National Parks and Monuments that Susan visited during her trip, Yosemite and the Carlsbad Caverns were highlights.
Having grown up in California, Yosemite had a lot of nostalgia and the spectacular landscapes never get tiresome. Carlsbad Caverns were a pleasant surprise from what she had originally expected with new amazing things to see around every corner.
One benefit of traveling with a horse is that most National Parks are horse-friendly even if dogs are not allowed on the trails. Riding by horseback through some of the most beautiful spots in America is an experience to treasure.
Susan hopes to do another trip this upcoming winter and is looking ahead to visiting the Gila Cliff Dwellings in New Mexico as part of her adventure.
You can read more about Dr. Susan Dent and her mobile veterinary practice here.