Great fiction is made of grand adventures, but in real life, they’re far less common. Not for Meredith Cherry. This fall, Cherry will embark on The Centauride, an epic quest in the service of domestic violence awareness: a nearly four-year, 14,000-mile horseback ride around America, visiting each of the 48 continental United States.
Along the way, she’ll stop to visit domestic violence centers, women’s shelters, schools, and community centers to raise awareness for an issue that’s not just universally important, but close to Cherry’s heart. As a former victim, she escaped a violent marriage a few years ago, using her divorce settlement to purchase Apollo, an eight-year-old Peruvian-Paso-Mustang, and her mount for this adventure. Though she acquired him as a “silly young thing”, Cherry says in the last two and a half years, her palomino gelding has grown into an intelligent and trusted companion.
“Apollo loves people and is quite happy to be caught and get to work. He is extremely clever and better at solving puzzles or learning new training lessons than most horses I’ve ever met,” says Cherry.
This will be the first ride of its kind ever to be completed by a woman; two men successfully followed a similar route back in the early 1900s. “The original reason I chose to ride to 48 states and not a shorter ride is that there are too many places I want to see to limit myself!” says Cherry, adding that she is most excited about Montana, Maine, and Arkansas, and is hoping to make it to Chincoteague Island in Virginia in time for the 2019 Pony Swim.
“I’ll be packing too light to carry souvenirs, but I plan on taking a lot of photos, especially at each border crossing.” The advocate plans to ride to each state capital on her route to talk about domestic violence, but is also excited for the unexpected connections she’ll forge along the way. “Mostly, I plan on creating lots of great memories and meeting lots of wonderful people each day of this four-year adventure,” she says.
Due to the daily flexibility required (for things like detours, weather, and road conditions) by a long-distance horseback ride of this kind, Cherry plans to camp most nights on her journey or will rely on the hospitality of strangers along her route. Her ride will depart from Grass Valley, California on October 1st, following a giant loop around the country, and is slated to end back in Grass Valley at the end of June 2020.
For now, Cherry, who has been riding for 20 years and holds a B.S. in Equine Science from Colorado State University, is busy fine-tuning Apollo’s training. For the next few months, she’ll continue concentrating on ground work while incorporating natural horsemanship techniques and exercises to encourage Apollo’s curiosity, build trust, and of course, good manners.
“We did a lot of work in the arena with obstacles, tarps, ankle bells, and other challenges before moving out to the trail. Now we’re working on exposing Apollo to as many real-world obstacles as possible, including cars, bicycles, and the like.”
And while a journey of this sort is daunting for all sorts of reasons outside of simple trail hazards—fatigue, loneliness, physical discomfort—they pale in comparison to a place that Cherry herself has been.
“It is so easy to give up hope and to lose sight of who you are and what you once dreamed of while in a domestic violence situation, where each moment is about survival. It is also a very lonesome place, and can feel like no one knows or cares about what you are dealing with. I hope that victims and survivors will take hope from my journey, and see that they are not alone in their suffering and that a happier life is possible.”
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