Obviously, the two major components that a horse needs to survive are food and water. Knowing I can't carry enough of either for the horses, I have to find places along the routes I choose that will provide a way to get both. This is proving to be a tad difficult.
I have run into three spots nearly back to back where there aren't any streams or creeks, only county and unnamed roads. Finding houses along these roads are almost like looking for a needle in a haystack. It's nearly impossible unless you know someone along the way that maybe knows someone who lives out in these uber remote places. If not, you're going to run into a ton of trouble and in a hurry.
A horse can drink anywhere from ten to fifteen gallons of water a day and upwards of twenty when being worked, as well as when it is hot with little shade. Considering this trip is done mostly at a walking pace, I'm hoping to average around twenty miles a day, though I know that's not always going to be possible, due to the mountains and terrain. So, checking my routes with both an atlas and various online maps is helpful in this part of the planning.
I realize too, while I am looking for the straightest possible route, and one that takes me along towns and cities, I won't always be able to take these paths, because of a lack of water and food for the horses. They are priority in this trip regardless of everything else.
I've sent out several emails to campgrounds to see if they accept horses or if they know of anywhere nearby that does. This will be helpful to get a feel for the town as well. Are the people friendly? Are they willing to help or would they rather just be left alone?
The excitement builds with each step, each stop, and the possibility of getting more folks involved in horses and maybe even adopting some wild ones. I have also checked online for water in pouches. This would be handy for humans, not so much for the horses. However, in a pinch they may just come in quite handy if I get into a pickle. Again, I realize I can't carry enough to supply each horse with enough so finding water is crucial to survival.
I've also considered packing some feed in case there isn't much out there to be found. Timothy/Alfalfa cubes would pack well and provided there's water at the stop, they can be wetted down which will aid in getting more water into the horses system. This will provide good energy which the horses will need to keep going. The water pouches would be handy in this situation.
Because I'm a planner, I generally have a plan B in the background. If something doesn't work one way, I'll keep trying until it works out for the best of the horses. So far the route I've been working on, the areas questionable for food and water between Page, AZ and Kayenta, AZ. That's 75 miles of desert and sage brush. It's way too far to travel without so much as a sign of water in between. Going off of route just for water would not be beneficial, so I'll have to start back a few towns and begin again.
Something else I am taking into consideration is shade. I hope to begin this journey in March. The area I'm starting from will more than likely have snow still on the ground, which means mountains might be too dangerous to pass through. Pushing the start time to April means there's a good chance I'll be in the midwest by summer and that's no place to be with horses. I've traveled through there while driving semi's and there's maybe a cactus every few hundred miles. So there's not much in the way of shade through the midwest. Finding stops along the way or folks I can stay with will be our only options.
Trekking next to a Highway or Interstate isn't always the best idea either. However, that may be an option through some of the states. There are rest areas all along that usually have some kind of shade and water though the distance in between them and towns can be upwards of 100 miles and houses can be seen thirty plus miles off the beaten path.
I might have to break out a desert survival book and learn to get water out of the ground, which reminds me, I think I'll look into some kind of water filter while I'm at it. You never know where you'll find water or how good it is for drinking.
For now, it's back to the drawing board, or in my case back to the nearest city to find a different route with water and feed closer by.
Thank you for checking out my blogs and taking this journey with me. I apprciate all votes and comments.
*Image courtesty Flickr creative commons.