Long Distance Travel on Horseback
Sergeant Robert Seney was one of the most significant, and inspirational, North American Long Riders of the late 20th century. A lifelong horseman, Seney’s mounted career stretched from the cavalry era to the age of the modern Long Riders.
He was a member of the US cavalry when the Second World War broke out and spent the early part of the war helping to maintain a mounted guard along the Mexican border. Seney was also deployed to Italy and later served with the American Air Force. Upon his retirement from the armed services the former horse soldier worked in Olympic National Park as a professional packer.
It was during this time that the cavalry sergeant discovered the road horse that was to take him upon so many retirement era adventures.
According to Robert Seney’s son, Dick, his father’s horse, Trooper, was a big cold blooded grey gelding. Mounted on the grey Trooper, Seney made a series of equestrian journeys through the United States, the effect of which inspired the next generation of American equestrian travellers to emulate this great and generous horseman.
Together Seney and Trooper explored California’s back country trails and also rode the Pacific Crest Trail three times. In 1976 the mounted patriot set out to explore his homeland, a journey which saw Seney and Trooper making an extended journey to various parts of the United States. During that trip, and many subsequent adventures, nothing stopped the old cavalryman except truly bad weather.
The sergeant turned Long Rider made six journeys between 1967 and 1980. The shortest journey was 2,000 miles and the longest was 9,000 miles. His combined travels through all 48 states exceeded 24,000 miles in the saddle.
Sergeant Robert Seney, last of the American cavalry Long Riders, died in 2001 in Arizona, but not before leaving many stories of his travels. Below is a short summary, written in 1980, of why he traveled and some advice to a would-be Long Rider. The Long Riders' Guild is grateful to the Seney family for sending this to The Guild and also for the published article in the library section of the website.
How long is a long distance horseback trip? There are no rules, but I do not believe anything under 500 miles should be classified as long distance. All the riders I have met on long trips and those I have read about have all made many more miles than that.
Since 1967 I have made six long trips. The shortest was 2,000 miles and the longest was over 9,000.
Many people ask me how much it costs to travel the way I do. In 1970 and '71 I was on the road 10 months and made over 7,000 miles. I only had $120.00 a month but got by fine. Today I believe you should have $200.00 per month to take care of your horses properly and to enjoy your trip. With very much less you will be missing out on some of the joys of traveling horseback. It is better to have this money available before you start than to try to earn it on the road, although it can be done if you are an experienced farm hand or cattleman. The only times I have worked while on the road with the horses was to help out some farmer or rancher who needed help for a few days. Since I am retired I do not have the money problems that I had in earlier years.
Traveling conditions vary greatly in different parts of the country. Obviously conditions in the mountains and deserts are different from Florida. Travel on the Interstates is different from the Pacific Crest Trail. I have done it all and enjoyed it all.
"Saddle Tramping," as I sometimes call long distance travel, is an interesting enjoyable life for a retired person. I am 69 years old in 1980 and hope to enjoy many more years on the road with my horses. It is about as healthy a life as it is possible to live. There are no fat "saddle tramps." Long gas lines and the energy shortage are something you read about but they do not apply to you. One gallon of white gas a month for your stove and some candles to read by, plus a good flashlight are all the utility bills you have.
One of the questions I am always asked is "Why do you do it?" This is one question I have always had trouble giving a satisfactory answer. I tell them I like to ride, like to live in the open, enjoy the company of good horses, like to keep moving, and like to meet and talk to many people.
How many miles a day do you make? I believe an average of twenty miles a day is plenty. One hundred twenty miles a week or five hundred miles a month will not hurt you or your horses if you feed them properly. You will be able to take a day off once in a while to rest you and your horses. These mileages do not apply in the mountains. In some places I have seen, one mountain mile can be like 5 or 10 on the flat. In some places in the Sierra Nevadas, you walk two minutes and rest one.
Walking is the gait for the long distance horse. The only time I trot is hurrying across bridges, around blind curves, or clearing any other bad spot. Eight hours at an easy walk will give you 24 miles. It usually takes me nine or ten hours to make 25 miles because of the many stops I make to talk to people and other stops for various reasons.
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