Some things are best left between a girl and her horse, and some things need to be shouted to the world. Meredith Cherry believes domestic violence is one of the things everyone needs to hear about. Cherry and her horse, Apollo, are riding across the lower 48 states in a concerted effort to raise awareness about, what she calls, a silent epidemic. Cherry says, one in three American women will suffer the pain of domestic violence at some time in their life.
The equestrian duo departed from Grass Valley, California on January 1, 2017, and have traveled to 18 states and over 5000 miles. Along the way, they rely on the hospitality of strangers. They’ve been met by 90-degree temperatures, pelted with rain, and lulled by the sound of the wind through tall prairie grass. And that was just in South Dakota!
On August 27 and August 28, they trotted through Milbank and Grant County. Tawnya Reimche offered them shelter for the night and accompanied them as they continued towards their next stop – Corona. Then it was back on the trail, again. They typically saddle up for five to six hours each day and cover 15 to 30 miles.
The pair plans to crisscross their way across America on a route that exceeds the distance between the north and south poles. The trip, which includes a hiatus in the winter, is expected to end in Maine in 2020, 10,000 miles later, and after a total of nearly four years- or as long as it takes to earn a college degree.
During their long and sometimes lonely journey, Cherry, 35, and her 10-year old Peruvian Paso and Mustang mix pony have become as close as friends can be. They communicate through a whinny, a whisper, or the jingle of the bells around Apollo’s ankles. Each supporting the other on the same but very different journey.
Cherry says her decision to undertake such an unusual journey is part of her odyssey back from the darkness and isolation of the domestic abuse she endured for 12 years. During that time, she dreamed of being free, owning a horse, and traveling.
Cherry says when she was finally able to pursue her dream, this “crazy wonderful idea” still required two years preparation. Apollo received unconventional training, part of which enabled him to become accustomed to traffic, strange and loud noises, water crossings, trains, cows, and llamas.
Now enroute, keeping Apollo hydrated and healthy is paramount to the success of the expedition. Cherry follows the U.S. Calvary Method which stipulates Apollo must stop to graze once an hour, in addition to his morning and evening grazes. This allows him to adapt to the changes in the natural grasses to prevent him from getting sick. She carefully mapped out, stock tanks, rivers, streams, farms, and ranches to ensure both have an adequate supply of water.
Cherry also sourced their gear. She determined the most compact and ultra-light equipment for their safety and hygiene, and alternate shelter for times when nothing else is available. They also carry an emergency first aid kit and technology to document the trip. All this needed to be extremely durable, weigh less than 70 pounds, and fit in the saddle bags!
Cherry calls their trip “a Centauride,” a title she derived from combining the word ride with the name Centaur – a creature whose upper torso is human and lower body is a horse. The Centaur was a symbol in Greek mythology of the nearness of man to savagery. More recently, in the Harry Potter series, the Centaur appears as a skilled healer. This symbol and its evolution, seems to fit Cherry and Apollo, and like their quest to expose and eradicate domestic violence, is a step in the right direction.