An Indiana duo on horseback are trekking across the Midwest in hopes of raising awareness of animal abuse.
Richard Mills, 58, owner of Buck Creek Valley Rescue in Elizabeth Ind., and his friend Josh Campbell, 23, started their journey, which they call “Ride to Rescue,” July 27 from the Falls of the Ohio River in Clarksville Ind.
They are following the Lewis and Clark Trail to Great Falls, Mont., and expect to reach their destination in November.
The two men entered Franklin County last Thursday and spent the night in Robertsville. They passed through Washington on Friday and were heading toward Hermann.
Mills is riding one of his rescue horses, “Willy,” a big black-and-white gaited paint that he said trusts only him.
“He was abused when we got him,” Mills said. “He was beat in the head and was starving.”
Another rescue horse, an appaloosa named “Galaxy,” is serving as a pack horse for the travelers. Campbell is riding “Kojak,” a mare he’s had since she was born.
“I want to let people know that rescue horses are as good as any other horse out there,” Mills said.
The small caravan averages about three miles an hour, Mills said, and although they do have a carefully planned route with veterinarians and farriers lined up along the way, they mostly depend on the kindness of strangers for a meal, a donation or a place to bed themselves and their horses down for the night.
“People have been really amazing,” Mills said. “Everyone has been so positive. We have not had one bad thing said about us. I can’t believe how nice people have been to us.”
Mills said a lot of people who have helped out have been “horse people,” but there have been some who don’t know anything about horses.
“We were going through Evansville, Ind., and it was getting late and we knew we weren’t going to get out of town before dark,” he said. “This lady owned a daycare took us in. She had a fenced yard and let us turn our horses out in it.”
So far, Mills said there has only been one terrible incident on the journey.
“A kid was texting and driving and came right at us,” he said. “We were riding along a deep gorge and Willy reared up and came down on the guardrail and cut himself pretty bad. That cost us about a week and a half before he was able to travel again.”
Willy was given the OK to travel by a vet, but Mills is still doctoring a wound on the horse’s withers. He uses a special girth to keep the front of the saddle off the affected area.
Mills said it took about a year to prepare for the journey. He did a lot of trail riding around his house to get his horses in shape. He also rode around a lot of obstacles and alongside highways to get his horses used to semi trucks and other traffic.
Campbell had friends who worked at Mills’ rescue ranch, but didn’t know Mills prior to the journey.
“I heard he was doing it, and decided I wanted to go with him,” Campbell said.
Mills is not only trying to raise awareness about animal abuse, but also is riding to raise money for his rescue ranch, which is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization.
People may follow the duo’s journey on Facebook and can donate to the cause through a PayPal account set up on the ranch’s website, http://www.buckcreekvalleyrescue.org.
Mills and his wife Robin had been taking in and caring for animals, mostly horses, privately for many years, but formally started the organization and ranch in 2007.
Since then they have taken in and adopted out numerous horses and ponies. They are currently working on a program to donate rehabilitated animals to therapeutic horsemanship programs for children.