Sleeping under the stars with rattle snakes slithering around and facing bears around almost every corner are just a couple of challenges that Joe Guy overcomes on a day-to-day basis.
The long-rider has travelled some of the most treacherous terrains and trails around the world and now he is passing Kimberley while on his next adventure: the TransCanada Highway Trail.
“There are not many long-riders left in the world that do what I do. I’ve ridden over 11,000 miles through three countries,” said Guy in an interview.
“I’ve ridden across Australia and I’ve ridden across the USA and I’ve done over 1,500 miles so far here in Canada.”
But the rider doesn’t have just one faithful steed, unlike any other long-rider, he specifically finds horses that are deemed unbreakable and have no future due to their violent behaviour.
In his attempt to give himself a bigger challenge, on top of the extreme quests, he rehabilitates the horses and turns their future around —something that no other long rider has ever done.
“I’ll ride a horse until he is too quiet for me, sell him, buy myself another horse that’s sitting somewhere waiting to be slaughtered or I’ll have a horse given to me that is deemed no good and then I’ll fix it, ride it so far until it’s too quiet and then repeat the process.”
Although these horses are not pack-horses, they come with a lot of baggage. Guy is all too familiar with the phrase you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.
“My first horse that I took on a trip had never drunk out of a river before. He didn’t know what to do; he’s only ever drunk out of a bucket his whole life. So when he finally worked out to put his head in the river to get a drink he put his head up stream and when he stuck his nose in the water, it just gushed straight up his face and into his ears.”
“It scared the wits out of him and then I couldn’t get him to go back for a drink. It took him another few days before he would drink out of a creek.”
In his book “Just Another Dream,” about riding from town to town, street performing and busking, Guy paints a picture of his adventures
“I grew up in Sydney, Australia and I was born and raised on the wrong side of the tracks. I turned my life around at an early age. At 19, I turned my life around, and I went looking for my purpose in life and now I inspire people with my story.”
In the act of traveling the world in a quest to find himself and who he really was, he realized he was meant to be a trail-blazer, and that in fact, he was one from the very start.
“At the end of it all, I realized that I had ridden thousands of miles on horse-back to get to every job I have ever had and I wanted a greater challenge,” Guy said.
He has faced lethally-poisonous snakes and has been under the blistering sun forced to swim with alligators or wither away in the heat. Now, in Canada, he is trekking through deep snow, blizzards and white-outs and keeping his eyes peeled for black bears and grizzlies.
“There’s no typical day in the saddle. Every day you check yourself for ticks and you watch where you can,” Guy said. “It’s interesting; it’s a hard life.”
“Then you have the fact that you are sleeping on the cold ground every night and sometimes that cold ground will come up and chew at your kidneys. Sometimes you get rained on and you better find cover under a tree or something.
“I say to people, if it was easy then everyone would be doing it.”
But why? What is his motivation? It’s simple: the challenge.
“To me, it’s a challenge. You don’t know what’s around the corner, you don’t know what’s down the road, you don’t know how long your horse is going to last and then you might trade him out, and there you don’t know what you are going to get in the way of another horse,” Guy said. “You don’t know who you are going to meet; if the people are going to be friendly or not so.”
“Every day is a challenge, and I just love that. My life is not boring in any way, shape or form.”
Guy hopes to ride at least another 4,000 miles to reach his goal of 15,000 miles, however he will be facing one of his biggest challenges on his journey in Canada; there is no way of telling how much snow will be waiting for him on the summit of the Grey Creek Pass, as he heads towards Kimberley, to get to Baynes Lake.
Despite the uncertainty of whether there will be one foot of snow or five, and the safer possibility of going around towards Creston, Cranbrook and then to Baynes Lake, Guy was determined not to take the easy way out.
“I think when I hit it that it’s going to take a fair bit to break me. I really need to push through that snow and get there so if I spend a full day mucking around up there this way, it’s better than spending three days mucking around the other way,” said Guy.
“I really just don’t know what to expect.”
As it turned out, The Grey Creek Pass was more than horse and rider could handle. The snow was simply too deep and Guy was forced to turn around and take the southern route.
The adventurer has already come across a couple of good-sized black bears off the side of the highway in Nelson area, who grunted at him and his horse when he had briefly stopped.
He said that the most dangerous moment of the trail so far was on his trek to Castlegar going over the 1,000-foot drop-off up on the mountain.
“You only have to have a little land-slide or something spook your horse and put him over the side and it’s all over for ya.”
Like Lyle Lovett, if Guy could have, he would have taken his pony on the ferry out on the lake — Kootenay Lake, that is — but the modern-day insurance-bound world wouldn’t allow for that, in case his pony got scared.
Luckily, he was able to get his horse to where he needed him by trailer so he didn’t lose any time.
For more information about Joe Guy and his amazing and unique adventures check out his website www.joeguylongrider.com.