Patrick Tyre and his horse Bucky are both a bit saddle-weary, but you can’t blame them. After all, it isn’t every day that a man and his horse trek halfway across the country — more than 1,200 miles — from Texas to the California coast.
The two vagabonds are currently enjoying some much-needed rest with the Carey family at Rancho Ballena Thoroughbreds in Ramona, a breeding, training and rehabilitation facility for thoroughbred racehorses.
The journey actually began as a fundraiser more than 20 years ago when Patrick, a general contractor from Shelbyville, Del., and his horse Rocky, a Walkaloosa (a Tennessee Walker crossed with an Appaloosa), set out to cross the country from nearby Bethany Beach to California to raise funds for flood victims in Mississippi.
Patrick’s brother Jeff joined them with a support vehicle, and they called themselves The Riders Across America.
The plan was to ride every mile on horseback for one year all the way to California, but the ride ended 1,500 miles and five months later in DeKalb, Tex. Two years later — in 1995 — Patrick and Rocky resumed the ride but had to abandon their quest after just 250 miles this time.
“My riding companion and good friend, Virgil Cave, broke his ribs, and I found out my wife was expecting with my son Michael, so we had to abandon the trip after just four weeks,” explains Patrick.
Last year, Patrick returned to where he had left off in Tomball, Tex., with a rescue horse named Bucky.
“I knew that, at 55, this might be my last chance to complete my mission,” he says.
But, he would not be riding for a cause this time. He just wanted to prove that he could — and would — finish the journey. It was a time of great change in his life. He was separated from his wife, his kids were grown, and finding construction jobs in a difficult economy was challenging.
That’s when he met Bucky.
Bucky is a 10-year-old gray Arabian cross and, although he is small, something in his eyes spoke to Patrick and inspired him to rescue him from the slaughterhouse. At the time, Patrick had no clue that this little horse would rescue him as well as they set off on their cross-country journey together.
The ride was different this time because they had no support vehicle, and Bucky had to carry all of the supplies on his back. During the first ride with Rocky, the horse could easily cover 30 miles a day without the added weight of supplies. Jeff would meet them at a designated point with food and water for Rocky and dinner and a place to sleep for Pat. In contrast, Bucky was comfortably covering 15 miles, but would struggle over 20 with the added weight of supplies.
The lack of support in the 2012 ride was immediately evident on the first night of their journey when they were attacked by swarms of mosquitos and red ants as they slept on the side of the road. This prompted the creation of a Facebook site called “Bucky’s Adventures” to help promote the ride and ask for help from local horse people to put them up for the night during the ride. The site was established by Patrick’s best friend, Kelly Reese Howard, owner of the Kindred Spirit Farm in Maryland, where Bucky will retire someday.
Patrick subsequently began posting pictures of their journey on Bucky’s site, and Bucky (with Kelly’s help) would tell about his adventures from a horse’s perspective. They were soon receiving more than 5,000 hits a week from viewers who followed their exploits.
Bucky is now working on his first book, which will be called “Bucky’s Adventures: From Maryland to California” about all the amazing people — and horses — he met and places he visited along the way.
Both Rocky and Bucky developed muscles from the long rides that caused their saddles to rub on their withers. In 1993, after a TV interview, Wayne Steele from Steele Saddle Company generously made Patrick and Rocky a brand-new saddle. And in 2011, after posting on Facebook, Linda and Mark Williams sent a special saddle for Bucky. Both saddles helped the horses and ultimately saved the rides.
As the journey continued, Patrick and Bucky rode along the highway from farm to farm, meeting many new friends along the way. But after riding hundreds of miles through Texas, Patrick realized that the plan of riding every mile had to be modified because it was just too hard on Bucky and, well, riding along the highway all the time was not very enjoyable, either.
When they reached the New Mexico border, the plan changed. They hooked up with some trail riders who then introduced them to some endurance riders in Arizona who rode with them off the beaten path through many historical sites such as Lincoln, White Sands, Tombstone and the Sky Islands, where they could experience the history and beauty of the country and not just follow the mind-numbing route of the interstate.
Patrick and Bucky finally arrived at the Border Field State Park in Imperial Beach on Feb. 15, 2013, and galloped into the Pacific Ocean. Kelly Howard flew out to join him and celebrate the completion of his 20-year quest, and rode with them on the beach.
And, of course, Bucky told everyone of his amazing ride on that perfect day when they reached their destination in sunny California.
During the course of the cross-country trek, Kelly and Patrick co-authored “The Last Blade of Grass,” an inspirational story about one man’s dream and the amazing friendship that developed between them as Patrick told her about his 1993 ride. It includes beautiful poems and illustrations that weave together a magical story of love, friendship, and dreams. It also explains the struggles over the past 20 years that brought Patrick to the point of near ruin. It is about letting go of that last blade of grass that holds you back from living.