Category Archives: Interviews

My interview with long rider, Gillian Larson, PART 2. (GREAT PICS!)

My interview with long rider, Gillian Larson, PART 2.

In case you missed it, here is the link to Part 1 of my interview with long rider, Gillian Larson.

To sum up my previous post, Gillian is doing what I dream of doing – she’s riding her horses for months at a time through the most glorious parts of America.  Sigh.

Here is a quote from her website:

In both 2014 and 2016, I traveled on horseback alone from the Mexican borderto British Columbia on the PCT. I completed two new equestrian adventures in 2017, riding the Arizona Trail and the Colorado Trail. Then in 2018 I followed the Continental Divide Trail through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana.  Summer of 2019 will feature a ride across Utah and through the high Sierra Nevada mountains.

I had to meet her and I had to plug-in to her unique spirit!

Gillian Larson and her partner.


First Impressions.

We were sitting at the Madonna Inn restaurant – one of the only dining establishment opened with inside dining (Covid 2020).

Gillian is a tiny, beautiful, waif of a girl.   Tall, but small.  I imagined that she was an amazing pioneer woman in her past life.  Don’t let that slight frame fool you!  This girl is tough as nails.  She could hook up the oxen and drive the stagecoach… all with a determination and kind smile.

She’s that kind of a girl.  The kind we read about in romance novels that we think aren’t really real… are they?  I mean, who takes her horses alone for months at a time in the rugged mountains, and is also polished enough to shake off the dirt and become an ideal pitch person?!  Very few.  Michael Jordan, Beckham… and Gillian Larson.

Shock and Awe.

After I got over the first impressions, I listened.  I wanted to hear it all.  I wanted to grasp, ingest, feel what it was like to rely on an equine partner like the men and women of the Old West.  I wanted to know what it was like to not be afraid.  I wanted to feel the air, the breezes, the pristine places, the mystery, magic and mayhem of nature and the night.

But, I know Mother Nature flips both ways.  Total serenity… total control. Gillian’s tales delighted me and sobered me.

What I felt as she told me of her amazing adventures… was shock and awe over her HUGE accomplishments when pitted with the true outdoors.  Would I have done what she did – as me?  Could I have done what she did?  Do I want to do what she did?  Heck ya.


I think the reality of long riding is ‘harsh and wonderful’.  I would ABSOLUTELY sign up for one of her ‘how to’ courses (and encourage you to do the same…)  before ever attempting to do this.  Learn as much as you can before you set out, because you are going to learn A LOT as soon as you do.  (Her website to sign up for courses.)

Long Riding isn’t just trail riding for longer… it is like backpacking through Europe where you don’t speak the language or eat the food.  You have to think ahead – way ahead – for both you and your horses, in a very remote landscape.

PLANNING is everything.

Gillian told me how she made many errors as she learned how to do this successfully.  She plans. every. single. detail. and then things still change.  The saying, “Life is what happens after you make plans…” totally applies to long riding.

Not that things going wrong while alone in the remote stretches of America’s wild lands is a bad thing… but, it could be.  Mostly, though, it has all worked out and created in Gillian a constant craving for more.

You see, long riding isn’t like it was in the Old West.  I mean, it sounds romantic, riding the range, but it wasn’t really then and it isn’t now.  Oh, it is glorious and amazing and mind-blowing, but it isn’t easy.

There aren’t little towns every 25 miles.  There aren’t liveries that will take your horse for the night while you get a shower and a hot meal.  There aren’t set trails or people you meet along the way… or the skills passed down from generations of ‘know how’ on what to carry and how to live – out there.


Nowadays, you have to have a team that meets you every few days at navigation points.  The team will bring what is needed, which can change all the time.  You carry a satellite phone, food for you and your horses, emergency gear, tents, lines and bedroll… and so many items, small items, that fit in exactly the same way in your pack – every day.

Gillian said that the first time she went out, she had way too much stuff and not enough of what she needed.  Now, she has it down.

Still, however, she uses a team (usually her Mother) who meets up and provides supplemental horse foods and drives Gillian into town for supplies.  Sometimes, Gillian has to leave her horses on a high-line and trust that they will be undisturbed if her team doesn’t find the meet-up location.

Once, Gillian had no choice but hitchhike into town.

It all worked out.

But suffice it to say, no long rider can just ride into town, stock up and refresh both rider and horse, like they did back then.  Town is not horse-friendly any more.

What she didn’t tell me… but I read on her Instagram…

Here we were, sharing so much over a 3 hour lunch… and she didn’t tell me about the worst thing that could ever happen on a trail ride – and it happened to her.

She lost her best friend and partner, her lead horse.  The mare was walking behind Gillian and suddenly she stopped… and then the mare dropped.  She was gone.

Gillian didn’t tell me this story at all.  I read it on her Instagram.

So I texted Gillian and gave her my condolences.  She told me that it was all so raw.  She still cannot speak much about what happened to her mare.  Brain bleed, heart attack?… she didn’t know and it didn’t matter – she knew her mare was instantly gone and didn’t suffer.  But, talk about LONELY and ALONE… she was out there in total distress, with only her pack horse and her shock.

In true pioneer spirit, this mighty girl rode out on her pack horse, found a ranger, came back and had a ceremony for her girl.

Now THAT is true grit.

Through it all, I still long to see the world through ears.  Don’t you?

Throughout the lunch, I kept asking myself, “She does it… can I?”  And although the lunch ended far too soon, I felt a kinship of heart, soul and horsehair.  I felt a renewed life force in me that wants to run to the hills with my horse.

And, I will pester Gillian as she trains her new best horse… to let me come along for the ride.

I want to see the best places in America through beloved ears… Don’t you?



HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth... if you like this, please pass it around!

The Horse Trailer With The Broken Heart

All of us who have ever had loading issues, this missive is for us.  Thank you, Michael Johnson!

Throwing My Loop…

By:  Michael Johnson

  The Horse Trailer With The Broken Heart
(Part Two)

     When we last left Michael, he was sitting in the trailer with his head in his hands wondering if Blue would ever load in the trailer again.  He was at that place in life where we all are sometimes.  When we are on the edge of the precipice – certainly not wanting to jump off…but wondering if there is any other option. 

     I’m staring at Blue and he’s staring at me.  We’re at the back door of the trailer.  Nothing on him but his halter.  I’m sitting on the floor of the trailer facing him with my feet on the ground.  He’s in front of me staring back.  His head is low and even with mine about a foot away, and we are staring…looking for all the world just like Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef in one of those old spaghetti westerns.  Standoff!  All we need is some strange music in the background.  We’ve been out here for days.  (Well, not straight.  Actually, while it has been days, it’s more like three or four hours most days.)
I’m over the flag-waving, put pressure on him, rope-around-his-butt thing.  Nothing is working and my heart is filled with negative certainty that nothing is going to work.
“Would you go in the trailer?” I asked him again.
Blue looks away.
Where to turn?  What to do?  Mystery.  Then this thought comes…
“Why won’t he go in the trailer?” the little voice says.
“Why won’t he go in the trailer?  Why don’t you ask him?”
“Why won’t you go in the trailer, Blue?” I ask him, realizing I had never stopped long enough to think about or even consider that question.
“Well, I’ll tell you, Pop,” said Blue, “It was a mouse.  A mouse scared me.  Or maybe it was  hornet…or maybe a grass snake inna’ twailer one day.  Or maybe it was because you stopped too quick when we wuz widin’ down na’ woad, and I bumped my nose, or you took a curve too fast and it scared me.  Maybe you didn’t cool me down enough after working and I had a cramp.”
“Well, that didn’t do me any good at all,” I said in frustration to the voice.
“Yes, it did,” said the voice.  “Asking that caused you to think about why.”
“I still can’t load, Blue,” I said.
“You never could,” said the voice.
“What?  Of course I could.  I loaded him for twelve years!”
“You did not.  You never loaded him in your life or in his,” said the voice.  “And you still can’t.”
“So what do I do now?”
“Sit down,” said the voice.  “Take a load off.  Be still.  Think,”
So sitting on the trailer floor staring at Blue, I began to think. 

     And I thought about… 

     When the horse won’t load, we all do the same thing.  We get nervous. Our mind turns to fear that we might now be late because of this delay.  (We get in exactly the same frame of mind we do when the plane is going down.)  After all, we must be on time for the (insert here) barrel racing, cutting, team penning, roping, or trail ride.  We must arrive before the event starts.  Even if we are finished with the event and the horse won’t load, we might – God forbid – be late getting home.  The moment we see the horse failing to load…we get in a hurry.  We need to load that horse right now!  And that is all we think about.  That creates resistance.
But thank goodness there is always someone there who “knows how” to load the horse.  He lives in every town and he has many names.  In my town, his name is “Mad Dog.” I like Mad.  He’s my neighbor.  I think he means well, but the problem is Mad Dog knows everything under the stars.  He knows about politics and the local school board, lake levels,  what America oughta’ do in the Middle East, and everything else.  And he most of all, he knows how to load a horse.  (The fact that none of Mad’s horses ever load well goes completely unnoticed.)  When our horse won’t load, Mad Dog is always around and he takes command immediately.
“Okay, now,” he says in a loud voice.  “I’ll take the horse up here by the trailer and all of you get behind him.  Okay, now start walking toward him…that’s it.  Put some pressure on him.  Harold Wayne, you pop him on the butt there with that quirt if he won’t go in.  We have to load him ‘cause if he won’t load right now, he won’t ever go in the trailer again until the Lord himself comes back to take us all home.  That horse will learn he doesn’t have to do what we say, and we surely don’t want him to learn that!”  Then everybody begins marching toward the horse like a platoon of Roman soldiers and we have a 30 to 45 minute fight with the horse.  Once done – if we get done – everybody is sweaty, nervous, and mad.  And we know the maddest one of all…the horse.
Of course the reason I know such much about all this is because I’ve done all those things more than anybody.  I’ve used pressure, force, rope-around -the butt, paddles with rattles, sticks, quirts, yelling, waving arms, and whacking with a rope countless times.  But on this day, I continued to wonder why?  Why did I ever do all that?  And the thought came again…why was Blue doing what he was doing?  Why would a horse do something so willingly for over a decade and then suddenly refuse to do it?
Who knows?” said the voice. “It’s not important!  What is important is that we wonder WHY?”
As I kept sitting there on that trailer floor thinking, I became aware of the strangest thing… I was no longer focused on loading Blue.
And I began to see I had never loaded Blue – never in my life. 
Blue always loaded himself

     And then the most painful thought of all came – and it really bothered me.
“Mad Dog’s not here.  Oh my.  Oh my.  I am.”
“THERE YOU GO, BUBBA!” shouted the little voice. 

     “Let’s go the barn, Blue,” I said to him.  Once there, I filled the bucket with feed.  Back to the trailer we went.  Standing.  Staring.  And I said, “Blue Man, if you will put one foot on this trailer floor, I will give you a bite of this feed.”  For 27 minutes, Blue stood still as a stone.  I knew he was coming.  I knew it in the bottom of my soles and in the bottom of my soul.  For the whole time, I knew he was coming.  How?  Why?  Because I stopped trying to load him, and made sure he wasn’t afraid – like I did long ago. I gave him all the time in the world and just wanted him to know I loved him so.
And Blue said, “Are you kiddin,’ Pop?  I want the whole bucket!”
    And then…my precious Blue walked up in the trailer with me. 

     I looked outside.  The sun was shining.  Kinda’ warm for January.
Such a cute day. 

“But what do I do?” 

“I don’t know.  Use all that love you have for him.”

                                                           –Greg Dial
Horse Trainer
Lampasas, Texas

— Michael Johnson 

Michael and the Blue Man.

HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth... if you like this, please pass it around!