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Long Rider Gene Glasscock
I first spotted Gene Glasscock’s frumpy hat gliding pass my pasture fence and then up my driveway. Moments later, I could see the man attached to the hat coming over the crest of the small hill that led to my stable riding a liver chestnut Tennessee Walking Horse and leading a pack horse.
My first impression was, "Those horses looked mighty good to have traveled 6,000 miles."
Long Rider, Gene Glasscock
Frank and George
“Well, thank you,” Mr. Glasscock said when I expressed my thoughts out loud, “they’ve done well. But, Frank has some saddle sores.”
While untacking Frank and George, Glasscock showed me the sores, one on either side, made by the edges of the neoprene pads he was using. He cleaned the abrasions and medicated them after hosing down the two horses.
I was Gene’s host for the night. When I got the call two days earlier asking if I had room for the horses at my barn I was thrilled at the opportunity to meet this man. Gene was a little over one year into his long distance ride when he arrived in North Carolina. He’d left Denver, Colorado in September 2002 with the goal to visit the capitols of the 48 continental states. The total ride would be 20,000 miles. That was enough of a feat in itself. But, also consider that he was sixty-nine years old - parent of six children, and grandfather of thirty-eight grandchildren.
What was the motive behind the goal to ride to each capital of the forty-eight continental states? After a twenty-year career in construction work Glasscock served in Paraguay as a missionary for three years. While there he saw the need for education among the young people. His purpose, in addition to meeting a personal challenge, was to draw attention to this need and raise money for a scholarship fund.
The two Tennessee Walking Horses, Frank and George, were purchased from Adams Horse Sales in Paducah, Kentucky. He tried them out for several days, riding in the Shawnee National Forest. Gene says he didn’t go out to look for any special breed, but chose the two geldings for what they could do and because they had heart and were affectionate and kind.
Author and Glasscock at NC State Capitol Building
Training and Conditioning for Cross Country Ride
Conditioning was done on the trail. “You can’t really prepare horses for this kind of ride at home. They have to learn to go without stopping,” he explained.
Starting out slowly, Gene gradually increased the distance he rode in a day until he averaged about twenty miles a day. He gave the horses breaks, and saw that their nutritional needs are met. He fed about 12.5 pounds of grain twice a day in summer and gave them up to 17.5 pounds in cold weather. He made sure they had fresh grass or quality hay.
He always offered to pay for Frank and George’s food but not many hosts accepted the offer. “People on this trip have been very kind and helpful. I think it might be because I am old,” he said with a sly grin.
The biggest obstacle in training the walkers for the ride was teaching them to deal with heavy traffic. Gene trained them to go single file so one or the other would not be out in the road. He tied the head of the rear horse to the tail of the horse in front.
Gene always rode with the traffic. “Seeing those big trucks coming at them head on really bothers them,” he commented.
Finding farriers along the way skilled in shoeing walking horses was a problem for Gene. There are special techniques to shoeing a walker because of the way they move. According to Gene some farriers would listen to his instructions, agree, then go right on and shoe them like a three gaited horse.
“I just have a terrible time finding farriers to shoe them right,” he said.
The two horses had distinctly different personalities and looks. Seven-year-old Frank was the gregarious one with a pretty face. He seemed to expect everyone to appreciate his affectionate head rubbing and nuzzling, begging to be petted.
George, who was six at the time and a bit roman-nosed, on the other hand was a bit standoffish. He seemed to be saving his energy for the job at hand. When the arrived on the lawn of the North Carolina Capitol Building George was busy eating the well-manicured grass, while Frank was playing P.R. man to curious passer-bys and a group of school children there on a field trip.
Glasscock alternated riding and packing the horses. When asked which job he thought the horses preferred he said, “I think they like being ridden best.”
Because of his arthritis and a muscle disease Gene had a hard time getting into the saddle and used whatever mounting block was available, sometimes a park bench or in one case a wagon in front of an antique store. Both horses stood perfectly still as if they knew that made it easier for Gene to climb aboard.
In speaking of his age Gene said he hoped older people would look at what he was doing and realize they don’t have to sit on the porch and do nothing.
Glasscock Meets the Press
Gene, Frank and George, along with two mustangs that Gene added to the string when he reached Texas, completed this long ride on December 1, 2005 in Columbus, Ohio. Governor Bob Taft and First Lady Hope Taft plus a whole host of dignitaries helped celebrate the completion of his journey at the capital. The Governor even mounted up and had his picture taken astride Frank.
The two mustangs, Tosi and Buddy, gave the Walkers breaks, and all four horses made it to the finish. Gene rotated riding, packing, and resting the horses.
When asked if it would be fair to question how the Tennessee Walkers compared to the two mustangs Gene said, “Yes, that’s a fair question.” He said that the Walkers were just as tough as the mustangs. “When the Tennessee Walking Horses were walking along, the mustangs had to trot to keep up.” Gene observed that Tosi, one of the mustangs was a lot like George, all business. Where the other mustang, Buddy, wanted to be affectionate like Frank, but Gene had a longer bonding time with Frank, so it wasn’t quite the same.
While they were in Texas, a snake bit George. Gene thinks George rolled over on the snake since the bite was on hisback. That morning Gene noticed a swelling the size of a silver dollar, but didn’t think too much of it. But by nightfall he saw the swelling had worsened to the length of a dollar bill and as thick as his hand. George never showed any sign of feeling sick, but the hair sloughed off and the two fang marks were apparent. There was no vet available, so there was nothing Gene could do but go on to the next town. It took about three weeks for the hair to grow back, and then George was good as new.
After the completion of the long ride Frank and George went to live on Whistle Stop Ranch in Dewey, Arizona, to work in their Horses With A Heart therapeutic riding program. Separating from Frank and George after twenty thousand miles of companionship was not easy for Gene. He said, “It was hard to part with them, but I am going back to Paraguay and can’t keep them. They had so much trust, and they taught me to trust. When I would lie down in the corral at night, they would lie down right beside me.”
- Gene Glasscock
See what Gene Glasscock is doing now!