Thursday, April 11, 2019

An interview with long distance rider Gillian Larson - Full Story

Thursday 11 April 2019

When I first came across Gillian I was taken aback by how approachable she was. On her social media channels, she answers everyone who asks something of her which is great with nearly 29 thousand Instagram followers!

Gillian has been on some truly amazing journeys with her horses Shyla and Takoda. She has done four long distance treks covering thousands of miles across the USA from Mexico to Canada, covering lots of types of terrain. Gillian has visited some really remote places and battled whatever mother nature threw at her along the way. Most of us would love to release our inner adventurer given half a chance, but just end up sticking to a hack for a few hours on a Sunday! It was great to have the opportunity to interview her and find out more about her adventures, her horses and what made her take on these great challenges.

Tell me about your horses Shyla and Takoda, how old are they and how long have they been with you?

I have had Shyla since I was 13 and she was 7 (she is 21 this year), and Takoda is Shyla's son, so I have had him for the entire 12 years of his life. I got Shyla when I outgrew my first horse. Shyla definitely was a handful for me when I first acquired her, as she was very hot, excitable and wasn't used to riding a lot on trails, but her energy is part of what has made her such an incredible long-distance horse. She is always ready to go, and she is walking just as fast at the end of a 30 mile day as she is at the beginning. Lots of people think you need a quiet, safe, "bombproof" horse for the kind of riding I do, but I find if the horse is too laid back and relaxed they don't have the drive they need to cover the thousands of miles that long-distance riding entails. Shyla is AQHA registered, and the year after I bought her I bred her to an AQHA stallion; she is a dark buckskin, and the stallion is a lighter, buttermilk colour, which I love. I had hoped that the foal would have the sire's colouring, but instead I pretty much got a clone of Shyla in Takoda. He has a very different personality, as he is much more curious, friendly and people-oriented than she is, but he also got her athleticism and lean physique in addition to her colour, so I am happy it all turned out as it did. In fact, people usually assume on the trail that they are Arabians due to their build and the way that they carry their heads and tails high, especially Shyla. Takoda doesn't quite have Shyla's overwhelming drive, but he has shown a real talent for packing. He is sure-footed, smart and handles obstacles beautifully all on his own, he is also a really talented jumper! I don't know if he can jump under saddle, as I have never tried, but he can launch himself over four-foot tall downed tree trunks from a standstill with a pack on his back, all on his own, and that's pretty amazing to me...

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