Joe Guy saddled up and said goodbye to his wife and three children at the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association headquarters on North Ellington Parkway. He had never ridden a Walking Horse before last year, but now he's crazy about them.
"I'll only use walkers as I do this ride across America," said Guy, praising the Tennessee Walking Horses' gentle nature and willingness to move forward.
Guy has a date to train a horse in Hamilton, Ala., and from there he'll go to Florida and make a visit to a Walking Horse children's camp near Orlando. Then it's up to Savannah, back across to Tennessee, and north to Kentucky and beyond. He hopes to give a couple of clinics when he gets back to Tennessee, to introduce his unique method of horse training, and show how he can turn a problem horse into a safe mount in record time.
"I haven't had a problem horse I couldn't fix, and I've worked with horses in Australia, Canada, and the U.S.," Guy says.
He will celebrate his 40th birthday on the road on Aug. 7. Guy's not only a horseman, ready to help other horse people; he's also written his autobiography, "Living a Dream," and will be promoting the book and the CD of his songs, "City Cowboy," that comes with it. Long hours in the saddle are perfect for singing and working on new songs.
Cash Master, the big dark horse Guy was on when he rode out of town, had not been ridden for a year, but made no objection as the saddle was fitted and the packs tied on.
"I try to do it as natural as I can," said Guy. "I keep it as real as possible." He does not use a bit, only a homemade rope halter with three strategically tied rings.
"You can do as much in a halter as a bit except for fine training," he said.
"The first day is the hardest," Guy said. "It takes a little while to build up trust. Then at some point the horse realizes they're not going home. Once you've got it with that horse, you've got it forever."
"You meet people for a reason," is Guy's philosophy, along with "the best way to learn is to start doing." Once people knew he was interested in Walking Horses, the TWHBEA welcomed him, and Tony Reed of Bright Star Stables in Brentwood supplied both Brother, the horse Guy rode from Franklin to Lewisburg, and Cash Master.
Guy tries to travel as light as possible, taking a minimum of food for himself, and counting on buying grain for the horse along the way. The horse gets quite a bit of grazing, too. His biggest fear is losing the horse at night, so he like to camp someplace with a fence around it, and the horse is hobbled and wears a bell, too. Guy doesn't even carry a sleeping bag, just rolling up in his coat and lying on the ground.
Cash Master has shoes on all four feet, and Guy plans to check them frequently, and fix loose shoes right away.
"I've got a hammer, a cut-down rasp, and 20 spare nails, so I can tack a lost shoe back on if I have to," he said, "I don't carry a spare shoe unless we're going in the mountains."
He has a cell phone, but doesn't count on using it much - he says once you're away from the cities, the reception gets pretty patchy.
"Horses and kids" is what Guy hopes to be doing for the rest of his life, along with his music and his writing, of course.
What's his advice for the horsemen of Marshall County?
"If you've got problem horses - horses with issues - take it back to basics. Remember: if you can't do it on the ground, you can't do it on the horse's back," says Guy.
We'll welcome this Australia horseman back to Tennessee later this year, but meanwhile check out his Web site at www.joeguylongrider.com.