My Expeditions

10,000 Wilderness Miles & Counting

In our modern world, equestrian travel has become an anomaly, something that belongs to the past, even as there has been an upsurge in long-distance hiking as people wearied by urban living long to re-connect with the natural world and the nomadic lifestyle of adventuring into the wilderness.

I consider thru-riding—a term derived from travel on long distance trails known as “thru-hiking”—to be the unique hybrid blend of classic long-distance riding and modern day hiking. An equestrian “long ride” is an uninterrupted journey of 1000 miles or more; a “thru-ride” requires the completion in a single year of an entire backcountry trail route. Sometimes a thru-ride and a long ride are the same thing, but there are times when they are not. For instance, a thru-ride of the Colorado Trail, which is 500 miles, is not a long ride; similarly, a long ride that traverses mostly roads is not a thru-ride, as there is no designated trail. Additionally, a ride that covers only a portion of a designated trail, such as the CDT or PCT, but not all of it, is not a thru-ride.

In contrast to most long riders today, who often use rural roads and pass through populated areas, I travel almost exclusively in the back country. For a thru-ride you have to tailor your journey to the trail, considering things such as snowmelt in high elevations, but on a long ride you can pick the route to suit your needs with many available options. This allows many long riders to travel without a support crew since they have access to supplies from the places they go through. In contrast, thru-riding on a remote trail presents challenges related to re-supplying both horse and rider, as well as the possibility of obstacles such as downed trees or trail washouts. I have chosen to ride solo on the trail, and due to my own personal circumstances, I had to find a way to be entirely self-supporting for the majority of my rides, without relying on others to bring me supplies.
Riding over 10,000 long distance miles on backcountry trails requires a tremendous amount of self-sufficiency and ingenuity to meet the demands of being in the wilderness with horses. My goal now is to use the accumulation of all these experiences to help others feel safe and comfortable while travelling with their own horses in the backcountry, whether riding for just one night or for one hundred. I want people to be able to dream big and travel far.
Gillian is the youngest person to solo thru-ride the Pacific Crest Trail, covering the 2650 miles from Mexico to Canada alone with her horses first in 2014, then again in 2016. After that, she went on to ride the Arizona Trail and the Colorado Trail in 2017, then completed another Mexico-to-Canada route on the Continental Divide Trail in 2018—the first person to thru-ride both the PCT and the CDT—eventually accumulating more than 10,000 backcountry wilderness miles with the same two horses.

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