SAN ANGELO, Texas — When an Austin man traveling across the country on horseback came through San Angelo, he was followed by a chorus of concern and controversy about the trip’s effects on his horse’s health.
Editors Note: Bertheau has contacted CVHP stating he plans to address concerns regarding Shiok’s well-being through a livestock agent – (an agricultural professional who manages the buying and selling of farm animals) that was investigating the situation.
“Long riders,” or people who make trekking across long distances on horseback a way of life, were among those who spoke out about what they saw as a lack of experience and preparation by Cyril Bertheau, the man traveling from Austin to Seattle on his horse Shiok. Concho Valley Homepage spoke with two experienced long riders about the controversy surrounding Bertheau’s 100-day trip and the possibility that it might endanger his horse’s health.
Pete and Luisa Breidahl, a husband and wife duo who have been long riding for several years, don’t claim to be professionals but have traveled thousands of miles through places like Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy and Austria with their horses and their dog, Jill. The two have a YouTube channel that chronicles their travels and say they aim to educate and promote the well-being of horses above all else.
While the couple respects Bertheau’s passion and wants to encourage equestrian travel, they want to remind the community that long riding is not cosplay.
“You don’t just throw on some chaps and some spurs and a cowboy hat,” said Pete Breidahl, “It is difficult, and there are major failures ahead.”
The Breidahls talked about the kind of work required to prepare a horse for a journey like Bertheau’s and said it might be possible to purchase a horse that is ready to go, but it is more ethical to put time and effort into a horse while building a connection to the animal over a longer period of time. They stressed the importance of the horse’s age, training, and health, the condition and health of the rider and the proper gear.
The couple said Shiok, the 13-year-old Tennessee Walker horse Bertheau purchased six weeks before his journey began, seemed to be a ‘”fixer-upper.” One of their chief concerns was what appears to be lameness in Shiok’s right hind leg, though they acknowledged that the short videos on Bertheau’s Instagram and TikTok channels might not show a complete picture of the horse’s health.
The Breidahls stressed that long riding is not a skill that can be picked up overnight and talked about mistakes they had made when they began.
“The things I can see after six years, I couldn’t see in the first year. But I look at [Shiok] now, and I can see the horse is in pain,” said Pete Breidahl. ” I just wish [Bertheau] could see and acknowledge that.”
Luisa Breidahl shared that as a beginning long rider, she experienced a lot of criticism for mistakes she didn’t know she was making. By acknowledging that she had done wrong by her horse, she was able to learn from the criticism and grow in her horsemanship.
The ability to take that criticism and grow from it is something the Breidahls see as a significant difference between themselves and Bertheau, who has faced a chorus of concerned commenters across his social media profiles since his journey began without addressing them.
“The difference between where we were at [as beginners] and where he’s at is we didn’t double down on what we said we were gonna do,” said Pete Breidahl. “Cyril, bless him, he’s going and taking a journey that will fulfill him spiritually, but it is 2023, and we need to do this ethically and responsibly. We live in a world where we have Google, and there is no excuse for not doing the most basic ethical things in this situation.”
The most important thing the couple feels Bertheau should do is to acknowledge that the trip is not going how he expected and to stop his journey so that he can grow to become a better horseman and try again in a year. They say they do not want to see another horse harmed or see the long-riding community tarnished.
“If you love horses, if you love equestrian travel, if you want to do these kinds of things, you have to put the horses first,” said Pete Breidahl. “And sometimes the hardest thing to do is admit you’re wrong.”
While the couple agrees with those who worry about Shiok’s health, they acknowledge that few people have done what Bertheau is attempting. They also believe Bertheau’s passion and drive for long riding can benefit the lifestyle. Pete Breidahl said he thinks Bertheau has done some good because his journey has brought many people together worldwide and encouraged new long riders to learn how to safely travel by horseback.
The Breidahls want Bertheau to know that despite what they see as his mistakes, they wish to support him in making good choices for the future by giving him the words of wisdom they didn’t have when they were beginners. They are offering him the chance to meet with them in Germany, where they can mentor him, feed him, and teach him how to become a better long rider.
“Our focus, our only focus, is ethical horsemanship. That’s all we care about — the promotion of long riding,” said Pete Breidahl, “We are 100 percent committed to helping anyone and everyone for free.”
Those who wish to know more about Pete and Luisa Breidahl’s story and about Long Riding can visit their website, beprofessionallookcool.com