Interview with Deidra and Christian Muniz, a newly-wed couple embarking on a trail ride across the U.S.
This foolhardy husband-wife team (and their donkey, horse, and dog) will be crossing the United States of America from the Atlantic to the Pacific on the American Discovery Trail (see below). The trip will begin March 5th, 2016 in Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware and culminate about a year later just north of San Francisco, California. While ours is not the first coast-to-coast trek, we certainly have our own little twist with the menagerie of animals that will be accompanying us.
The route kind of chose us. Christian happened upon an article about the American Discovery just days after we got married, but he can't remember for the life of him how he came across it. It was just meant to be!
It is also great that the American Discovery Trail has ambassadors in each state who have carefully and meticulously laid out the exact route and there are even resources that help to navigate around the sections that are not equine friendly. Discussions with the trail coordinators helped us choose the southern route because it's more equine friendly. Not having to pioneer a whole new route lifted what could have been a very time consuming burden from our shoulders!
My husband, Christian, and I were married in May of 2015. On our honeymoon in Florida, Christian ran across a webpage that mentioned the American Discovery Trail.
Both of us have an unquenchable sense of adventure and the prospect of experiencing so much of the United States was mesmerizing. Horses have always been a very important part of my life and Christian wanted to share that passion with me; it was his idea to complete the trail on horseback.
Shortly after deciding all of that, Christian began thinking about his Mexican heritage and decided that his equine of choice would be a donkey. I love how this blend is rather symbolic of our family: we have different approaches to achieving our shared goals, and we are stronger for it.
The preparation has been rather rigorous because we only gave ourselves 10 months from inception to blast off. Many people spend years or more preparing for trips like this, but we narrowed our timeline for two reasons: 1) our dog, Caleb, is getting up there in years (8 years old, turning 9 on the trip) and we wanted him to be able to fully engage in and enjoy the journey; and 2) there is no time like the present. The longer you live, the more things you will pile on your plate that you can use as excuses to keep from getting out and doing the things you love.
So, we wasted no time with preparation of our team's bodies and minds. We have a lot of details on the specifics in our blog, but the basic run-down is that the humans exercised regularly and take Caleb, our dog, for runs.
Even though we work the horse and donkey a lot in the field, we haven't managed to get as many miles under their belts as we would like prior to embarking on the trail. So, we plan to start off slowly with 5-10 miles per day at slow paces and work up to their full potential. This strategy will also allow them time to become gradually acquainted with living the trail life. The physical portion can be built slowly over time on the trail since we have nothing but seasonal/weather considerations to influence our timeline.
Christian and I have been gathering resources to learn how to navigate a variety of situations we may encounter. We have also been making connections with people who are familiar with trail life and/or the geographical areas that we will be traveling through to make sure that we are as fully informed as we can be about what we will be subjecting ourselves and our animals to on the journey.
The animals have the most rigorous preparation regimens for the mental portion of this trip. Our dog has been learning and applying commands that will be used on the trail and has been learning proper behavior while on leash from horseback. He has done a phenomenal job learning how to untangle himself from the leash and safely switching sides of the horse when needed.
The horse and donkey have undergone a battery of psychological exercises to ensure that they can calmly handle whatever the journey throws at them. We started small with activities like walking over tarps and accepting the tarp when it is rubbed against them. Now, even when they hear a gun at 200 yards, they trustingly hold their ground and wait for instruction.
They have also been exposed to an array of wildlife ranging from deer to emus. With calm and willing minds, we are confident they can handle even the worst situations.
We have been working with an extensive network of veterinarians from the Mount Laurel Animal Hospital in New Jersey who have equipped us with knowledge and tools that will help us diagnose and treat injuries along the trail. The animals' safety is our utmost concern and should anything happen that would make us even slightly question their ability to continue on or complete the trail, we will put the journey on hold until the animals are taken care of.
We have 3 specially designed medical kits for the journey: one for us, one for the dog, and one for the equines. How we handle each injury will be on a case-by-case basis, because no two scenarios are the same. The severity and type of injury, our knowledge and resources on hand to address it, and our distance to the nearest vet or shelter all play an important part in determining what we will do if one of the animals is injured. We are starting with a solid foundation, so I am optimistic that we can handle what the tail throws at us.
Deidra and Christian, thank you for sharing your upcoming adventure with the community! We look forward to following your adventure!