|Wed, Sep 17, 2014 07:37 PM
|Issue of September 10, 2014
October 09, 2013 | 09:38 AM
Richard Mills of Elizabeth and his horse Willy have taken a short break on their ride to save Buck Creek Valley Rescue facility after one of the horses making the trek with them — from the Falls of the Ohio in Clarksville to Great Falls, Mont. — came down with a bad foot and had to be brought home.
Mills said he hopes to be back on the trail this week or next, picking up where he left off near Sturgis, Mo.
Richard Mills spends time with Willy after giving him a bath. Willy and Mills have traveled more than 500 miles on a trip west to help raise awareness for Buck Creek Valley Rescue and other animal rescues around the country. Mills plans to get back on the trail this week or next. Photo by Ross Schulz (click for larger version)
"There's a lot of great people out there; it's just amazing," said Mills, who has always wanted to complete a western-bound horseback trip.
Mills, a veteran, said VFWs, American Legions, Eagles, town officials and random folks throughout the countryside have helped them along the way by feeding them and providing a place to sleep.
"They've all really opened up their doors for us," he said.
One 13-year-old girl woke up early one morning and made an egg-and-bacon breakfast for Mills and his companion, Josh Campbell of Laconia, and his horse, Kojack, who joined the ride in Sulphur.
"She asked us if we liked it," Mills said. "I said this is the best breakfast I've ever had."
Mills said they don't always have a home or hotel to sleep in, so they've had to make camp along the road, in a ditch or in the woods.
In one town, Energy, Ill., Mills said the mayor opened up an entire park for them to rest in. Under normal circumstances, horses aren't even allowed in the park, he said. He also brought food for Mills and Campbell.
Town officials in Mount Vernon paid for them to stay the night in a hotel and helped put up a round pen on the hotel grounds for the horses.
Mills said every town or county police department stops them to ask for identification and inquire about what they're doing.
"They just can't believe how well-trained the horses are," he said.
Willy, Mills' horse, was beaten with 2-by-4s by his previous owner. Now, he's healthy, happy and ready to get back on the trail, Mills said.
"Willy's the show of this," Tina Attig, a volunteer at Buck Creek Valley Rescue, said. "He's the rescue horse that is going all the way."
Mills and Willy have already traveled more than 500 miles (Campbell and his horse also have traveled the majority of the miles) and said they plan to go as far as they can before winter sets in and then start back up again in the spring on the way to Montana.
Mills said it is actually significantly more than 500 miles since the road map used to calculate the total miles doesn't take into account the many detours and by-passes they have to make.
Mills said they try to complete 25 miles a day.
Buck Creek Valley Rescue near Elizabeth is owned by Mills and his wife, Robin. Richard Mills decided to embark on the ride to raise awareness and, hopefully, funds to help keep the facility afloat.
"The horses come first," Attig said.
The rescue facility, which currently has 22 horses, takes ownership of abused, neglected or malnourished horses and needs funding to help pay the veterinarian bills, purchase feed and other expenses.
"They don't do this for the money," Attig said. "It's all about the horses."
Mills said most of the people they talk to say their community doesn't have a rescue or it has been shut down recently.
Attig said the Alaskan fish dinner fundraiser that took place last weekend was good but could have been better.
Follow Mills and company via Facebook at Ride To Rescue Buck Creek. For more information or to donate, visit online at buckcreekvalleyrescue.org.