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Cyril Bertheau, a Texas man, recently made headlines for his plan to travel 2,300 miles from Austin to Seattle on horseback in 100 days. While the adventurous feat has attracted a flurry of media attention, it has also drawn criticism and concern from equestrian experts and Animal rights advocates who question Bertheau’s preparedness and the wellbeing of his horse, Shiok.
Bertheau bought Shiok on Craigslist and embarked on this journey, intending to keep his followers updated via his social media accounts. However, criticisms soon flooded in, with some accusing him of horse abuse. The Long Riders’ Guild founder, CuChullaine O’Reilly, raised serious doubts about Bertheau’s readiness for this demanding journey. He criticized the Texan for embarking on the trip without sufficient preparation or understanding of the challenges inherent in long rides.
Bertheau has responded to the accusations, asserting that a remote team supports him and that his horse’s needs are continuously monitored. However, he provided no further details on the team’s composition or his own equestrian experience, prompting ongoing speculation. Further, concerns have been raised about the daily care, including feeding and medical checkups, for Shiok. Bertheau asserts that Shiok is in good health, though he declined to share veterinary records.
One Texas rancher who hosted Bertheau and Shiok early in their journey has contradicted this claim. The rancher accuses Bertheau of failing to adequately care for Shiok, even suggesting that the horse is injured and dislikes its owner. Images of Shiok shared with Barbara Godwin of Horse and Rider Living showed signs of swollen legs and lacerations, adding weight to these allegations.
This controversy raises significant ethical questions regarding Shiok’s welfare. Dr. Aviva Vincent, a veterinary social worker, suggests that if a horse is merely viewed as a vehicle for human endeavor, it’s unethical due to the lack of the animal’s choice in participation.
Rumors that Bertheau may sell footage of his trip or even Shiok himself have added to the controversy. Such plans, if true, could reinforce the narrative of a journey pursued by personal gain rather than a genuine love of adventure and respect for the horse’s welfare.
As the saga continues to unfold, we must prioritize the health and welfare of animals in our pursuits. Our relationship with them should always be based on respect, understanding, and responsibility, never sacrificing their well-being for our ambitions. As CuChullaine O’Reilly succinctly put it, “arrogance and ego should [never] automatically allow [anyone] to abuse a horse.”
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