Cyril Bertheau, 24, purchased a horse on Craigslist and is riding it from Austin to Seattle.
His viral journey has stirred anger among the equestrian community, which is concerned about his horse's welfare.
Bertheau declined to answer questions about his horse's health and complained about "busybodies."
A Texas man who has gone viral for his plan to ride on horseback from Texas to Washington dismissed criticism from equestrian experts, who want him to get off his high horse and address health concerns about his steed.
Cyril Bertheau, 24, purchased a horse on Craigslist and charted a path from Austin to Seattle, planning to make the 2,300-mile journey in 100 days. After a send-off with extensive media coverage in April, Bertheau promised to keep his followers updated about his journey on Instagram and TikTok. He chose the handle, "2raw2ride."
He also set up accounts on Venmo and Cash App. He said any donations "will go to beer."
But shortly after his journey began, he started seeing comments on those social media accounts from people concerned about the welfare of his horse, Shiok. A petition launched earlier this month accused Bertheau of "horse abuse" and demanded he quit his journey.
CuChullaine O'Reilly, the founder of the Long Riders' Guild, for instance, is convinced Bertheau did not prepare enough for his journey. Many long riders and their horses take many months – if not a year or two – to prepare for trips like the one Bertheau is on.
"Any authentic Long Rider knows that just because you buy it, doesn't mean the horse is ready for the road," O'Reilly told Insider by email. "This is an act which reveals the magnitude of Bertheau's equestrian travel ignorance."
Reached by Insider for comment, Bertheau did not elaborate on how long he trained with Shiok prior to departure, what that training consisted of, or how much hay and grain he has been feeding the horse daily. Bertheau also declined to answer questions about how he selected his horse, his travel route, and his 100-day timeline.
"Me & my horses are being supported remotely by a team and all my horses' needs are being met & carefully monitored continuously," Bertheau told Insider in an emailed statement. "Not everything i've done is perfect but horse well being is my #1 priority and i'll do anything needed to complete my journey safely."
Bertheau did not elaborate on who his "team" consists of, nor did he answer questions about his previous equestrian experience.
"These accusations are so ridiculous that I will not explain myself as i only share content on social media for the people who support me either online or in person & enjoy my story and the adventures i encounter on a daily basis," Bertheau told Insider by email, adding that he's been harassed, threatened, and even physically confronted. He said the incidents were "fuelled by these critics & creators that claim they want to help & care about horse welfare."
Bertheau declined to share details or records from his veterinarian visits with Insider, dismissing the concerns and complaints he's received as coming from "busybodies who pretend to care." Bertheau previously told The Daily Beast that Shiok is "not injured and has been cleared by vets three times already."
"There is a stark contrast between horse people i meet in person (cattle ranchers, ranch cowboys, rodeo cowboys, …) whom i have had overwhelming support from& have seen my horses' condition in person as opposed to the online horse community, who go off incomplete information and often entirely made up facts," Bertheau told Insider by email.
A Texas rancher who hosted Bertheau and Shiok for a few days early in their journey, however, told The Daily Beast that Bertheau "has no idea what he's doing."
"He didn't feed his horse while he was here," the rancher told the outlet, adding that they gave Shiok some of their own feed, for which Bertheau did not reimburse them. "His horse is hurt, and his horse hates him. I watched that horse walk away from him but when I went out there, he walked up to me."
The rancher shared photos and video taken of the horse with Barbara Godwin, who runs an online publication called Horse and Rider Living. Godwin shared those with Insider. She said they don't show an emaciated horse — "not yet" — but that Shiok's legs were swollen, he had lacerations, and he appeared "tender to the touch on his back."
"I seriously believe Bertheau is doing this ride solely for publicity and fame without regard for his horse," Godwin told Insider.
Godwin noted that photos only show part of the story, and it's difficult to assess an animal without seeing it in person. Dr. Aviva Vincent, a veterinary social worker and assistant teaching professor in the School of Social Work at Syracuse University, echoed that sentiment.
"Pictures don't do justice to actually understand what is going on in the anatomy of the horse or the comfort," Vincent told Insider, adding that the relationship between Bertheau and Shiok is important. "He says early on, in one of his videos, that his family has this idea around everybody has to take up a challenge, and this was his, and he is destined for this. If that is true, that's very, very meaningful."
"What, then, is the role of the horse?" Vincent said. "If the horse is just the vehicle to get from point to point, it is not ethical because the horse doesn't have any choice in that participation and what that looks like."
The Daily Beast reported that Bertheau — who appears on his social media clad in chaps, spurs, and a cowboy hat — may be planning to sell footage of his trip to streamers like Netflix and also may be planning to sell his horse. A recent, cinematic video begins with a close-up of Bertheau's face. The camera then slowly zooms out revealing Bertheau riding one horse and leading a second one, which he told The Daily Beast was a pack horse used to carry supplies.
He declined to answer questions from Insider about whether he intended to sell the footage or his story. When asked by The Daily Beast about hearing offers to sell his horse, he said: "I'm not going to say yes, and I'm not going to say no."
O'Reilly told Insider that Bertheau had "set off on a mute equine victim," and that horse-loving Americans are "justified in expressing alarm at this unfolding tragedy."
"Bertheau isn't the first uninformed egotistical fool that has put a horse's life in danger," O'Reilly said. "But that doesn't mean his arrogance and ego should automatically allow him to abuse a horse from Austin to Seattle."
Read the original article on Insider