Trainer and his mustangs stride across N.C. for veterans
The Charlotte Observer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Jim Thomas is accustomed to tackling the challenge of training wild mustangs.
But riding them across a chunk of the Carolinas, negotiating highway traffic?
“Why not?” he asked.
So Thomas, who is among a select breed of equine trainers working with mustangs, left his farm Monday in the Chatham County town of Silk Hope, west of Raleigh, and began riding toward Clemson, S.C., site of a horse competition next week.
Along the way, he is taking donations for the Wounded Warrior Project and hopes his “Mustangs for the Warrior” ride can raise $15,000.
Thomas, a retired sergeant major with the N.C. Army National Guard, spent Wednesday night at Latta Plantation Park in Huntersville and rode Thursday to Bessemer City. On Friday, he’ll ride to Shelby and then to Chesnee, S.C., on Saturday. He plans to arrive in Clemson on Tuesday.
He is making the 300-mile trip with two mustangs that have been in captivity for about three months, switching mounts along the way.
Thomas said he wanted to help U.S. military members who have been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“My first thought was, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if I could use my mustangs to raise money for the WWP?’?” he said. Thomas said he recalled another trainer in the nationally known Extreme Mustang Makeover competition, of which Thomas is an annual competitor, riding his horse several years ago from his home in Las Vegas to the event in Fort Worth, Texas.
“If he could do that, I could surely ride from Silk Hope to Clemson,” he said, “raising money for the WWP along the way.”
There have been challenges. On Wednesday, one of the mustangs fell into mud and was trapped up to his chest, Thomas said. Thomas used the other mustang to pull the trapped horse free.
His effort is being chronicled on a special Facebook page, which includes photos taken along the way and tributes from others – along with information on how to donate.
Thomas had lunch midday Thursday at a diner in eastern Gaston County and heard a song that someone had written about his ride.
“This has been a very emotional trip for me,” he said. “A big and great world surrounds us, with many a fine folk.”
Thomas is inviting any wounded veteran to hop on his spare mustang and ride along for a while. And he hopes that some of the other trainers gathering early next week for the Extreme Mustang Makeover in Clemson will join him for the final stage of the journey.