Utah man, mustangs stop in Northwest Arkansas on yearlong ride

7,000 miles by horse

Jake Harvath travels along his 7,200 mile journey on horseback through 30 states. His route took him through Northwest Arkansas in January where he spent several days with friends in the Gravette area.
(Courtesy photo/Jake Harvath)
Jake Harvath travels along his 7,200 mile journey on horseback through 30 states. His route took him through Northwest Arkansas in January where he spent several days with friends in the Gravette area. (Courtesy photo/Jake Harvath)

Riding and caring for horses is a way of life for Jake Harvath. Now he's spending a year of his life on horseback riding 7,200 miles on a tour of the nation that's taking him through 30 states.

Harvath and his three mustang horses left their home in north-central Utah in September. The team plans to spend a year on their epic journey, finishing back home in Utah in October. Harvath is on horseback each day. There's no vehicle or trailer involved.

In mid-January, Harvath rode into Gravette to spend several days with his friends, the Dallas Sweat family, to enjoy a rest from his journey and give his three mustang steeds a well deserved break. On a frigid January afternoon, Harvath stood in a windy pasture west of town with his three horses and talked about his trip

"We' started on Sept. 25 and have gone 1,500 miles so we're one-fourth of the way. The horses are doing well," Harvath, who is 24, said. The horseman barely noticed the single digit temperature and a north wind whistling across the wide brim of his western hat. Harvath, and his horses, too, are used to harsh Utah winters.

Travel has varied from bushwhack riding across deserts to navigating back roads, trails and sometimes highways. Sleeping has been a mix of camping and staying with people.

Horse people are a tight knit group all across the country, Harvath noted. At times, someone will offer lodging and a place for his mustangs. Then through social media or other ways, that person will help line up future overnight stays for the team, but not always.

When he's camping, Harvath snoozes in a sleeping bag that's rated down to minus 40 degrees. Camp is set up where his horses can graze and get water. "There's been lots of wild experiences this winter riding in below zero weather," said Harvath, who calls Heber City, Utah, home.

Why did he chose to ride in the cold?

"Well, it's a year-long trip so it's going to be in the winter somewhere," he said, noting that winters in the mid-South are milder than up north where he will eventually be. He's mapped out his entire 7,200-mile route and averages 20 miles each day at walking speed. Meals include a lot of freeze-dried food and nonperishables, he said.

This journey has been a lifelong dream for Harvath, who is a farrier and horse trainer by trade back home. Yet there's another reason for his quest: to raise awareness of the plight wild mustang horses face in the western United States.

There's a large overpopulation of wild mustangs on Bureau of Land Management tracts, he noted. Since the 1960s, the federal government has been rounding up these wild steeds and placing them in pens feed-lot style. The mustangs are available for adoption, but only 8,000 or so are adopted each year. That's not near enough to ease the poor conditions the wild horses often face in government pens, Harvath said. Information on adoption is available on the BLM website, he added.

He's documenting his saga on social media. People can follow the journey at "Year of the Mustang" on Facebook and Instagram.

Last reached by cell phone Feb. 7, Harvath was in southwest Missouri in the Mark Twain National Forest. He planned to drop down to Eagle Rock, Mo. and most likely back into Arkansas for a spell on his way east.

He rides one horse while the other two carry gear and rotates out which horse he rides from day to day.

His plan is to cross the Mississippi River on the Dorena-Hickman Ferry southeast of Sikeston, Mo. Kentucky awaits on the other side of the river. He'll keep riding east into North Carolina, then turn north toward the New England states.

Mustangs are well suited for a year-long ride. They develop few health issues, they're a hardy breed good in the cold and highly intelligent, Harvath said. The three horses on the trail with him, named Bella, Eddy and Denver, are the only mustangs he owns.

Harvath's three-horse, year-long adventure seems almost unbelievable to Linda Brown of West Fork, who has been riding horses all her life. She got wind of his journey and met Harvath while he was in Gravette.

"It's incredibly brave and ambitious," she said. "He is an excellent horseman."

His care for the mustangs is over the top, Brown noted. "

What close bond he must have with those three horses."

Talking by the phone last week, Harvath was asked if there will be another multiday rest down the trail such as his time in Gravette. Yes, he said, but not until he reaches New Jersey.

  photo  Jake Harvath shows his three mustangs, Eddy (from left), Denver and Bella in mid January 2024 during his stop near Gravette. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
  photo  Harvath with his mustang, Bella, during the team's stop near Gravette. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)
  photo  Harvath and his team stop for a break on their way through Utah. (Courtesy photo/Jake Harvath)
  photo  Harvath stands with Bella, one of his three mustangs. (Courtesy photo/Jake Harvath)

Follow the journey

Jake Harvath frequently posts updates and photos to "Year of the Mustang" on Facebook and Instagram. His 7,200 mile trip will take him east, then north along the east coast before he starts heading west.

Source: Jake Harvath


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