Backpacker Radio #217 | Gillian Larson aka the Thru-Rider on Covering 10,000 Miles on Horseback: Logistics, Advice, and Favorite Stories

In today’s episode of Backpacker Radio presented by The Trek, we are joined by long-distance thru-rider Gillian Larson. Yes, thru-rider. Gillian has more than 10,000 backcountry wilderness miles via horseback, including two thru-rides of the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, the Arizona Trail, and the Colorado Trail. Gillian was the youngest person to solo-thru ride the PCT in 2014, and became the first person to thru-ride both the PCT and CDT. We of course ambush Gillian with an onslaught of ignorant questions of what it takes to complete one of these long trails via horseback. We went into this chat assuming the logistics of a thru-ride were tough, and oh boy, did we underestimate that. A fascinating conversation, we think you’ll really dig this one.

We wrap the show with a recap and some of Badger’s top takeaways from his recent 3-night trek through Washington’s Goat Rock Wilderness, a triple crown of things that float, and what range of times are appropriate for dinner.

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Interview with Gillian Larson

Time stamps & Questions

00:04:02 – Reminders: We’re still collecting poop stories for our book. Send your story here! Join us in Iceland for Summer of 2024!

00:08:30 – Introducing Gillian 

00:09:11 – What got you into the horse life? 

00:10:50 -Did your mom ever nudge you in the direction of competitions? 

00:12:18 – Was your mom excited about your thru-riding adventures? 

00:14:10 – Do you have siblings? 

00:14:34 – How old were you when you completed your solo ride? 

00:17:08 – How did you prepare for a thru-ride? 

00:21:09 – How do you manage two horses at a time? 

00:24:32 – What differentiates a pack horse from a riding horse? 

00:25:50 – When you get off to walk, what is generally the reasoning? 

00:27:05 – Do horses sweat? 

00:27:34 – Are they at risk for dehydration? 

00:28:40 – Do you have to hide the water caches off trail? 

00:29:31 – If you walk with the horses, do you have to guide them with a leash? 

00:30:27 – Do horses respond to their names? 

00:32:34 – Are horses spooked by thunderstorms? 

00:32:58 – How much is a horse’s personality nurture vs. nature? 

00:34:25 – How much does it cost to feed a horse a day? 

00:35:40 – After the desert, are you able to rely on grass for feeding? 

00:39:34 – How did you handle finding routes with the low meadow access? 

00:42:53 – Tell us about the camping experience 

00:44:52 – Do you have the same permit system as hikers? 

00:46:36 – Do you have to change horseshoes? 

00:49:20 – Can you replace shoes on trail? 

00:50:30 – How much does it cost for shoe maintenance? 

00:54:08 – If you didn’t have support, how did you manage trail towns? 

00:56:10 – Do you have any instances where you’d go to town without any support? 

00:57:36 – Would you say thru-riding prevents you from having a social experience on trail? 

00:58:20 – Is it ever tricky to rely on help from online fans? 

01:03:15 – Is that the common way to self-support? 

01:04:10 – Do you feel compelled to complete the whole trail, in a purist way? 

01:06:22 – Is there etiquette around horse poop on trail? 

01:08:40 – Horse poop not smelling like horse poop 

01:10:54 – Were you able to connect all the miles on the PCT in 2014? 

01:13:15 – Have you ever let hikers ride your horses? 

01:14:14 – Any wild animal encounters? 

01:16:48 – Do the horses have any favorite snacks? 

01:17:42 – How do horses react when seeing a moose? 

01:19:31 – What animals are horses afraid of? 

01:20:25 – Can a horse outrun a cougar? 

01:22:11 – Do you carry bear spray? 

01:23:57 – How does your bond change with your horses when thru-riding? 

01:33:42 – What other gear do you carry that a backpacker wouldn’t? 

01:37:21 – What trail is most horse-friendly? 

01:39:11 – Is there a reason you picked the PCT for a second ride? 

01:40:48 – If someone wanted to do this, what should they budget for? 

01:43:09 – How long does a saddle last? 

01:45:48 – Do you know you share a name with someone on Survivor? 

01:47:17 – What does “retiring” a horse consist of? 

01:48:32 – What should people do if they see a horse on trail? 

01:51:16 – Is there a standard distance that a hiker should stand away from the horse? 

01:52:08 – Can you get a DUI on a horse? 

01:52:25 – What are your favorite horse-girl movies? 

01:55:08 – Where can people get in touch with you? 

01:57:05 – What is an FAQ that we haven’t asked? 

01:58:18 – Thank you Gillian! 


QOTD: What timeframe is appropriate for dinner? 

Thing of the Week 

Triple Crown of things that float 

5 Star Review

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