Extreme weather, difficult terrain, route disruptions and broken gear all describe what might be a typical day on the trail for long-distance equestrian Samantha Szesciorka. Szesciorka rides hundreds to thousands of miles throughout Nevada on the back of her adopted mustang, Sage, to encourage wild horse adoption. At 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 15, Szesciorka will share highlights of her most recent ride in a new exhibition titled "Saddletramp: The Nevada Discovery Ride." The reception and exhibition, hosted and curated by the Shared History Program at the University of Nevada, Reno, are located in room 120 of Lincoln Hall on the University campus.
The Shared History Program's exhibition will showcase select photographs and objects from Szesciorka's adventure in 2016, including journals, riding gear and things found on the trail. The exhibition will officially open with a special presentation from Szesciorka, followed by refreshments and socializing in the exhibition space.
Wild mustang encounter during the 2016 ride through Nevada. Photo taken by Ryan Powell.
Szesciorka moved to Nevada in 2008, and because of her love for horses and long riding, she began planning for her first long-distance ride in 2010. She was humbled to ride close to wild mustangs during her month-long, 500-mile journey in 2013, but was saddened to learn that many mustangs languish in holding facilities because they are not being adopted. This led her to begin the Nevada Discovery Ride project to encourage wild horse adoption.
"I have always been a strong advocate for wild horse adoption, so this adventure seemed like a great way to show people how trainable and reliable mustangs can be," Szesciorka said. "We are blessed to have fans all over the country, and people are always impressed by Sage's demeanor and stamina. In essence, he has become an ambassador for other wild horses in need of homes."
Ride map detailing route for 2016 Nevada Discovery Ride.
Szesciorka traveled 1,100 miles throughout Nevada's rural desert during her most recent journey in 2016. During the three-month trip, Sage, Szesciorka and her dog, Bella, encountered rail tramps, or transients, on a passing Union Pacific train, close encounters with wild mustangs, beautiful landscapes, wild animals and much more on the trail. From scenic views to chats with friendly strangers to wild animal sightings, they had amazing moments just about every day, Szesciorka recalled. However, the best moments occurred when Szesciorka felt she was beginning to understand the Nevada landscape and the moments when the bond between her and Sage became stronger.
Szesciorka would like to think her work with long-distance riding is part of the reason that there has been an increase in wild horse adoption in Nevada.
"For years the adoption rates for wild horses and burros have been steadily declining to historic lows, but in 2015, that finally changed," she said. "Bureau of Land Management data shows a 47 percent increase in adoption rates from the previous year. I absolutely credit that to the hard work of a number of programs, organizations and individuals working to promote adoption. We still have a lot of horses in need of homes however, so I'll keep riding and doing what I can to help."
The "Saddletramp: The Nevada Discovery Ride" exhibition will be on display through May 10, 2017. To learn more about Szesciorka's work with wild horse adoption, visit her website. To learn more about the exhibition with the Shared History Program at the University, contact the program coordinator, Anita Watson, by email or by calling 775-682-6466.