Megan Gist is the founder of Buffalo Moon Expedition, an organization that preserves equestrian travel which carries out a social mission via horseback. Buffalo Moon Expedition was founded in 2008.
Megan Gist’s last and 9th expedition in 2012, took her and her horse Evangeline 576 consecutive miles through Texas over 82 days, on a horse trekking journey to help those with emotional need and also celebrate life and share faith and hope as she travels down the trail.
How did Buffalo Moon Expedition get its start? Her first journey in 2008 was a large portion of Historic Route 66 from Oklahoma to Chicago but turned into nine separate expeditions over the next five years.
Since then, each journey has been over 210 consecutive miles with her greatest and most recent being 576 consecutive miles through the state of Texas.Her total miles to date on expeditions like these are close to 1500 miles. Lifetime miles, she has ridden around 25,000 over 30 years.
In relative terms, that would be equivalent to riding the equator all the way around the world –plus 100 miles.
Gist also has been helping people heal emotionally the majority of her career. Her graduate degree in Adult Education is all fine and well, but her life is not all about book smarts either. She has had her share of life loss and horses have been a way for her to get through her toughest times.
These expeditions are all attempts to make it from A to B. Whether Gist makes it to her final destination is unknown as she says that she is not in charge of this journey in so many ways. However, Gist’s positive attitude and faith keep her moving down the road.
“The harvest is plenty and the workers are few,” Gist uses as her Biblical mantra of Luke 10 analogy that more people need to hear hopeful messages in their lives and that their God given purpose is closer at hand than they think.
In 2012, Gist questioned herself about doing her last Expedition at all, so she turned to her favorite book – The Bible – to help her figure it out. She stumbled upon some words of wisdom that have given her specific instructions about her journey, what to take with her, where to stay and even what to eat.
“It was an ancient Doctor’s wisdom that guided me to head out throughout Texas on this last journey in 2012.” The doctor she is talking about is Luke.
“You See, Luke was a Physician” Gist’ proudly asserts. Gist’ also carries a gift of bringing or at least offering emotional (and sometimes physical) healing to those she meets along the way.
Dr. Luke – or known to many as the Apostle Luke - the Evangelist and Disciple of Christ - confirmed through scripture she was supposed to do this. Not so much for herself, but for those out there who were in need of emotional freedom. Here are the ancient words of wisdom from Luke, 10: 2-18 and they go like this:
“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. 5 “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6 If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. 8 “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. 9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near."
Imagine Gist and her surprise when she read these infamous words that said "GO! I am sending you out...." She also doubted the Bible’s prescription to take essentially nothing but a toothbrush. She thought to herself, "God must be crazy to ask me to do this!!!!"
She said that the spiritual direction seemed preposterous at first. More scriptural confirmation came when she read the story of Moses had Aaron as Moses' spokesperson and ambassador. But who was to be Gist's ambassador? That was an easy answer -- her HORSE… Evangeline!
On top of that she questioned God about what to take. On the other expeditions she usually carried 15 pounds of gear. But this last expedition, she was being lead to carry only the clothes on her back, a sleeping bag and a few other belongings weighing in at a tiny 3 pounds.
Gist’s biggest spiritual test came when a new saddle came on board making it impossible to carry a tent or a sleeping bag. The saddle was a Stuebben Saddle with no dee-rings to fasten gear on the saddle. “I couldn’t believe that circumstances were leading me to leave my only shelter behind: let alone ride hundreds of miles in a Show Dressage Saddle! I hadn’t needed that tent yet, but having it with me was a good feeling of security," Gist’ says with a smile, “So with some skepticism, I left it with a host-turned-new-friend in Tyler, Texas at mile marker 379.”
If you readers wonder what happened after that, well, Gist reminisces, “God provided – one million percent- without the tent.” She continued to whittle down her gear to basically the clothes on her back and deodorant and a toothbrush. Gist continued to ride on faith and what happened over and over again? “God provided,” she says.
“Words fail me when I think of all the Hospitality and the kindness of folks in this world. Words fail me MORE when I think about this leap of faith I was taking and how I just went with it,” Gist says, “Sometimes I get tears in my eyes just reflecting upon how it all worked out so perfectly beautiful. God’s provisions were flawless and He was forever faithful right down to the last mile.”
Gist didn't have but one troublesome host – but she said laughing about it in hindsight, “I went against Luke’s words of wisdom. You know the part that says not to greet any strangers on the road? Well, I met a stranger on the road and they offered a place to stay.”
Megan usually makes arrangements with others a few days in advance through other friends. But this time she took a chance. She recalls, “They were upstanding citizens in the community, had good references and were great horse people: philanthropists, too. But the man of the house became inappropriate when his wife left me there with him. He started drinking and getting belligerent. Thank God, I was able to get out of there after my husband made an emergency trip to my location at 10pm. I ended up riding 6 miles bareback with my horse to another stable at 2 in the morning. I will NEVER greet another stranger ON THE ROAD again!”
Gist’ swears that these instructions will guide her on this next expedition and will lead her where she is meant to go.
Each day of this ride, she looks forward to doing the work she loves best from the back of a horse and living out her trademarked life motto, “Emotional freedom starts on the trail.”
“There are so many people out there who are hurting emotionally and just as many who want to share and celebrate their lives on an adventure like this,” Gist reflects, "Vibrancy comes with sharing our life stories as does hope which creates meaning in our lives.”
Buffalo Moon’s pace is steady and their progress is slower than what most people expect. “We ride a maximum of 15 miles a day at 3 miles per hour. This and any of Buffalo Moon’s previous expeditions were/are not about setting any land speed records; these expeditions are about savoring each moment and the meaning of it all.
Buffalo Moon Expedition uses community resources to help them travel from point A to B. There is no time frame, no schedules to keep. Gist always believes in the welfare of her horse first and says, "We get as far as we get and travel as far as we go.”
Gist says that sometimes it would take her 10 hours to ride 15 miles as she likes to stop and get her message out to as many possible as she travels along the way.
Buffalo Moon Expedition’s travel style is similar to that of the Old West. With less than 3-6 pounds of gear, the duo travels from town to town at a leisurely pace of 3-4 miles per hour.
All horses are not created equal when they on this type of journey. Some horses really can't stand the daily changes (and are too domesticated in some ways) this type of expedition demands.
Her gear is always very light. No heavy western saddle..just a found pounds of gear and a saddle that fits will take Gist on these journeys into the unknown.
“Without my horses, these expeditions wouldn't happen; they are the heart and soul of all our adventures. I always take exquisite care of my horse on our journeys. Their welfare is first." Megan realizes the amount of effort that goes into care-taking a horse and always goes at their horse’s pace--- not her own.
The duo will rely on help from hosts and sponsors as they venture the trail. Hosts often by transport gear to the next host, and give them a place to shower, eat and rest.
“It’s not the miles, it’s the meaning,” Gist emphasized again. " We are here for the journey and not the miles, not the membership, not for anything else but what we were designed to do in living our passions while employing ourselves in acquiring our own souls. And this time, we are looking forward to having those we meet share their lives to give us meaning."
And for Buffalo Moon Expedition, time and time again, that’s just what the doctor ordered!
Support Buffalo Moon Expedition as they make their way on their route. Megan would love to have you join her on her Facebook age at www.facebook.com/equestrianexploration