Scott Schlepp is being escorted by a Duke and a Duchess for 2,000 miles, bisecting the country.
“The female is really nosey and wants to see everything. She’s very nice, comes up every time. Once the male is harnessed, he settles down and he’s just like a real friend,” Schlepp, of Ashley, N.D., said about his four-legged, royally named companions.
Duke, 10, and Duchess, 9, are black-and-white Belgian draft horses. The team left Rolla, N.D., around the start of the month and plans to be in Brownsville, Texas, come December.
Schlepp, who was traveling between Ashley and Roscoe recently, is raising money for both the trip and a couple of good causes via a GoFundMe page at bit.ly/2PjuYSJ.
“I’m just trying to raise money for the (American) Cancer Society. I’ve got an ad on my trailer. It’s just sort of a crazy idea,” he said.
Schlepp’s GoFundMe page notes that he’ll also be giving 5 percent of the $200,000 he’s trying to raise to the Germans from Russia Tri-County Tourism Alliance. Some folks might know Schlepp from Erma’s Pony Rides, which he used to operate at the Brown County Fair and Aberdeen horse races. But he’s retired from that and sold the whole setup to a woman from Eagle Butte, he said.
Finding a good horse team for the long excursion took time. Schlepp didn’t rush the process. The horses had to be able to work together and handle the traffic. Duke and Duchess were also chosen, in part, because of their cooperative nature, especially when it comes to shoeing.
“I paid quite a bit for this team and they are finally what I like. They stay standing when shoeing, (the) old team didn’t. I’ve got to shoe these guys every 100 to 150 miles. On the trip, I’ll shoe one every day or so,” Schlepp said.
Ten-mile stretches and then a break for the horses is Schlepp’s plan for the journey. The team will pull him and a covered wagon for a stretch. Then, with an ATV that’s also being pulled, he goes back and fetches a large camper. It and a trailer haul the food, water and other supplies. He’ll leapfrog the rigs for the whole 2,000 miles, staying on pavement, but avoiding major cities, he said.
Schlepp knows it’s a big trip, but he was chipper and undaunted when visiting in late July. He also knows that rest is just as important as all the supplies, timing and planning.
“I’m not going to work on Sunday. I take those off, have since I was a baby. I was raised that way,” he said.