For the past year the two friends have chosen the horsepower of their four legged companions rather than a hot rod Ford Mustang, as their method of travel from Riverbank to Oakdale.
Sturtevant and Gaberel board their horses at a residence in Riverbank. They explained that, without an arena, they were looking for an opportunity to exercise their horses, Gwenn and Mia.
Sturtevant lives in Oakdale and shared the two had initially thought the ride between the two towns might serve as good exercise for their horses.
“We thought, why not. It’s the Cowboy Capital of the World,” she recalled of their early conversation. “There should be horses in town.”
Sturtevant is the owner of Gwenn, a six-year-old American Paint Horse she has owned for the past year, as well as baby paint horses, Delaney and Delilah. Gaberel is the owner of Mia, a 16-year-old female Thoroughbred she adopted from a rescue last year.
The two women shared that at the onset of the idea they made sure to give serious thought to the route they would travel.
“We were nervous about how they would handle the cars,” Sturtevant said of the initial route planning.
Primarily using country back roads as their path, the women discovered the trip to town was not an issue for their horses or themselves.
“A typical ride would be coming into town to La Costa where we eat,” Gaberel stated. “Then we travel to Cyndi’s house and let them rest and give them water.”
Since Sturtevant lives in the Oakdale city limits and not a rural location, the women hitch them to a tree in front of her house.
“People stop to take pictures,” Sturtevant said of the sight of two horses in front of her home.
The pair of modern day cowgirls has also been stopped when riding through town running errands on horseback.
“The kids really enjoy it, which is a lot of why we do it,” she added, noting that often times a child will share it is the first time they have pet a horse or seen a horse up close.
Typically the duo saddles up and takes the horses on the trek between the two cities at least once a week. When time permits, a round trip ride can stretch for as much as 10 hours from start to finish.
“On a long day it probably takes us about 45 minutes to get ready,” Gaberel said.
Brushing the horses, saddling them up, as well as packing a backpack of essentials for themselves are necessary preparations for the journey between the two towns.
Since their horses are shod, the speed at which they travel must also be monitored once they hit the city streets. Traveling too fast can prove to be dangerous for both the horse and the rider.
“Generally people are afraid to drive past us,” Sturtevant stated. “But we would rather they go past, we have all the time in the world.
“We pretty much go anywhere we want to go,” she added of their trips into Oakdale.
Visits to La Costa, Starbucks, Tractor Supply and Baskin Robbins are just a few that top their list. The challenge at many of the destinations, however, is the lack of hitching posts. They shared they have even requested one from a pizza establishment they like to frequent.
Perhaps the most unique of their stops to date, however, would be their visit to the tasting room of Most Wanted Wine Shop with horses in tow.
“It was rodeo weekend,” Gaberel said, “we got to talking outside with the owner and he said his wife would love to see the horses.”
Apparently, as business wound down and the tasting room emptied out, the riders and horses were invited in.
“Thankfully our horses are mellow and pretty well trained,” Sturtevant said of maneuvering them in the tight space.
Although they recognize this mode of transport may be a bit unusual, the two said they are well received by community members, travelers through town, as well as the police department.
“We’ve had no problems,” Gaberel said. “When riding through town we just need to stay off the sidewalk.”
As for the treatment of the horses during the ride, the pair shared they stop often to let them graze on grass, water them once in town and feed them a big dinner when they return to Riverbank. Not to mention, the treats shared by strangers as they make their travels.
“The funniest comment that is recurring is ‘Only in Oakdale’,” Gaberel said. “A lot of people comment on how amazing it is.”
“We’re not gonna stop,” Sturtevant said. “When we first started we brought them over about three times a week. Now, it’s a little harder, but we make a point of it at least once a week.
“Next we’re going to try going over to Modesto. We just like riding and getting them some exercise.”