One man’s long journey is nearing an end after nine months of travelling across Canada in a horse drawn chuck wagon.
Pierre Cloutier left Quebec on November 6, 2014 to chase down a childhood dream.
“I had my first horse at 12-years-old and I was always dreaming to be a cowboy and travel as a cowboy, and Quebec is not so much ranch country,” said Cloutier. “So it’s a kid’s dream that I decided to realize.”
As with many grand adventures, this one started with a woman. Cloutier’s long-term girlfriend broke up with him and this prompted him to re-evaluate his situation.
“I was in deep love with that woman for five years,” he said. “I got kind of a broken heart, and that was the first puzzle on the table to kick me to do something else.”
Something else is exactly what he did. Cloutier sold his possessions, spent two months building his two chuck wagons, and hit the road with his horses and his one and half year-old husky-lab cross named Eska.
Despite having never been to British Columbia, Cloutier decided it was here that his dreams lay.
“I had the same feeling that the old pioneers had, when they were leaving their country to find a new world,” he said. “On one side it’s kind of scary but you have to trust life.”
After nine months on the road, travelling 20 to 30 kilometres per day, he has finally made it to the Okanagan.
He pulled into Kelowna on Wednesday, with plans to head to Armstrong for the Interior Provincial Exhibition and Stampede on September 2. He has no set plans when it comes to settling down, but he has heard good things about Armstrong.
“I like the area very much here, it’s a nice area, and Armstrong is pretty much a farmers area too. I’m not a city guy at all,” said Cloutier. “I want to keep my horses too, so that’s the main thing.”
After nine months on the road, Cloutier said the horses have held up great. He said he never pushed them too hard, because he didn’t have a set schedule and never needed to hurry. They remain the same weight they were when they left Quebec.
“All those horses, I’m so proud of them, they’re in better shape than when they left,” he said. “By respecting those animals, without that I wouldn’t have been able to make it.”
In addition to being an ex-truck driver turned roaming cowboy, Cloutier is also a country music player.
Once he settles down for some time, he plans to take his music, and his horses, on the road for a year, sharing his music. That’s his next step in following his childhood dream, and if the success of the first part of his plan is any indication, his country music career should be a smashing success.
Cloutier can’t attribute all of his success on the road to himself though.
“I met so many kinds of people, but one thing is sure all across Canada, and that’s the help from people, this was my main surprise on the trip,” said Cloutier.
Dozens of people invited him into their homes across Canada, feeding him and his horses and helping him in whatever way they could.
“Every night I had a place to sleep,” he said. “I never bought a bail of hay, a bag of grain for my horses and I never went to a grocery store for myself. It just tells you how big the human heart can be sometimes.”
Cloutier hopes his trip can inspire others to follow their dreams no matter how far-fetched they might seem.
“Never accept from anyone that your dream is too big,” he said. “The people who work with horses before, told me, ‘Pierre, you cannot cross the prairies in the winter, you’re going to kill yourself and you’re going to die,’ and I can tell you today, I’m in the Okanagan Valley and it’s 35 degrees and I’m very healthy and the horses too.”
One piece of advice Cloutier has taken to heart comes from an unlikely source, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“He says you have to break the rules. If you follow everyone else, you’re going to have the same result.”
Cloutier has reaped the benefits of breaking conventions over the past nine months.
“Everybody’s got a kid dream but not everyone realizes it.”