WALPOLE — A California woman and her trusty steed arrived in New Hampshire Sunday as part of their cross-country journey to raise awareness of domestic violence.
Meredith Cherry of Grass Valley, Calif., and her 11-year-old mustang/Peruvian Paso horse, Apollo, started their ride in January 2017, with stops at domestic-violence centers, women’s shelters, schools and community centers to shed light on the issue.
Domestic violence is “willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another,” the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence says on its website. In addition to physical and sexual violence, it includes threats and emotional abuse, and according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, affects millions of people in the United States annually.
Cherry, who said she’s experienced domestic violence first-hand, got Apollo about six years ago to reclaim her love for riding and travel.
She’s not riding to raise money, she noted, but will accept contributions if offered.
The two ride for about 10 to 15 miles per day — with 8,000 miles already traveled — and plan to hit all 48 continental states by 2020. New Hampshire is Cherry and Apollo’s 31st.
While in Walpole for two days this week, Cherry and Apollo stayed with Carol Worcester, who owns five rescue horses.
The two connected through a mutual friend, whom Cherry bunked with while in Vermont. Her and Apollo’s stays vary from one to two nights, and hosts are usually found through social media.
“I plan it as I go,” Cherry said.
But other aspects of her trip were thoughtfully charted out over the course of three years before their departure, such as their route, as well as researching other horse travelers and preparing Apollo for the long haul.
She admitted, though, that her trip hasn’t always gone according to plan.
“My map has changed a lot since I started, namely New Hampshire was supposed to be my 47th state, not my 31st state,” she said. “Last winter, I decided to change my entire eastern route and reverse it.”
The pair started riding again Tuesday, then made a stop in Keene at Dusty Dog Farm Wednesday. They met with officials from MCVP Crisis and Prevention Center and Cooper’s Crossroad, which educates the community on the impacts of childhood trauma. Cooper’s Crossroad was founded by Christina Major, the owner of Dusty Dog Farm.
In an email Tuesday, Robin Christopherson, executive director of MCVP, pointed to Cherry’s recommendations for preventing domestic violence, which can be read at www.centauride.org.
They include improving youth education and community outreach, while increasing conversation around the issue.
“… MCVP is working on all those things,” Christopherson wrote. “I am very pleased to see that Meredith also calls for everyone to get involved, instead of crisis centers and survivors alone. Without an informed community, domestic violence can still exist under a cloak of secrecy and myths.”
And this circles back to Cherry’s main goal — shedding light on the problem.
“Since I feel so grateful for this opportunity, and so saddened at the thought that anyone else is going through what I did, I felt it was right to use the ride to help everyone I could meet along the way,” Cherry wrote on her website.
Those experiencing domestic violence can seek help by calling the statewide domestic-assault hotline at 1-866-644-3574, the sexual-assault hotline at 1-800-277-5570 or, in the Monadnock Region, the Monadnock Center for Violence Prevention at 603-352-3782 or 1-888-511-MCVP. You do not need to be in crisis to call.