True Horsepower

Cross-Country Trek Raises Domestic Violence Awareness

Meredith Cherry and her horse Apollo are traveling across America to raise awareness about domestic violence issues. Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle

Meredith Cherry is on a cross-country mission to raise awareness of domestic violence. She’s also doing it with the best horsepower available.

Cherry, a California resident, is currently traveling through the lower 48 states as part of a four-year, 10,000-mile journey “Centauride: Riding for Domestic Violence Awareness.” She’s making the entire trek on Apollo, her 11-year-old horse that is half-mustang, half-Peruvian Paso palomino.

By Monday, Cherry and Apollo are expected to cross the New York border. The pair plan to be in the Jamestown area by Aug. 16.

“This is an issue that was important to me,” Cherry told The Post-Journal by phone while traveling near Waterford, Pa. “Domestic violence awareness is a cause that matters to me.”

Cherry, through her journey and routine posts on social media, has been open about her own experience with domestic violence. She escaped an abusive relationship, and points out what she missed most during that time was horses and traveling.

Meredith Cherry pictured recently on her horse, Apollo, while traveling through Butler, Pa. Cherry is on a cross-country journey through all lower 48 states to raise awareness of domestic violence. She is expected to enter Chautauqua County sometime Monday. Photos by Seb Foltz/Butler Eagle

Hoping to use her own story as foundation, Cherry bought Apollo in 2014 — which she claims was “love at first sight” — and decided on a cross-country mission.

Each day, Cherry estimates she travels between 10 to 15 miles. She tries to visit as many domestic violence centers, women’s shelters, schools and community centers as possible to share her story and “highlight the realities” of domestic violence.

“It’s an issue that affects everyone in one way or another,” Cherry said. “And it depends where I’m speaking, but it can mean different things to different people.”

Since beginning their journey Jan. 1, 2017, Cherry and Apollo have visited 28 states. New York will mark the pair’s 29th together on this particular trip.

“Overall it’s been successful,” Cherry said of her goal to bring awareness to the cause. “It’s been super. The message has been well received. (Domestic violence) is a problem that exists all over the country, whether you’re old or young.”

While traveling, Cherry and Apollo have visited dozens of local communities. She keeps tabs of the pair’s journey through daily Facebook photos and messages, in addition to weekly blog posts.

Cherry has been the subject of doezens of newspaper articles and TV news broadcasts in the last two and a half years. She hopes the coverage will shed light on some sobering statistics.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, a nonprofit advocacy group, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the U.S. Specifically, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men “experience severe intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner contact sexual violence, and/or intimate partner stalking with impacts such as injury, fearfulness, post-traumatic stress disorder, use of victim services or contraction of sexually transmitted diseases,” NCADV estimates.

During her venture, Cherry has stayed with countless strangers who have provided places to sleep for her and Apollo. Many learn of the pair’s journey on social media before offering their homes and barns at future stops.

Two such stops of refuge will be provided by Penny Nixon, who will allow Cherry and Apollo to stay at her former Panama home — where a camper will be provided in addition to a barn and pasture. The following night, Nixon and her husband will lend space at their at Kortwright Road home in Ashville.

“I reached out to Meredith, for selfish reasons really,” Nixon said. “I was envious of her journey to trek across the country just her and her horse. What a fabulous time it must be — riding in all kinds of weather, not knowing exactly where they would sleep, or the next meal would be. … Only to find out she was doing it for a good cause. How could I not offer her safe heaven on her journey to bring awareness to domestic violence? It is a crisis that touches all of humanity.”

Together for nearly six years, Cherry noted Apollo’s importance on their mission.

“He definitely plays a big part in this,” she said. “He’s very friendly and very willing to be part of this. … Horses are very healing animals, so he’s good with helping people.”

In human years, Apollo is about 36 — a point Cherry stressed to those wondering how her longtime companion is handling the journey. “He’s in his prime right now,” she joked.

By the time the pair reach New York, they will have traveled 7,500 miles. Cherry hopes by the time the awareness ride ends in 2020 she will have made a difference in someone’s life.

“It would be great to have made at least some impact,” she said.

Those wishing to keep track of Cherry and Apollo can do so by following “Meredith and Apollo’s Centauride” on Facebook, on Instagram or through her blog at centauride.org.