3,000-mile horseback ride helps Haiti

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Brandy Nelsey brushing her horse while talking to people about Horseback For Haiti.

By Andrew Marlan
Mason Times staff writer

Two sisters from West Branch, Mich., are riding their horses to Texas; a 3,000-mile round-trip journey they had dreamed about since they were children. The Nelseys started a charity called Horseback For Haiti with a goal to raise $15,000 to place three wells in Haiti. This past weekend Brandy and Ashley Nelsey were in Mason, Mich., sharing information on the Haiti Water Project and collecting pledges.

“We’ve raised almost $1,000 in pledges so far,” said Ashley Nelsey, “which is not bad for two weeks on the road.”

The Nelseys’ horses can go up to 2 mph and will travel about 20 miles per day, giving them plenty of downtime to search for donations. Friday, Sept. 23, they looked for pledges in Mason, Mich., as well as a family to allow the Nelseys; their four horses, Febere, Prince, Red and Twist; and Brandy’s dog, Tae; a place to sleep for the night.

Most of the trip was planned to stay with friends, relatives or churches that have offered to help, but Mason, Mich. was a stop they had not yet made sleeping arrangements. 

Ashley Nelsey tying her horse, Red, for the night.

“I saw these two women with four horses and had to find out what was going on,” said Judie Maatsch, a resident of Mason, Mich. “They told me they needed somewhere to stay, so I called up my girlfriend and the Nelseys tied their horses to some trees in my friend’s backyard a couple hours later…It felt totally bizarre, but I felt like God wanted me to help these girls.”

 The Nelseys began their journey Sept. 11, at the Agape Community Church of Nazarene in West Branch, Mich.,  It started when they asked their pastor, David Wolfe, how they could help the church. Wolfe mixed the Nelseys’ faith and activism in the church with their passion for horseback riding and had an idea.

“They had always been talking about taking a horse to Texas, but they’d like to do it for some reason,” said Wolfe. “Our church of the Nazarene is working in Haiti right now in 500 different locations, so I [said], ‘Why don’t you start a trip to raise money to put a well in Haiti?’”

Brandy Nelsey tying her horse, Febero, for the night.

The Nelseys plan to ride 1,500 miles to Houston by mid-December and travel another 1,500 miles back to West Branch, Mich. by May 2012. There are seven more months to go, but this 3,000-mile adventure has already drawn a lot of awareness to the Haiti Water Project.

“These wells will give 2,000 to 2,200 people access to clean water every day,” said Brandy Nelsey. “Clean water will provide people a healthy lifestyle, the way God intended.”

The Horseback For Haiti project is updated online at every long stop they make. Offering a place to stay, reading about their journey and offering donations are available on their website.


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