SAN ANGELO, Texas (Concho Valley Homepage) — Cross-country cowboy, Cyril Bertheau, is on a long journey from Texas to the state of Washington on horseback and has made a stop in San Angelo. His journey has been marred with controversy over the health and safety of his 13-year-old horse, Shiok.

Concho Valley Homepage met Bertheau on his horse outside the city to talk about his journey, which started in Austin, Texas, and will continue until they reach Seattle. Overall, the two will rack up more than 2,000 miles. Bertheau hopes to arrive in Seattle by mid-July but told our reporters this was not a hard deadline.

His inspiration for the endeavor comes from a family tradition in which the eldest sons of each generation make some kind of long journey as a rite of passage. Bertheau’s great-grandfather traveled on horseback from North France to South France. His grandfather walked across the Sahara, and his father traveled worldwide for three years.

Shiok, Bertheau’s horse, is a 13-year-old Tennessee Walker Gelding who Bertheau describes as cool-headed, mature, and overall desensitized to highway traffic. Bertheau purchased Shiok a month and a half before beginning the journey and said he planned to travel 130 miles a week not to overstrain Shiok. Bertheau also told CVHP that Shiok’s previous owner had him in Bastrop, Texas, where he was mostly used as a trail horse for three years. Bertheau said this might be Shioks’ first time outside of Texas.

“I want to make sure he doesn’t burn out, so I am progressively getting the mileage in,” said Bertheau.

Traveling with a large animal alone across the country can present several known risks, such as other animals, vehicles and other people, according to Bertheau.

“Safety is my number one priority for my horse and for me,” said Bertheau.”Being aware of where I am, being aware of what could go wrong at all times, and just being prepared for any eventualities.”

A few safety measures he said he has taken on this journey include bear spray, staying a reasonable distance away from traffic, staying visible at all times, not riding at night and staying off the asphalt as much as possible.

Other items Bertheau and Shiok carry include food, first aid for both of them, toilet paper, toiletries, a change of clothes, two water bottles, a GoPro camera and a cellphone. Bertheau said the weight, including himself and his gear, totals 200 pounds.

When asked what he thinks he will get from the experience, Bertheau said he didn’t quite know.

“It’s a question I think I am going to ask myself along the way because this is something I’ve got to find out myself, and I hope that I’ll be a better man in the end, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically,” said Bertheau, “Thats my hope.”

Not everyone is as optimistic about the journey as Bertheau. Several online communities whose members claim Bertheau is committing animal abuse have formed. A registered veterinary technician who wished to remain anonymous told CVHP that concerns for Shiok’s health include what appear to be “spur rubs” on Shiok’s right side and that the horse did not appear visibly sweaty, which indicates a high possibility of dehydration or malnutrition.

In comments on Facebook, US Horse Welfare and Rescue, a Connecticut-based horse rescue organization, said Shiok had lost significant weight shortly after the journey began. Others suggested the horse might have edema, an accumulation of fluid under the skin that has settled to the lowest point of the horse’s body.

Concho Valley Homepage reporters are actively seeking professionals to weigh in on the concerns surrounding Bertheau and Shiok. At the time of publication, a request for a second interview with Bertheau had not yet received a response.

This is a developing story. Stick with Concho Valley Homepage for updates as more information becomes available.