Filipe Masetti Leite was horseback riding through Montana on a long ride across the Americas in 2012 when his horses began to spook at something on the trail ahead.
They came to a dead stop and refused to move. Moments later, a grizzly bear burst out of the forest.
“If we were still riding at the pace we were riding, he probably would have come out of the forest right where we were,” he said.
“That’s when it’s dangerous, because grizzlies will attack when they are hungry, when they are with cubs or when they see you last minute. My horses smelled the grizzly way before I saw it, so they saved my life by stopping there.”
There were many dangerous moments like this while Leite was riding through North and South America from Calgary to Sao Paulo, Brazil in 2012 and then to the tip of Argentina later.
He said he witnessed multiple deaths, violence and children armed with guns while staying a drug lord’s house in Mexico.
“There were various moments when I thought I was going to lose a horse or I was going to die, but somehow, someway the universe conspired in our favour. I’m a very positive guy, I always kept very positive, even in the hardest moments. What I tell people is that luck doesn’t exist, what exists is being ready.”
To complete the final Alaska-Calgary leg of his journey, the 32-year-old is riding two wild horses donated by the Penticton and Osoyoos Indian bands.
Leite got the idea to ride these wild horses because he met a woman from Penticton in South America who told him about her wild horse from the Penticton Indian Band.
“She would talk about how good these horses were and how a lot of them were going to the meat plant because there wasn’t enough people riding them.”
Masetti, who brings attention to issues he finds important on his trips, said he decided to make his last journey about these wild horses to show their worth as well as bring awareness to importance of the horse in the 21st century.
“The idea is to celebrate the horse and those who work alongside the horse.”
For the past weeks, Masetti, who immigrated from Brazil to Canada as a teenager, is getting to know his two horses, Mac and Smokey, in Osoyoos.
“One of them, Smokey, was incredibly wild. He was hard to get on top to put a bit in his mouth, but it has been two weeks and I can ride him now and stop him, turn him. I have galloped him in a wide open field. I really proud of him,” he said.
“It’s amazing to see how quickly this horse that was wild has learned to trust me and allowed me to get on him and ride and how docile he’s becoming—it’s really cool.”
Leite took off for Alaska early this week, trailering the horses up. He will begin the 4,000-kilometre trek to Calgary on May 17.