Neighbors of Park City

Heber City native continues his ‘Year of the Mustang’

By Christian Weber, Neighbors of Heber Valley

Away from the lights and sounds of the city, a valley is set ablaze with the reds and yellows of autumn. Looking down, a man sits atop his mustang, watching the sunset and soaking up the last view of home. It was more difficult than he expected to leave, but for the next year, the American wild calls.

He tears his eyes away from the view and, after finding a good place to settle for the night, sits by the fire, considering the year ahead. A year filled with cold nights. A year to prove how useful wild mustangs can be, a year of bringing focus to their preservation. It’s a journey that took five years of preparation, but this year, his year, is the Year of the Mustang. 

A mustang packed and ready for a day of travel. Photo: Jake Harvath

Heber City native Jake Harvath and his three mustangs, 16-year-old Bella (Jake’s main horse whom he has trained since he was 15), 6-year-old Denver (whom Jake has been working with for just over a year), and 12-year-old Eddie (whom Jake has only been working with for a few months), will travel 7,000 miles from Heber Valley, Utah to the New Jersey coast, to Northern California, and back to Utah in September of 2024. If all goes according to plan, Jake will spend a full 365 days on the road, breaking a world record. “This trip is going to showcase everything you can imagine a trail horse can go through,” says Jake. “It’s going to show their versatility, their mindset, and how they handle certain situations, which is very beneficial to the horseman. It’s going to be a great opportunity to showcase their natural talents.” 

For Jake, caring for animals has been a lifelong passion. He spent much of his childhood raising chickens and helping on his neighbors’ farms. By 14, Jake knew he wanted to focus his goals on becoming a horseman. He saw an ad in the paper for a job at Sage Creek Equestrian. It was at that job where he spent years honing his skills becoming a professional trainer, fantasizing about traveling with his horses. Now, after years of extensive planning and preparations, he is ready to turn his dreams into real life.

Jake and his three mustang companions crossing an urban center. Photo: Jake Harvath

To beat the world record, Jake says he will need to document and carefully plan his trek, something previous record holders have not done. Jake intends to use the year, a complete 365 days, to travel through 30 different states at roughly 24 miles per day with minimal stops in between. Even though this is incredibly impressive, to Jake, breaking the record is secondary. “Initially, it had nothing to do with being seen at all for me, and it still doesn’t,” Jake says, “I had no thought of filming or sharing it. It’s just what I wanted to do, something I could say I had done in my life, and I wanted to have the experience.”

There are currently over 60,000 mustangs in captivity. While the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) works hard to preserve the natural territory of these animals, they can still be rounded up and put into holding facilities. Jake wants to show they aren’t just wild horses. He wants to show they can be trained to do incredible work. His goal is to bring attention to their usefulness so that they can be adopted. “It is different when you start with a completely wild horse. But once you overcome those fight or flight reactions, working with them and building this trust and understanding, it’s an experience unlike any other in horsemanship. It’s a really beautiful thing. It’s slightly more difficult and tactful training but completely worthwhile.”

A streamside hydration break. Photo: Jake Harvath

Jake is also an avid outdoorsman, he loves to fish and bow hunt. “I’ve done a fair amount of research on the environments I’ll be going through, what it is going to be like to spend time in different environments at different times of the year, and what the forage will be like. There’s all these things to consider, but these [horses] are great for it.” 

Through his years of planning, Jake has also prepared different stops along the way. Stocking up on supplies, reshoeing the horses, and getting some much-needed rest for them all. He also has a GoFundMe titled “Help Support the Year of the Mustang” on which he has raised money and appreciates donations.

Even with all these preparations, there is still plenty of risk involved. Unpredictable weather, untraveled terrain, and potential injuries are just some of the challenges involved. This is where the survivability skills of both he and his mustangs will be fundamentally important. But with his years of preparation and the mustangs’ natural instincts to survive in the wild, Jake is confident that he and the horses are ready for the challenge. “They’re built for this. They’re tough, and so am I. We’ll be able to push through.”

Since leaving Heber Valley last September, Jake has traveled 700 miles and experienced much of the American wilderness, from desolate dry deserts to snowy mountain forests. 

Jake and the mustangs greeting some of the fans following their cross-county journey. Photo: Jake Harvath

Keep an eye out next fall for our follow-up feature when Jake and his mustangs return to Utah. In the meantime, follow Jake on social media. 

YouTube @jakeharvath

Instagram @yearofthemustang

TikTok @jake.harvath

You May Also Like
TownLift Is Brought To You In Part By These Presenting Partners.

Add Your Organization