A Horse, Of Course!
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A Horse, Of Course!

Felipe Leite is planning a two-year, four-legged trip from Toronto to Brazil. We talk to him about his equestrian adventure.

Felipe Leite

Brazilian-born Felipe Leite says he's going to ride two horses from Toronto to Brazil starting next year, haters be damned.

Get ready to be charmed out of your breeches, horse girls and guys—Torontoist has found your dream date. Unfortunately, the love of this horse-husband would involve a significant amount of pining: He’s leaving in May for a two-year ride to Brazil.

Brazil native Felipe Leite will be filming the trip for a documentary, something he’s calling Journey America. He plans to shoot stories about non-governmental organizations that are making a difference in various countries in the Americas, and will cross nearly a dozen international borders in the process.

The idea may seem out of the ordinary, but the upbeat Leite—who says his first name means “lover of horses”—believes it’s his destiny. “Everything in my body is telling me I need to do this,” he told us, his excitement for the trip apparent with every gushing word. “All I know is that if I didn’t do this, I’d be fighting every instinct.”

Leite’s father is a cowboy, so he grew up surrounded by horses. Throughout his childhood, his father would regale him with what proved to be one formative, and true, story: that of Swiss schoolteacher Aimé Tschiffely, who rode a horse from Buenos Aires to New York City in 1925. It took three years.

Leite believes his father always wanted to attempt such a journey himself.

“He basically lit the fire, so now he needs to live with it,” he said. “My mother’s basically having a heart attack but she can’t stop it. It’s basically bigger than me.”

Felipe Leite

Growing up on a horse farm in Brazil, Felipe Leite had often heard tales of a man who rose a horse from Buenos Aires to New York in the 1920s. (Photo provided)

A Ryerson University graduate, Leite has made two documentaries centred on international aid (focused on projects in Peru and Kenya), and says all too often, he’s come across misguided efforts in the attempt to do good. “Looking into international development, you find a lot of bullshit, but once in a while you find a person or a project that’s on the ground and actually making a difference,” he said. “My goal is to motivate a more just world.”

Depending on how much money he can raise, he’d like to have a camera crew and a story producer to track down interesting people along his route. But if the money doesn’t come through, it will be just Leite, two horses and a video camera.

“In a way, the horses will find these people,” said the equine enthusiast, adding, “My dad likes that plan better. He thinks, ‘you can’t take more people, it’s going to ruin the purity of it.’”

During the trip, the two horses will alternate between carrying Leite and the supplies, and will only go about 30 kilometres a day, despite having a capacity to go 60 or 70 kilometres. He’s hoping to get the horses donated by a sponsor, and says he doesn’t expect trouble getting them across international borders.

“People cross borders with horses all the time (on truck and trailer),” he later wrote in an email. “Cowboys going to rodeos in the states, racehorses, and so on. It’s a common thing.”

The animals will have to be checked by veterinarians in each country before entering the next one. Leite says he’s planning a route amenable to horse-riding that includes a lot of country roads and towns that sell horse feed. For places where food for his horses won’t be available, he’s arranging to have some sent ahead.

The 24-year-old Leite is hoping to sleep mostly at ranches and farms along the way, but says he’ll throw up a tent in the country if he finds himself in an area with no other options. When asked about safety, especially in notorious northern Mexico, he says all he can do is hope for the best—and carry a gun.

“I’ll probably be armed the whole trip, not just for safety, but also for the horses, if it broke its leg or was injured,” he said, noting he’s hoping Brazil’s popularity in Latin America will help him talk his way out of any tricky situations. “I’m not going to [stay home] on the basis that I might get robbed, or something might happen. That’s the way it is. I could be in Toronto walking down the street and get my ass kicked tomorrow.”

“People love to be negative, they want to say, ‘It’s not going to happen. Don’t do it.’ This is my way of trying to make a difference in the world. I honestly believe there’s a way of creating a better world, a world that shares with each other… This is the way I’ve found to make a big splash.”

“To me, the craziest would be staying in Toronto and working 30 years at CBC. That’s insanity.”

Photos courtesy of Leite.