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Based Upon the True Story of the Longest Horseback Ride in History

Regular price $10.99

equestrian fiction · middle grade readers · historical fiction · horses · ages 10-13

"A forgotten piece of Americana brought to vivid life." —Kirkus Review

In 1912, four men, calling themselves the "Overland Westerners," decided fame and fortune awaited if they embarked on the longest horseback ride in history. Their goal was to visit all forty-eight state capitals over the course of three years and complete their journey at the San Francisco World's Fair on June 1, 1915. Facing rugged roads, raging rivers, thieves and near starvation, the men went through seventeen horses. Only one horse completed the entire journey...Pinto, a little horse with a heart as big as the whole country! This is Pinto's account of his arduous adventure. 

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2020 Book Excellence Awards Winner
2020 Purple Dragonfly Book Award 1st Place, Historical Fiction
2020 Feathered Quill Book Awards Winner, Young Readers
2020 American Fiction Awards Finalist
2020 Indie Book Awards Next Generation Finalist, Young Adult
2020 The Eric Hoffer Award Finalist
2020 The Colorado Authors League Writing Awards Finalist, Children's/Juvenile
2020 Readers’ Favorite Bronze Medal, Children - Animals
2019 CIBA Gertrude Warner Middle Grade First Place Winner
2019 EQUUS Film & Arts Fest Winnie Winner

"PINTO! is written with a unique twist and is both informative and entertaining." —Edith Wairimu for Readers' Favorite

"...a story of joy, tragedy, heartache, and dedication by a group of men and their horses and the people that they meet along the way. If you read Pinto, I know you will not be disappointed." Trudi LoPreto for Readers' Favorite

"PINTO! deserves a spot on the reading lists of not only young, horse-crazy readers, but adults who like horse tales ala Black Beauty." —Diane Donovan for Midwest Book Reviews

PINTO! is another great read by this author!” ★★★★★ Reader Review

“The book was great! I love to read about American history and this book was very interesting because it combined a real historical happening with a story about a very brave horse, from the horse’s perspective.” ★★★★★ Reader Review

PINTO! is an excellent read for animal lovers and a fun way for parents to add some interesting aspects of history to our learn-at-home environments this fall!”★★★★★ Reader Review

“I would recommend PINTO! for any reader that enjoys historical events in books. With a wonderful narrator, the story flows with excitement and personality!★★★★★ Reader Review


M.J. Evans is graduate of Oregon State University and a lifelong equestrian. She is also a former teacher at the secondary school level. She and her husband, Tom, have 5 wonderful children, ten incredible grandchildren and live in Colorado with their three horses and a standard poodle.

M.J. has always loved writing and using her imagination to create stories and characters. For seventeen years, she coached Odyssey of the Mind and Destination Imagination teams for her kids. 

Because of her love for horses, this magnificent animal is the subject of most of her books...from her non-fiction equestrian trail guide books, Riding Colorado, Riding Colorado II, and Riding Colorado III, to her fantasy stories and novels. 


Chapter 1: Meeting George Beck

Spring was coming. That is to say, the rain felt warmer. Such was the only thing I was happy about. I found myself living in a poorly fenced paddock set far back from the road and partly concealed behind several of the thousands of giant Douglas Fir trees that covered the Pacific Northwest where I was born. The mud-soaked corral, in which I spent most of my time of late, caused the frogs in the soles of my hooves to itch with thrush.

I hadn’t been in this paddock on Bainbridge Island with the five other horses for many days. The man who owned all the horses was not attached to us, nor we to him. As a horse trader, his only intent was selling us and making a quick profit. Oh, he was kind enough, as kind as that type of man is. Not a horseman, you see. Just a businessman. Buy a horse, sell it quickly, not caring what kind of home the horse went to. But, as I say, he was a decent man, as men go, always giving us plenty of fresh hay and an occasional scoop of oats.

The other horses in the paddock with me were much older than I. They spent each day sharing stories about their lives and how they came to be in this place. I hadn’t done much of anything yet, so I just listened. Oh, I had my dreams, as every young horse does, but I kept those to myself for fear they would think me silly and laugh at me.

One old, swaybacked mare, who enjoyed standing beside me, told me about the day she was in a parade. “It was the proudest moment of my life,” she said. “The little boy who owned me dressed me up with ribbons and leg wraps. My saddle and bridle were polished until they shone nearly as much as I did. We pranced down the streets of the town as music played from a brass band. People cheered as we went by. It was all so very grand.”

“I have had a very hard life,” said the large, black gelding. “I have spent most of my life hitched to a thick harness pulling logs out of the forest.”

I glanced down at his shoulders and noticed the scars left there from years of throwing all his strength, against a thick, leather collar. I felt sorry for him and hoped that was not in my future.

One small pony sidles up to me. “I have spent my whole life teaching children how to ride. I was kind and patient with all of them. Never once did I buck any of them off.”

“Then why are you here?” I asked.

“The children grew up and went away. Now, I can only hope that another nice family with little children takes me home with them.”

All these stories made me wonder what was in store for me. I realized I’m not an ordinary quarter horse or draft horse. I am a Morab. That means I am half Morgan and half Arabian. I have seen my reflection in the spring-fed water trough, and I am quite aware of how spectacular I am. I’m not tall, only fifteen hands, but sturdy as a boulder and well-proportioned. I have a thick, elegantly arched neck. My croup—the top of my hips—is well-rounded, and my hindquarters are well-muscled. But my most outstanding feature is my coloring. I am a beautiful black and white pinto with large patches of both colors all over my body. And the dream I held in my heart was that someday I would accomplish something great, maybe even become famous.

“You’ll be the first to go, mark my words,” the swaybacked mare said to me the second day we were together. “Unless some little children come to get the pony.”

I knew she was right. Between my beauty and my youth, I was sure someone would want to take me home with them.

I remember distinctly the day I met the man named George Beck who was to become my master. That was the day my life changed forever. I was standing in the muddy paddock with the other horses, listening to their stories. Our heads were bowed to let the rain drip off our forelocks, protecting our eyes. My ears pricked forward when I heard the men’s voices as they approached. One voice I recognized as belonging to my owner. His voice was high-pitched and always a bit too loud, whether he was talking to us or to people who came to look us over. The other voice I did not recognize.

I lifted my head and watched the two men as they came up to the fence. Resting their arms on the rail, they peered at the group of wet, shivering, muddy, and quite bored horses, of which I was one. I looked at the new man. He was tall and thin. His face was clean-shaven, and a shock of curly, brown hair stuck out from under the brim of his hat. But what attracted me to him was something about his face and eyes. I sensed immediately that he was a horseman. I could tell, just by looking at him, that this gentleman had a quick eye for horses. A surge of hope passed through me. Perhaps this was the man who would take me away and help me do something truly great, something deserving of my heritage.

I pawed the mud and splashed the puddle in front of me. I nickered and trotted around in a circle, sure that he would notice me, even in my wet and muddy condition. To be sure that I wouldn’t be missed, I slouched across the paddock, right up to him, and put my nose in his face.

Both men laughed.

“I guess he likes you,” our owner said.

“Seems so. What is he?” the new gentleman asked as he stroked the wide, white blaze covering most of my face.

“He’s called a Morab, half Arab, half Morgan. A sturdier, more dependable beast you’ll not find anywhere on the island or the mainland.”

“Well, that’s sure what I need for this journey,” the man said as he opened the gate and entered our paddock. His large boots made sucking sounds in the mud as he walked up to me. I stood perfectly still when he examined my eyes and put his fingers in my mouth so he could look at my teeth. He ran his large, rough but gentle hands down my legs, over my barrel, and across my spine.

Seeming to be pleased, he stepped back and smiled. “He’s not very big but he appears to be strong and healthy enough. What’s his name?”

“Never gave him one.”

“Then I’ll call him ‘Pinto.”

And that’s how George Beck chose me to join him on his twenty-thousand-mile journey.

Chapter 2: Preparing for a Historic Trip

The next day, George Beck rode up to the paddock on a strong, bay gelding. He dismounted and entered the paddock with a halter and lead in his hand. “Come with me, Pinto,” he said. We’re going on a great adventure together.”

I liked the sound of that.

He placed the halter over my head and gave me a pat on my arched neck.

I followed him out the gate, glancing back at the other horses to bid farewell. The old mare whinnied after me. The pony dropped his cute, little head.

My new master mounted the gelding, who I learned was named Lad, and led me through the village to the shore where we got on a ferry. The rolling movement of the boat across the water of Elliot Bay was a bit frightening, but since Lad seemed at ease, I decided all was well and stood quietly next to him. My ears twitched, picking up the sound of the splashing water as the ferry broke through the surface. My nostrils flared at the scent of saltwater and fish.

The ferry docked with a jolt at a village named “Brownsville,” and we continued our journey down dirt logging roads until we reached the village of Shelton. We turned off the road when we came upon a small house with a barn set off to the side. A neat, wooden fence formed a paddock around the barn. It was here that George dismounted.

Though I was a young horse, just six years of age, I had been well trained to carry a saddle and rider and hold a bit gently in my mouth. I soon learned, however, that George Beck had not purchased me as a riding horse.

“How do you like Pinto?” George said as we entered the barnyard and approached three men. “He’s going to be our pack horse.”

A pack horse? He wanted me for a pack horse? That was not at all what I had in mind and I wasn’t sure I liked this idea. I am far too beautiful to have my black and white patches covered up with oil-skin bags and ropes. How would I ever do great things and become famous for being a pack horse?

“Do you think he’s big enough? Strong enough?” One of the men said.

“I know horses, Charles,” George said. “I know how to pick ‘em. This little fella may be short but he’s sturdy. Besides, I like the look in his eye.”

I blinked.

Over the next few days, George and Charles, who I later learned was George’s brother, came to the paddock carrying bundles of bags and ropes.

“I brought some oil skin bags to put the grain in,” George said.

“I have some bedrolls and a few tin plates and cups,” Charles said, dropping his load on the ground with a huff. The bundle clanged and rattled as it hit the ground.

The other two men that I met on the first day were named Jay and Ray. They called Ray “Fat,”  though I couldn’t understand why as he was as tall and skinny as the fir trees that surrounded us. They brought supplies as well. I stood patiently as the four men burdened me down with bags, first one way, then another. When everything was on my back, I was carrying nearly two hundred pounds. It was a good thing I was strong.

“I think we should put the feed bags on the top,” Fat said as he untied the ropes and took off some bags. “Seems like they could wobble and cause Pinto to lose his balance if they hang down too low.”

“How about if we put our bedrolls on the back of each of “our saddles,” Jay suggested. “That will take some of the weight off Pinto.” 

“The coffee pot and plates make too much noise if we put them in a bag by themselves,”  Charles said. “Let’s wrap them up in some of our extra clothes.” 

The fiddling and rearranging went on for several days. It didn’t bother me any, as long as there was a cool drink of water and a bucket of oats at the end, which George Beck always made sure to provide. Besides, I had already grown to like George and I was eager to show him how strong and dependable I was.

There were four other horses living with me in the small barn in the village of Shelton, Washington. Their names were Lad, who brought my master to fetch me, Bill, Dick, and Blaze. I never thought Blaze had a blaze as fine as mine, but I guess he had the name first. I soon learned that the four of them were to be the riding horses. They were all nice enough, though Bill seemed to be getting a bit old and often complained to me that his hocks were sore. But since he appeared to walk and trot just fine, the men had no idea he was uncomfortable. I admired Bill’s determination and great work ethic.

Whenever the men were with us, they talked about the long journey we were soon to embark upon.

“There’s gold at the end of the rainbow and the rainbow is landing in San Francisco on June first three years from now. We’re going to be there to  collect it,” George Beck said, over and over. 

“The World’s Fair, the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, is going to be a huge event,” Charles Beck said, who the men started  calling ‘Slim.” Fiddling with the knots on the pack, he continued: “People from all over the world will be there to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal. It is going to open on February 20, 1915, and run until almost Christmas.”

“Did you hear that the Liberty Bell will be transported cross-country by railroad to be on display?” George said. “And the world’s first steam locomotive will be there, too, among many marvels of the new century. There will even be a telephone line from New York to the West Coast. But they’re all in for a big surprise. The best exhibit will be four horsemen called the ‘Overland  Westerners.’ Everyone will want to meet us.”

“Just think,” Fat said, “we are going to visit every state capital in the Union. No one has ever done that before.”

“We are going to complete the longest, overland horseback ride in history,” George added. “We’ll see things no one else has ever seen, and do things no one else has ever done.”

“We’re going to be famous,” Jay said as he tucked oats into a canvas bag. “There’ll be books written about us. Maybe even a movie.”

I learned that movies were a new thing, described as “moving pictures,” that people watched in darkened rooms in big buildings. George talked a lot about one of them called “The  Great Train Robbery.” He wanted our movie to be like that.

Their enthusiasm was contagious and all the horses, especially me, were eager to get started. Perhaps George was going to help me fulfill my dream to do something great and become famous after all.

At one point, George disappeared for several days. The men said he went to a large city called “Seattle.” When he returned, he was even more excited than was typical for him. As he showed the other men postcards and calendars that he had printed bearing our picture, he told them about a magazine that was willing to help pay for the trip. “The Westerner is going to back us. All we have to do is sell subscriptions as we go across the country. We get to keep the money from the sales to cover our expenses.”

The other men whooped and hollered and danced around. I just cocked my head and watched.

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