Tall in the Saddle

Driven by daughter's death, Texan takes to horseback

Posted 1/21/20

The world of 53-year-old Bobby Janisch slows to a brisk trot through the open country on the back of either Curly or Stormy, the two Missouri Fox Trotters who accompany him on his voyage.

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Tall in the Saddle

Driven by daughter's death, Texan takes to horseback


The world of 53-year-old Bobby Janisch slows to a brisk trot through the open country on the back of either Curly or Stormy, the two Missouri Fox Trotters who accompany him on his voyage.

“I see things at three miles per hour that I have never seen at seventy in my truck,” Janisch said Wednesday during his stay at Hilltop Lakes, a brief stop in the lengthy journey that began in Purmela (outside of Gatesville) and would ultimately end at Lake Conroe outside of Huntsville.

As a self-proclaimed ‘old country boy’, his purpose is to fulfill a lifelong aspiration in making the trip, but he is also driven by his faith and the memory of his daughter, Chloe. She is at the center of his thoughts as he passes countless makeshift crosses and memorials lining the side of the road.

“Going that slow on horseback, you can take in a lot,” said Janisch. “And there are a lot of people who have died on these highways. I sometimes stopped and wondered what happened and what kind of person they were.

“You see the bigger ones in your vehicles, but there are a lot of small ones, little old memorials people will put up. You see it on the news every day, but I am more keen to it now.”

Chloe Janisch was 17 years old on May 23 when she lost control of her 2003 Chevrolet pickup on her way to Gatesville High School, where she was in the final week of her junior year. The single-car accident was a result of speeding as well as texting and driving.

“My daughter loved to ride horses,” said Janisch. “This is a combination of a drive that I have always had along with doing it in her honor. Her death is what kicked it off. It made me say I am going to do this.”

The two had discussed the possibility of making the trip together and even mapped out potential stopping points to camp along the way. Since the weather was too hot in the summer and Chloe attended school, there were never any firm plans for such a trip.

But the passing of his daughter reminded Janisch of how short and unpredictable life can be.

“I have learned a lot since my daughter died,” said Janisch. “I did not want to be saying that I always planned on taking a long ride but never did it. But now I can say I have tried. I have made it over halfway and I am going to finish if the Lord is willing and a creek don’t rise up in a few days.”

Along the way, he has encountered a number of individuals who reached out a friendly hand or inquired about the meaning of his trip.

“There’s an old cowboy saying that goes, ‘I ride for the brand’,” said Janisch. “They would say that and then tell them what brand or ranch they rode for. So, when people asked me why I was doing this, I told them, ‘I ride for the brand. And my brand is J.C. and C.J., Jesus Christ and Chloe Janisch.’”

Janisch is a devout Christian who chiefly credits his faith with helping him work through the eight months since the accident. He also credits it with helping him encounter these kindhearted individuals on his trip.

“I have met some good people along the way,” said Janisch. “And I really give all the credit to God. If you pay attention, he will lay the road out. People do not really understand that, and I did not for a long time, but that many coincidences cannot happen. I call it divine intervention.”

When the storms came Jan. 10, Janisch had to alter his original plans. A friend in the area called him and offered him a place to stay the night at his son’s house, where he enjoyed a meal of fried chicken and waited for the weather to clear up.

While passing through Marquez in search of a campground, he stopped by the local feed store and was assisted by its owner, Ryan O’Neal. On top of a free bag of seed, O’Neal offered a place for Janisch to set up camp behind the store as well as a pen for his horses.

On the backroads between Chilton and Marlin, Janisch was about a mile away from his day’s destination when he was stopped by a couple in a vehicle who offered to feed him.

“I said, ‘I may look homeless, but I do have some food’,” said Janisch. “But they said they owned a store two miles up the road and insisted on feeding me.”

He was also assisted by Marc Coody, Lisa Harvey and the personnel at Hilltop Lakes and the Hilltop Lakes Equestrian Center, where he stayed in a lodge Jan. 14-15.

While he cannot remember the names of all the countless individuals he has met along the way, Janisch is forever grateful for their support.

“Totals strangers have brought me food and offered me places to stay,” said Janisch. “It is kind of overwhelming. I have always been the type of person who does not like to ask for help, I am kind of hard-headed.”

He tried to return the favor after encountering another stranger on the road who, upon listening to Janisch’s story, admitted she was having trouble warning her niece about the dangers of texting and driving.

“I said to tell her niece that (Chloe) was a normal, happy-go-lucky country girls and texting and driving got her killed,” said Janisch. “We are all guilty of it, most people I know do it. But you need to think about it. It only takes one second. I am sure we have all had close calls, but it only takes that split second.”

Janisch is supported on his journey by his family, which includes his 27-year-old daughter, Morgan and his 29-year-old son B.J. Before leaving, Morgan posted a picture of Janisch with his gear and horses on Facebook with a caption reading, “Some people call him crazy, but I call him daddy.”

He arrived at Lake Conroe Friday night around 10 p.m. to camp with his friend a day earlier than expected. He ventured over 38 miles during the last day alone.

All told, the trip from central to east Texas lasted 11 days and 200 miles. The outside love from people in those communities did not stop after Hilltop Lakes. Countless individuals continued to offer Janisch food and lodging as he concluded his trip in honor of his God and, of course, Chloe.