FORT WORTH (AP) – Since a cowboy preacher left North Texas in July to ride around the world to draw attention to horse abuse, he lost two of the animals to injuries in the first 600 miles.

Now riding his sixth donated horse, C.W. Cooper has dropped the horse-abuse angle and the notion of trying to make it around the globe. He will, however, keep riding until the “good Lord tells me to stop,” said Cooper, who returned to Texas last week.

But more than 1,000 people are tracking him on the “Stop the ride of Carl Wayne ‘C.W.’ Cooper” Facebook group page — sniffing out his trail, discussing his horse troubles and questioning the shifting reasons for his ride.

“He just continues to prove that he is willing to risk the health and well-being of these horses to justify his own personal ambition,” Colleen Parmenter Hamer, a long-distance rider from Blair, Neb., who started the Facebook group, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Cooper’s first horse gave out on him just a few miles into the ride from Springtown, 25 miles northwest of Fort Worth, and he gave up on the next one within hours because it was skittish. He rode the third horse nearly 300 miles before it developed back sores, which Cooper blamed on an ill-fitting saddle.

Argyle veterinarian Ryan Cate, who treated the horse, said he doesn’t think it was abused.

Cooper rode the fourth steed more than 300 miles before he said it accidentally stepped into a cattle guard near Alamogordo, N.M., on Sept. 23 and broke its leg when emergency crews were preparing to rescue it. It was euthanized.

When he went to Albuquerque to try getting another horse, the Albuquerque Journal published a report Oct. 4 with the headline, “Two Horses Suffer Amid Abuse Awareness Effort.”

The next day Hamer created the Facebook group, which found out that he lied about his wife dying of cancer.

Cooper, 53, said that while trying to gain support for what he once proposed as a five-year ride around the globe, he posted online that his wife died of cancer. But she is alive and the couple is estranged, he said.

“I did that before I was ordained, and I forgot about it. … If you say you’re a widower, they tend to leave you alone,” said Cooper, who repairs air conditioners.

Some are helping Cooper on the trail. Tom Jones, a 68-year-old Hobbs, N.M., rancher who loaned Cooper a horse after a fifth donated horse had problems, said he seems genuine and that people shouldn’t judge him.

Butch Ragsdale of Seminole, who let Cooper camp on his property for two days, said he seems to know “a little bit about horses. He just didn’t seem to know what the horse’s limits were.”

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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