On March 1st, 2010, my friend Walter and I set off on an adventure with my Arabian horse, Sojourner. I rode Soj across America and Walter drove our little truck (with no trailer). The trip began in Los Angeles, California and successfully ended in Bath, New Hampshire 8 months and 14 days later. It was a 3,700 mile ride.
We rode in celebration of family and as an outreach to those dealing with divorce-related depression.
This ride tells a tale of love in many forms - through the people we meet along the way, our connection with the horse, with the land, and with each other.
As this blog goes on it gets more and more in depth with tons of photos and experiences. Snuggle in with a cup of tea and read this like a book. I have switched the blog around so it reads start to finish so you don't have to read backward (except the first entry).
Here is our story...
Big day for Soj...
We woke up to dark grey drawn curtains. Snow must be on the other side, again, I thought. I got up and peeked around to see a full on snow fall!!
Thank goodness for hot tea or coffee in the morning. Or in my case, hot tea and coffee AND PIE!!!!
Yesterday we were welcomed in by the Pie-O-Neer women and enjoyed a few cups of coffee and pie. I had a chocolate macaroon pie. It was beyond amazing. Kathy said it is her most decadent pie.
Walter had Oat Pecan pie with ice cream. This, too, was incredible.
I don’t know which is best. My dad (who I got this baked goods weakness from) would be in heaven, too.
There was a chocolate pie that had just come out of the oven while we were there yesterday. Kathy is saving a piece for us so we can have it when we go today.
Walter is in his hippie outfit. We were doing laundry yesterday so he put together and on whatever he could find.
We have been doing geeky computer stuff the last few days and Walter adjust his imaginary geek glasses when he is being especially nerdy. He wasn't actually doing that here, but it looks like he is!!
Walter and I stayed a while yesterday talking about future stuff…dreams we have. We have a few different ideas.
Of course, I’ll keep the leather business going, maybe try to expand it a bit, but Walter, like me and my sister and Bri and my mom, dreams of having a little café of some sort.
My ideal café would have our green house outside so everything comes from what we grow and we just have food on the weekends or something like that and on the other days a homemade baked good and always really good coffee and cappuccinos.
We would have books with big cushy chairs and a fireplace. I would have a little corner in the shop that would be my workshop so I could be there all day with everyone and take custom orders. The horses would be outside (with Nico training them) and, I think, a dog would be at my side, and we would have live music out on the porch or inside when it’s cold.
Now, there’s a Mendocino or Elk or Mariposa, CA. dream and a New England dream. New England would have a Christmas Tree Farm with a horse drawn carriage that brings you to get your tree and then back through the covered bridge to the little store where you can have hot apple cider. In the fall we would have apples. I’ve already planted 6 apple trees on our land in NH, but I think they are stunted because the deer got to them and did a number on them in their first year. They’re still my sweet little babies though and I love them with or without apples!
The tough part is getting everyone together. I feel very at home in New England and in CA as well and I will go wherever, but some have to be in CA and some want to stay in New England. Maybe everyone will settle for one of those middle states. ;) Nope, not gonna happen.
Anyway, we’ll figure it out.
So we were talking and talking, enjoying dreaming about what might be and then Kathy brought over some pretty flowers to the table and set them in front of us. Another woman said “those are the last of our Spring flowers!” and then turned her head to the snow outside.
Kathy sat down next to me with her bowl and started peeling the pears in it. We talked about the little town and how she came to live there.
It was her mother who had the dream of making pies in pie town.
“Kathy! It’s a town called Pie Town and no one’s making pies!” her mother had said to her.
Kathy was living in Dallas living a much ritzier life full of corporate dinners and fancy outfits.
She decided to back the Pie Town business financially and helped her mom begin her dream. For a few years it was Kathy, her mom, and Kathy’s daughter running the little restaurant.
There were arguments and wonderful times. Sometimes Kathy would have to shut the door to the kitchen and say, “no one leaves until we talk this out”.
“We had one bathroom and three women.” She said with a smile and her index finger shooting into the air.
This is something I know all too well and love. Our little house in NH only has one bathroom and it became the hang out for my sister, my mom, and I. If one was in there, the other two were soon to follow. One would sit on the bathroom floor, one on the toilet, and one (or two) was usually taking a bath.
We would talk and talk about everything. Our house isn’t insulated as well as it could be and when someone was taking a bath it warmed up the little room making it the most comfortable place to sit around and talk. If it was really cold, one or two would be in the tub and one of us would sit on the edge with our feet warming in the water.
Kathy said those were an amazing few years. Even though it was busy and bustling and she was torn between two lives, she has beautiful memories of the three of them together in that little shop.
The shop is at 7,900 feet and it made it hard for her mom to breathe. She developed emphysema and was told she needed to be at a lower elevation. Kathy’s mom loved it there and wasn’t leaving. She said soon her mom was bent over hot ovens with a tank next to her blowing oxygen into her nose and a full restaurant waiting to be fed.
This caused Kathy to make a decision. She had a husband back in Dallas and they both loved each other, but it came to a point where it was that life or this life. She was happy in a pick-up truck with a dog and wasn’t really at home in the city. She chose the country and the two divorced.
Even though it was Kathy’s choice, it was incredibly emotional and difficult. Kathy’s mom is no longer at the café (I didn’t ask why) and her daughter went off to college leaving Kathy alone with the café.
It was really hard for her. She was now alone and unsure.
There’s nothing around here, not even a grocery store, so everything has to come from far away. Kathy’s mom made pies, but also served breakfast, lunch, and dinner 7 days a week. Kathy was cooking things like chicken fried steak (which she doesn’t even like) and making pies, but not making them the way she makes them now.
Eventually another little café came to town and Kathy was able to focus on what she loved: pie.
She told me with a smile that her ex-husband came to visit her once and said “I can’t believe what you’ve done for yourself here”.
She is now in love with a man who works with her baking some of the most delicious pies you will ever taste and has been a guest on the food network channel, has been featured in many magazines, and just won a contest for the best chocolate in new Mexico (her chocolate pie). She didn’t even know she was entered in a contest!
“There are pie spies”, she said.
She was singing “let it snow, let it snow, let it snow” from the kitchen yesterday as the snow fell outside the café window, and the young woman who serves the guests (and is from upstate New York) was saying “What is this, New Mexico!!?? It’s MAY!”
Kathy eventually said, “I better go check that pie in the oven” and got up from the table, but she was soon back with her now peeled pears and sticks of ginger to dice and add to her bowl. She sat down again and we talked about things and the value we put on them.
I can’t remember how we got into that conversation. Walter and I had been talking about Yosemite and somehow it shifted into things we hold on to.
Kathy told us a story about these two beautiful rings she had that she lost and how she had to really practice what she preached and let go of them. She said it was hard for a few days, but eventually she came to the conclusion that she enjoyed them while she had them and had to accept that her time with them had passed, but that it was wonderful while it lasted.
She said she felt good with them on and got compliments on them and would look at them and smile. She just loved them. They were one-of-a-kind pieces and brought a lot of joy to her. After calling the place she left them at about 3 times, she turned her place upside down thinking maybe she left them somewhere (you know how you do that when you lose something-you look and look anywhere even though you know where you left it…just in case). Well, she ended up finding two rings that are much more simple at the bottom of one of her drawers. She put one on each hand where the other rings had been and looked at her hands and smiled. She did this as she was telling the story and I looked at the two silver rings on each hand.
She said, “You know, they do the job. It’s not the same, but I like them.”
She says possessions can start to control you and lose what beauty they have. They are no longer something you just love, but something you think you need and can’t be without, but it’s rarely ever true. You can always be without those things.
I wear my Grandfather’s St. Christopher around my neck and I touch it probably a hundred times a day. I often wonder, “What would I do if I lost this? My heart would break. I could lose it riding”. It made me feel a little better about this.
I needed the necklace right after Pop died. I still need it, and I hope I wear it forever, but it’s not him. It’s a memory of him and that will never go, even if this St. Christopher does. With that said, I sure hope I never lose it!
I thought yesterday was going to be warmer, but it was really cold. Today is even wetter and colder. I wouldn’t have expected this in New Mexico, but we are at nearly 8,000 feet.
Sojourner took some huge steps yesterday. I am looking forward to the clinic to see what else we can get out of him. I only hope it’s not this cold because I will hate that.
I was sitting on the fence watching Soj and Larry came up from behind me and said, “Well, let’s see who catches who.”
I said “alright” and went over to get Soj. Soj was at the other end of the field, but when he saw me hop off the fence he started toward me and we met in the middle. He put his sweet head down and I slipped the halter on.
I thought “Ha. That was good. He’ll like that.”
When I brought him back Larry drew a circle in the sand and said I had to brush Soj without leaving the little circle. I thought we did alright. I stepped out for a minute, but if I was paying more attention I think I could have stayed in the circle. Soj was good about moving around the way I asked so I could brush all sides. We’ll work on it more.
Larry showed me some basic moves that will be gone over more in the clinic so I’ll talk about them later. I’ll film bits of it as well and post those up here.
Soj and I look like we have the same personality, don't we? "Ummm..yes, okay. Wait, explain again?"
"Om okay, right, the rope. Ummm...that thing I pull him with. Ummm...that thing she pulls me with."
After some basic stuff we went over to a big tire and I was asked to get Soj to step up on it.
Soj is pretty good about going where I go so I stepped up on the tire first. This didn’t work. He thought about it and kinda bent his leg to maybe lift it…then no. No step up.
We'll just watch you guys a while.
“How is he supposed to get up there with you up on that tire?” Larry asked.
“There’s room!” I said, “it’ll work!”
It didn’t though.
Larry made the point that Soj was starting to get comfortable in a certain spot. He would walk up to the tire and then stop even though I was asking him to come further. Every time Soj did this I needed to ask, wait, and if he didn’t budge then he got worked. I was to lunge him and then quickly bring him back to the tire and ask him to get up on it. On the tire would be rest, but not in front of it. We did this over and over, but Soj wouldn’t step up.
Larry very politely came over and asked if he could help and I willingly gave him the rope. He brought Soj over to where some logs were on the ground so he would have to engage his mind and jump. When I was lunging Soj he was just kind of running around me like a nut and then going back to the tire. I wasn’t really asking him to think.
Larry made him jump about 4 or 5 times and then brought him back to the tire.
He went around the tire a few times. Kind of jumped over the side of it…
And then he was up.
I was so proud of him! It was like watching a baby take it’s first steps. He went up calmly and stayed there. Larry dropped the rope and patted him and Soj was as content as could be up on that tire. I was pretty amazed and my brain was taking little notes of all of Larry’s movements.
After this we went over to a trailer. Now, Soj has always gotten into bigger trailers, but he has never backed out. He went into the bigger trailer right away. There was a young colt in there who Larry had been working with earlier as well as food, so I think it looked pretty safe to Soj.
Backing him out was a bit of a challenge, but with some work, he did back out.
Larry backing up Soj on the ground
Larry had worked with him on the ground before the tire and the biggest ground lesson was backing up. James and I had worked with this kind of stuff in a similar fashion back at his ranch in Joshua Tree, so Soj had a bit of an idea of what to do.
The colt that was in the trailer had only been in a trailer once before and had a saddle on for the first time that day. This is a horse that was deemed “un-trainable” by some other trainers before coming to The Horseman’s Haven Retreat to work with Larry. He’s a really solid Quarter Horse and is going to be something pretty awesome to see when he’s done. You can already tell.
The Colt putting its front two hooves in the rubber bucket.
Larry said “I don’t know if this will work, but…”
We headed over to the very little, very narrow trailer that I know scares the pants off Soj. Larry asked him to go on and of course Soj wanted nothing to do with it.
He lunged him all around the trailer and probably within about 3 minutes he was in that little trailer.
Larry never shuts the door on a horse who is just getting used to a trailer so Soj just stayed in there. We let him hang out and then after about 10 minutes or so, Soj backed out and just stood there calmly by the trailer. I couldn’t believe it.
Larry asked Soj to go in two more times and back out before we put him up for the evening. He was a little hesitant after backing out the first time to go back in again, but he just had to be lunged a bit and then he stepped back up and in. The third time was pretty easy.
The plan is to work more today, but it’s really snowing outside so I’m not sure we will. Doesn’t sound like fun for any of us.
What does sound fun is pie and coffee for the third day in a row. Then I am going to sit by the fire and start on a few belts. I am starting a wildflower belt and some Irish belts with vines and Celtic designs.
We are going to do some more pictures and video editing as well....