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...

Leather and Learning.


Like Horse....

Like Human...
That's what we're learning from two of the strongest, but gentlest teachers you will ever meet (don't be fooled by these rowdy looking animals).

I had a busy day yesterday and didn't get a chance to get on here and post something! I did finish one of my belts though. This is a custom latigo leather "New Mexico Wildflower" belt with a solid brass buckle from the 60's.

Walter and I went to ship this belt off yesterday and we couldn't believe the post office when we got to it. We'll get a picture on our way out. It is the littlest old post office you will ever see. I walked in with my belt and things and saw two women talking with each other, the Post Office lady and a costumer. The customer asked if I needed a box.

She insisted on getting one and ran out the door, across the street, behind the little volunteer fire department, and to her house to get some boxes for me to choose from.

People around here seem to have time for other people which is such a beautiful thing. In the city a person wouldn't typically leave the post office to run to their apartment around the corner and grab a box for someone who needs one. That's not to say it wouldn't or doesn't happen, but things are definitely slower here which makes it easier for people to take time for one another and help the other out.
Although, I've seen some pretty amazing things between people in cities, too, don't get me wrong.

The clinic has started here at the ranch and Soj and I are both learning so much. Soj catches on faster than I do. I get all tangled up with my long rope and the position of my hands and where he is and where I am and where his feet are and where mine are and this crop (or carrot stick as they call it) in the other hand and oh!

I think everyone with a horse should come spend some time with Larry and Jenny. They have endless amounts to teach. Not to sound cliche, but it's all just so natural. It's simple even. Even though it's tricky to get it all down because the slightest shift of your body, energy, and thoughts makes a difference, but really it's simply communicating with the horse in a way he understands...and he really does respond to it!

Sojourner and I are so loving and cuddly with each other so it doesn't feel like one is really ever all that dominant over the other. I always thought of us sort of as partners. I never have put him under me, really. Not out here especially. I need him as he needs me. We kind of just do things together, but Jenny pointed out that really he is the dominant one, even though he's subtle about it out on the trail.

Now that I am really trying to control exactly where his feet go, he is getting a little testy with me...testing how how far I will go to make him do what I'm asking. He often blocks me with his head. It's not even something you would necessarily know he was doing if you weren't taught because it's not aggressive. He just puts his head in the way and it interferes with what I'm trying to do with him.

He is smart though, that little Soj. He's learning fast. He is already incredibly trusting so we don't have a huge wall to break down there. It's not about trust or even so much fear with Soj now, it's just making him understand what I want, making him know that I am his leader, and figuring out myself how to correctly communicate all of this in a way he understands.

Yesterday we watched the horses play in the corral. There have been times where I have sat and watched Soj for hours back at Henry's ranch. I would sit on the fence post and watch every little flick of his hear and step he made. It's amazing. They are so very aware of their surroundings and what's going on. Every little motion is a communication of some sort.

In fact, now that I think about, he was protective of me around the horses. He would flick his little tail and pin his ears back so that he was closest to me. Sometimes he would come and stand directly in front of me so that I was blocked from any of them. I thought this was cool. Obviously he has connected with me as part of his herd BUT he was protecting me. Maybe it all was starting there. I was HIS. Maybe this is when he started to feel like I was his little one in the herd to care for. I don't know, maybe not. Like I said-everything has always been so subtle with me and Soj. I walk toward him and he walks toward me so we meet in the middle. Now I am asking him to come all the way to me and it's different. This was hard to get him to do yesterday.

When it's just me and him he would walk all the way, no problem, but there were new horses all around and they were all herding each other and figuring things out. Walking toward me to stick his head in a halter was not in his agenda.

It took some time, but Jenny would not quit until Soj came to me. I couldn't even put my hand out. I almost did the first time Soj started toward me and I was almost at his nose and I hear Larry from the round pen yell "don't you put that hand out!"
He's always watching.
He had to touch my hand first with his nose. We had him running around and eventually had to get him sort of in a corner using Jenny's horse (who did not have a halter on and actually backed herself to Jenny to come be with us), another horse in training, and our 3 bodies. Jenny and the other woman, Fran, were more aggressive with their bodies and I was calm. I was to be the "nice" one.

This was sort of working. He would sort of look at me every once in a while, but finally I had to get a little more aggressive and direct my energy towards his hind. I was asked by Jenny to sort of crouch and look as if I was going to bite his bottom. He would whip his rear end away from me and face me. When he did this I would quickly stand, smile, and offer a calm, comfortable place for him. Eventually he came. It was cool. :)

Larry makes halters that really work. I make halters as well, but both James and Larry prefer this other kind of halter. My halters are more for show, but they don't do a whole lot when trying to train. These other halter are more adjustable and have little knots so it can put a little more pressure on the horse if you need it.

When I was at James' place in Joshua Tree, he referred to it as a "creek halter". He said by that he meant that I could "throw it in a creek and leave it there". I told Larry this and we he saw Soj in the halter the next day he said "Linny! What are you doing with that thing?"
I said "what thing!?"
He said, "that creek thing on his face!"
I laughed and he pointed me in the direction of where he had one of his halters hanging and ready for Soj. I went over and put it on and I will definitely leave here with one as well. I like how they look too. They are daintier so you can really see Soj's pretty head.

That's the thing about Larry and Jenny. Just as the halter was there waiting for Soj, everything else has been too. They are always thinking ahead and everything is always for someone else or a horse. So much of what they do throughout their days is for another living creature. They work to teach us to better the horses lives and ours as well because it is true magic when you're able to communicate with your horse at that level. It's not just that the horse memorizes what it is they are supposed to do, you communicate it to them. It's different.

There is a lot of bonding that happens when you are down on the ground with the horse. It builds a whole foundation so you are already way ahead when you get up on the horse. They already understand so many commands, but it's not just that. When you are down there with them there is a closeness that is formed that I think would be missed if you just hopped on their backs and worked from up there.

I think we have another hour or so of work with them tonight so I should get out there. We took a nice long lunch break because Fran and I were tired and it's super windy outside. I see them walking around out there now though so I should run! Oh wait, actually we are going to play with ropes inside, out of the wind.

More tomorrow though....

Larry and Jenny, teachers of Natural Horsemanship at Horseman's Haven Retreat in Pie Town, NM
Little did we know, Jenny and Larry were observing us as we sat in this circle with our horses behind us to see how aware we were of where our horses were and what they were doing. Larry said we were all pretty good, but if our minds wandered, so did theirs.
Another reason for having us sit in a circle with our horses was to just hang with them comfortably. To them it was like they were out at pasture with their herd. We are their herd. Jenny said it's not that common that humans go to a horse just to hang. We never say "Hey, would like to go sit and sip on coffee with me?"
Usually we go and ask them to work while we sit on their back and then say "thanks" and put them up. It's nice to just get your horse and hang with him. She said they will often go grab their horses and sip on a Margarita in the evening or a coffee in the morning. This way you don't just mean "work" to your horse. You relax together, too. There's more dynamic to your relationship.
This is Luke on my lap. He's become my little buddy.

Larry told me I had to practice throwing my "carrot stick" down on the ground with the whippy part and flip it back at me and catch the handle.
Piece-a-cake, I say! Easy as pie from pie town!!!
The next task is to pick a rock and whip it with the end of the line so I get to where I'm able to send that string exactly where I want it to go no matter what.

Fran, her horse, FireCracker, me, and Soj getting our horses used to the "carrot stick"
On those snowy days we had at the beginning of the week, Walter and I kept leaving our shoes outside on accident. Finally the sun came out and there was no worry of wet shoes anymore, so we thought. Walter left his shoes in the exact perfect spot so they would get filled with the runoff from the melting snow on the side of the house. This is where his shoes were....


  1. Linny, I love what I've seen so far of your website and writing! Good luck on your cross country journey. We only made it a tenth of the way on ours (300 miles, from MA to PA via NY and NJ). People were wonderful, helped us all along, God sent angels when we needed them. Winnie says Hi to Sojourner and blows a kiss. She is learning tricks and today she let me crawl underneath her belly from one side to the other and back again. She didn't move a muscle. The bond with your horse is evident in the photos. Thanks for writing to us and visiting our web site. Oh, and those creations of yours look marvelous!--Ann and Winnie from walkingwithwinnie.com

  2. Fantastic post on horse training, Linny. Larry and Jenny sound like fantastic teachers. You and Soj will benefit so much from this clinic.

    It's wonderful that you and Soj have a closeness. I'm glad that they are helping you establish yourself as the undisputed leader of the two of you, though. That's imperative in a healthy horse/human relationship.

    Don't be too upset if you have to up the ante (pressure) more than you wish to get the job done. Larry and Jenny won't ask you to do anything that isn't in the best interest of you and Soj.

    With Buster and I, our "moment" came when I was working on various methods for Buster to back up. As a little background, I should note that Buster was always the #1 horse on the farm. He also wasn't a "people pleaser" and wasn't looking for a relationship with a human. A very dominant horse.

    So we get to backing up following Clinton Anderson's methods and Buster's like "No, you back up." As Clinton would say, Buster was "Flipping his cigarette butts at me" like Marlon Brando or James Dean.

    It was truly one of those "This is harder for me than it is for you" moments because I love Buster so much, but I followed Clinton's instructions and showed Buster that I expected him to cooperate.

    Not only did it work like a charm, but our relationship really began to flourish. Buster started nickering when he saw me, crossing the pasture to be near me, following me around off the lead, and so on.

    Oh, and you're so right about how it's a very "natural" language once you learn it. It's not very complicated, although I'm sure there is a lot more communication going on between horses than we understand at times.

    Thanks as always for sharing!

  3. Linny.. wow-wee. You are learning tons and tons and you will enjoy your relationship with Soj so much more once you are Soj's "lead mare" for him. Looking forward to more of what you two are learning. As Tom says don't be afraid to up the pressure to move Soj in and out of his comfort zone. One thing I love so dearly about Arabians is their fierce loyalty. I honestly think they are one of the easiest and quickest breeds to learn things and bond to their riders. 'Atta girl.. and to Soj...'Atta boy!

    At ANNIE...good to see that you found our friend Linney here. I think of you often sister...and one of these days we will have that lunch together. Hope all is well with you...and Winnie of Course. When ya gonna hit the trail again?????

    Hugs to you all
    Megan Gist Carter

  4. Jeni! You better get with Brianna and work on a counter-proposal. Nancy's got California way in the lead in the "Quest to Woo Linny!"

  5. You don't stand a chance! I have more up my sleeve than a skinny arm. I'm just saving the enticements to meld together when the timing is perfect. Then I'll clinch the deal with my Godmother's "proposition you can't say no to." Cotton balls in the cheeks but no horse head in the bed.
    Let the woo war commence....
    Mendo Mama

  6. Wow Nancy- you really pack a punch! I'm not sure I want to step into this- thanks a lot
    Tom. :)

    Having lived in Colorado and traveled to Oregon, Utah and California, I have my own romantic pull to the west coast. It's hard for me to take sides. I was born in Canada, grew up in Western NY and have only lived in Northern NH for 13 years now. I've come across many people from this area who have moved to states in the west, and vice versa -the common denominators seem to be mountains, small towns, and great people.

    Nancy, you have the advantage of knowing Linny and having spent time with her and her sister. I'm gonna have to hope the draw of coming home to NH is strong enough for Linny, that I will get to meet her when she arrives.

    I can say that NH is still one of the places in the world where neighbors know and care about each other, small business flourishes and real estate is affordable! There are lots of white picket fences here, and gorgeous stone walls in fields of green! It's a wonderful place to raise children- and as you put it love "just happens"... so we never know what the future may hold.

    I feel that I don't stand a chance against your wooing Nancy. I'll just have to believe Linny will end up where she needs to be, and where that is at this point nobody knows....

    NH Green Girl

    Nancy also has the advantage of having met Linny and spent time with her and her sister.

  7. oops- that last line was from poor editing, not looking for sympathy... sorry.

  8. Hey Jeni,
    I'm sure that you will get the opportunity to meet Linny. She'll make the effort to do it. The wooing is all tongue and cheek..... Linny will settle where she wants and will fulfill HER dreams, not mine. Then again, I'm not above stacking the deck.

  9. Awww, everybody cares too much about each other and Linny to get too competitive. Both places are wonderful though, no doubt about that.

  10. Nancy,

    You sound like a wonderful person, and I enjoy reading your comments and insights- wooing and all. You obviously care for Linny enormously, and I say stack that deck all you want!


  11. Don't encourage her like that, Jeni. Nancy's got a massive "arsenal" of resources. We're only seeing her throw the "low cards" on the pile so far.

    NH at least deserves to be in the game. It's going to be pretty sad if we get to the point where all poor NH has to offer is being able to vote in the first presidential primary. I don't think any of us want to see a grand state humiliated that way. :)

  12. Well, there is also her Dad here in the northeast, in adjacent VT. Linny's horse reality started with Dad in that I promised to get her a horse if she agreed to move to NH from TX (or, more accurately, that she would move cheerfully as opposed to sadly, for she was born in TX and that was what she knew as home). I/we (her mom and I) held to our bargain and Linny got a pony first and then a horse, Cherokee. Getting that horse is a story in itself,as Linny will tell you. Soj looks so much like him in the pictures here. I wonder what kind of a student Cher would've been. I think very similar to Soj because Linny would go out and simply "hang" with Cheroke; an arab also - same coloring and all. Maybe Linny might go see Cherokee when she is back in NH?
    So, Dad is here, as is 14 acres of homestead. Is it the West? No, but as was written above, there are a lot of people here who look out for one another, as they seem to in those places Linny has been thus far out west. People move here for the way of life; people like my doctor who could live anywhere and make more money, too. Why here? Because it is a better place to raise kids. Because it is a place where each season is very intense and you enjoy responding to that. Here, you are very connected to the earth, to nature, in a fundamental, even visceral way. You become part of the cycles of life that accompany each season and that strikes a chord way down deep. People who relish that, need that, are those whose prioroties are different. This is not to speak disrespectfully to those who love eternal summer (or eternal sameness) for there are so many wonderful people everywhere (and plenty of the other kind, too). I mean to say that here in the northeast is a clear sense of history written on the walls of stone and even the walls of some of the houses (think of Rufus Porter, Linny). Those who have been here for generations cherish that. Those newcomers like us simply desire some piece of it as best we can. And the natives don't come around with a tray of cookies inviting you into this or that church or club. No; folks kind of keep to themselves that way. But let there be a moments trouble and it will be taken care of with a propriety that really seems to come with an understanding of that which is natural to do for one another. No "thank you's" are expected, either. It's just a way of life.
    It is not for everyone. Lots of people come and the climate or ennui or both will drive them off. But if you fit here at all, you fit here very well. There is no halfway.

  13. Well said Dan. I am not as eloquent a writer as Nancy or yourself, and I only know of Linny from what I've learned in this blog. Any help I can get for the northeast is appreciated!

  14. Ha! You guys are too funny. NH and CA are gorgeous all around no matter which way you slice the pie...it's settled...we will live in both states!
    Jeni, my only request to you is that you and Rich accompany me on your horses when we ride into town to end this trek (I want to end at the Brick Store in Bath)...then I'll probably venture on alone later that evening to my house and lie down on the grass for a while at Soj's new home for the winter to really end the ride.

    And Nancy, my only request to you is that you stand in front of the house and scare off any interested buyers. This way you and I can sit together in rocking chairs on your front porch, waiting for Chris to write or call, and play with flower arrangements and, oh I don't know...eat chocolate truffles and try out new pie recipes. Yes?

    And Papa! Get your sun blocker shirts on and make my little Sojy a home 'cause he's a comin!!! :) Actually, truthfully, I have been thinking about that and I don't think you should be out in the sun all day working on corrals. We can all do it together when we get there. If the three of us do it we could have something put up in a day...

  15. Linny,

    I was trying to figure a way to propose riding in with you, but I didn't want to but in. We'd be honored to ride in with you! We'll do everything we can on this end for publicity and celebrating the completion of the riding part of your journey. One of my favorite quotes is "Life is a journey, not a destination"- I know your journey continues well beyond your arrival in NH. I can't wait to meet you!