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...

“You’re going to hit me with that rope?”


We did it. We ate the most amazing pie ever. In fact, we have decided since we are staying a week here we will go to get a different piece of pie every morning so we can try all of Kathy’s pies at Pie-O-Neer!

Cowboy waiting for his coffee and piece of coconut cream pie.

The thing is, it’s hard for me to pull away from what I love (which was warm cherry pie with ice cream) to try something else. I am the same way with Mexican food. I always want to branch out, but when the server comes to ask me what I would like “Chile Relleno” is all I can muster up.

I’m going to try though. I’m going to go for something I wouldn’t usually go for but that has been recommended to me, which is banana cream pie. It looked pretty amazing yesterday. In fact, I think it’s banana coconut cream pie…probably even better. Walter had apple crumble pie with ice cream. Of course all of this was washed down with endless cups of great coffee.

It’s so nice to have good coffee. Our coffee is kind of hit or miss when we’re camping, although we’re starting to get better at it. The more coffee grounds, the better. That’s what I’ve concluded.

The pie baker, Kathy, is a big jumping ball of energy. Walter and I were eating and all of a sudden at the side of our table a woman in a big white hat was there…

“Hi!!! How’s your food!? Good? Good! You’re riding your horse across the country!? Fun!!! Is he outside!?”

He wasn’t, we had driven, but when we leave here on Friday we are going to tie Soj up outside and have one more slice of pie for the road. They are only open Friday-Monday so that will work out perfect. I think Soj will have to have a bite of pie as well. He has a sweet tooth as bad as mine.

The clinic Larry and Jenny are teaching goes from Tuesday-Thursday so that’s why we are leaving so late, but it’s good because Soj is already well rested and eating a ton so we will be like new when we take off again. We’ll have to try and make some decent time after this though. We’ll probably ease into the miles and then pick it up after a few days.

Yesterday Larry gave me a taste of some training. Jenny is away teaching in (I think) Las Vegas so it was just Larry, Walter, and I at dinner. Larry had made us all a stir-fry and as we ate we talked about body language and getting horses to respond to our energy and movements.

Larry was looking at me as we spoke and then he started shifting his eyes down to the chair at my right. I just kept watching him and he kept looking at me and then back at the chair, at me, back at the chair. I said, “What? Do you want me to get that chair for you?” with a little laugh.

He just kept doing it.

I looked at the chair and said, “Do you want the chair?”

He said “Good, see, you did what I wanted you to. You looked at that chair. That’s all I wanted.”

I said, “No I didn’t. Not at first. I spoke. I used words and asked you what you were doing and if you wanted me to get that chair.”

He started doing it again.

I said, “Well! Now I’m definitely not going to look ‘cause I know what you’re trying to do!”

He said, “Oh yes you will.”

I said, “Oh no I won’t.”

He said “Oh yes you will!” and got up.

I asked “Where are you going!?”

He replied, “To get a tool”. He was walking over to where there were ropes and halters hanging on the wall by the door to our room.

“What?!!” , I said. “A tool!? What are you going to whip me?!”

He came with a rope swinging over his head like a helicopter and sat back down in his chair right next to me, rope still swinging.

He shifted his eyes to the chair beside me.

I looked at him.

“Alright. I’m going to apply a little pressure”.

“You won’t hit me with that!!”, I proclaimed.

“Oh yes I will!”, he said.

“No way!”

whoosh whoosh whoosh whoosh….closer and closer to my head this spinning rope came. Really? I asked myself….WHAP! WHAP!

Yup. Really.

I closed my eyes tight and took it.

“Ah!” I yelled! “I’m not going to look!!”

He backed off laughing and then tried again. This time I turned my head ever so slightly towards the chair and he immediately stopped.

“There you go. Your nose turned that way. That’s all I wanted. The slightest bit of effort gets rewarded.”

To teach a horse how to do something you make it a little uncomfortable for him not to do what you ask. Not at first, of course. At first you just gently ask. Then you apply a little pressure. It can be as easy as shifting your body in a way that asks the horse to move. If he moves ever so slightly the way you’ve asked, you release the pressure and rub him (no patting, patting isn’t nice, rub).

The rope was a little uncomfortable whapping my head. So even if looking at the chair seemed a little “scary” to me at first (as it would the unsure horse), the rope is annoying and so I (or the horse) would shift away from it toward the chair. Eventually the horse will learn that when he is near that chair he can relax. There are no swinging ropes, no pressure.

Larry’s teachings are very similar to James back in Joshua Tree. I must have told Larry that a hundred times.

“You’ve got to meet James. You’ve got to meet James!”

They both say that it is about making what you want the horse to do the most enjoyable, comfortable option for the horse.

When James and I were teaching Soj to trailer in Joshua Tree, Soj would often go to one side or the other of the trailer door trying to get away. When he did this, James would lunge him there. Wherever Soj went meant work. The only place that didn’t mean work was in that trailer. If Soj would slow down by the entrance of the trailer to sniff it, James stopped working him and let him explore. Eventually Soj would learn that the trailer door meant rest and in the trailer was rest, air, no running around, even food.

Larry and James both say horses are pretty lazy animals. They want to eat and rest…and poop a lot. When we give them the option to do those things, they’ll take it.

Later on this afternoon Larry and I are going to work on some things with Sojourner. Larry lives for this and said he will drop anything to play with a horse so I just need to go and get my horse and walk toward him when I feel like working. I should take advantage so we’ll start today. It’s a little warmer today too so I won’t shiver and shake and cry while we’re working. Just kidding. I’ve got New Hampshire blood…thinned…watery thin NH blood, but it’s still there.

First though….first things first. Banana cream pie and coffee.


  1. Love hearing about the upcoming clining and horse training. Woo! Hoo!

    The reason Larry's methods are like James's is because all the good trainers use similar techniques. I followed Clinton Anderson's DVDs to train myself and Buster and had fantastic results. It's fascinating to learn to approach a situation from the horse's perspective. I could talk about horses FOREVER.

    I don't care for the term "lazy", although I know that Larry and James don't mean anything by it. That's a human word that comes with a negative connotation that I don't think we should confer to the non-human animals. I prefer "sedentary" or any word that will work that is neutral in terms of value judgment.

    Have Fun! I can't wait to hear all about the clinic. I would love, love, love to join.....Vicariously, Tom. Just as fulfilling, remmber? Right. Got it. :)

  2. Jeni,

    Here's the website you were looking for:


  3. Hi Guys, enjoy your pie...again! The way you describe that pie oeh yum!! Especially the one Walter had..Apple crumble but the Banana Pie sounds pretty good too;)
    Can you film some of the clinic? Would love to see you and Soj working on some things. I'm sure we would learn from it!
    But first enjoy your pie and after that lovely moment, enjoy working with Soj!
    Love Nico

  4. Thank you Jackie B.


    I am so envious of your hands on time with these seasoned horsemen you've come across. I have been riding/training/teaching for over 20 years, but just recently had my eyes opened to the world of natural horsmanship.

    I have done everything from eventing, pleasure showing, dressage and competetive trail riding- but have never had such success and closeness to my horses as I do now- with an awareness of thier language and motivations. I used to think all the ground work was silly and the "natural horsemanship people" were a bit goofy- as did all my peers who learned the very traditional way of dealing with horses from riding academy environments.

    I now realize how little I know and learn something new about my horses and myself every day. I started to gain appreciation and respect for these training methods when I began the process of going barefoot. I found a great natural hoof care professional, and just as I became completely convinced that there is no reason to ever nail a shoe on a hoof ever again, she moved away. I could not find, nor could she reccomend another good professional in my area, so- I began the journey of learning to care for my own horses feet. That is how I came upon so much information on this "new" (new to me) way of relating with and training horses. The thing that sold me completely was my husband's christmas gift to me- Joe Camp's book, The Soul of the Horse- definately must read (and share) material!

    My husband is new to horses and I feel so fortuanate to be able to share this love with him. I read him your entry about your learning session with the rope at the dinner table and we were laughing right out loud! I tell him daily of your adventures and trip, and he kept saying you looked familiar- turns out you guys went to high school together! We look forward to hearing more of your and Soj's lessons from the clinic!

  5. Jeni,

    Pete Ramey's "Making Natural Hoof Care Work For You" is an inexpensive book that is invaluable to someone who is learning to trim his/her horse's hooves. Buster's been barefoot for 10 years and will never wear a shoe again, although I would put boots on him if I was in the type of terrain that Soj is encountering right now.

    I'm fortunate that I discovered Clinton Anderson right about the time that I got serious about horses. Buster had some really bad habits due to poor training and I was pretty new myself, but we made incredible progress. My favorite compliment, and we've received it many times is "Tom, I can't believe that's the same horse I used to know." Buster's such a good boy.

    So many people GREATLY underestimate the importance of ground work. It is just so valuable and important because you're speaking "horse" to the horse.

    It makes perfect sense as you learn more about it and then one can see that this is how horses communicate with one another most of the time. The dominant horses make the subordinate horses move their feet when they want and where they want. Horses instantly understand this language when we speak it to them.

    I'll look up that book, Jeni. Thanks for mentioning it.

  6. Jeni!! I wish I could blink you here to this clinic, I would in a heart beat! I know you would love it. We haven't started yet...I think around noon we'll go out there with the horses.
    I read your comment out loud to Larry and I think he really appreciated it.
    It's pretty amazing what these trainers are able to do. My brain is on super speed trying to ingrain it all into my little thinker. I am so grateful of the time they give Soj and I.
    Man! I wish I could get you and your horse out here! You would just love it!
    I went to highschool with your husband???! Who is he?! :)

  7. Jeni,

    I just requested Joe Camp's book through inter-library loan (our little library didn't have it). I can't wait to read it!!!

    I hadn't heard of Joe before you mentioned his name, but after visiting his website and learning more about him, I think it would be significant understatement to say that he's my kind of person. By far, my biggest area of volunteer interest is animal welfare, so I love discovering people like Joe. Thanks a million!

  8. Linny,

    I would love to be blinked out there! All though, I think it may be warmer here in NH at the moment. I've made a lot of mistakes with Bugle (my horse's nick name- a story for another time) along the way, and a clinic is a great way to saturate yourself in knowledge. But every day/moment is an opportunity for change.

    I can't vouch for my husband in his high school days ;-I heard he was a bit of a bad boy. But who I met and married is an amazing man, father and now-horseman. Rich Broughan, he was a class ahead of you. We both look forward to welcoming you home(to NH), whenever that will be. He's also very good at opening wine now, I'd love to share a glass or two with you someday! But for the mean time, keep riding and writing, we'll be right "here" with you!

    Jackie B,

    I am happy you discovered another "like soul" out there. I feel that Linny is that to me as I follow and get to know her through her ride and blog. I'm sure you will soak Joe's book up, and I can't wait to hear from you once you've read it!

    Pete Ramey's book you mentioned is the main source I've used to get started. It travels between my barn and house, with many dog eared corners and horse hair stuck between the pages. I love sharing stories and "showing off" our barefoot horses now. I have even mangaged to convert a few friends!

    Happy reading and riding!

  9. Blink me out, too! I'm there for the pie. Sorry so long wthout a comment. I have this little netbook computer that I got just yesterday from a lady whose husband never uses it and she thought it might be handy for me to use for writing and following your progress (I am away from home so much and I can take this with me). So, there is no shortage of people who seem to have it in them to share, give, whatever it takes to be the wind under someone's wings. So, when I wax philosophical, it may be with lots of typos as this tiny keyboard is no help to a lousy typiust!