Saturday, June 20, 2009

Woman, horse hike across US

photo:Ann Byrns and her horse, Winnie, rest in Ellenville on Wednesday. They're heading to a new life in California.

By Stephen Sacco
Times Herald-Record
Posted: June 19, 2009 - 2:00 AM

ELLENVILLE — Ann Byrns' problems used to center on financial strife. But on Wednesday, her biggest problem was finding a spot to park her horse and herself for the night.

Byrns is walking across country — from Massachusetts to California — with her rescued 3-year-old mustang named Winnie.

Less than a year ago, Byrns owned a retail shipping business in Amherst, Mass. The business hit hard financial times, with the recession delivering the fatal blow. By August, at age 57, she lost her business and life savings.

Isha Gregory, Byrn's 27-year-old daughter, and her husband had the solution: come live with us in Paradise, Calif.

But it's a long way to Paradise — about 3,000 miles. And though Byrns could afford to get herself there on money from a small pension she receives from the University of Connecticut — where she worked before opening her own business — she didn't have the money to transport Winnie.

"So, I decided to walk with my horse," Byrns said. "I made a commitment to Winnie and I wasn't going to lose her." Byrns says on her Web site that Winnie gave her something to wake up for in the morning during the darkest days when she was losing her business. She also states on her site that she wants to draw attention to the plight of the mustang.

Byrns' son has created a Web site for the trip, that started June 3, and also bought his mother a notebook computer, where she blogs and checks her e-mails. People can sign up to become "fans of Winnie" as a way of funding Byrns' journey.

On Wednesday, Byrns was in Ellenville, where she had stopped so Winnie, who carries a saddle pack of supplies and camping gear, could see a veterinarian. Byrns has health insurance through her retirement benefits from the university, and Winnie has health insurance through a gift from a patron.

The journey is a slow one: an average of about 7 miles per day, and no more than 13 to 14 miles per day, tops. On this schedule she will be arriving in California sometime in 2010.

"Most people have been really great to us," said Byrns. "When something happens, there always seems to be an angel there to help." People, however, haven't been so responsive to Byrns' sign urging them to pass them by "slow," she said.

"As a horsewoman, I find the prospect of walking across country with a horse overwhelming," said Cori Nichols of Norwegian Wood Farm in Kerhonkson. "But (Byrns) is very self-sufficient and has it all planned out."

To follow Byrns and Winnie or to help, visit:


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