Woman looking for work heads west on horseback

LAUREL – For seven weeks now Donna Byrne and her horses have been traveling on a life-changing journey. She had always dreamed of making a long trip on horseback, but she didn’t plan the journey quite so soon in life.

After losing her job, her home, and most of her possessions due to the bad economy, Byrne left Arcadia, Fla., on Feb. 3. With a goal of finding work, she set Amarillo, Texas, as her destination. She and her horses, Tonto and Jay, were traveling along Highway 84 West in Wayne County this week.

“I lost my job. I lost my house. I left with a $100 bill in my pocket,” Byrne said. “I’ve been wanting to do this, but I didn’t think I was going to get forced into it.”

So far, the trip has gone well. Although there is a shortage of funds, there are still two hungry horses and a cowgirl to feed.

Strangers have stepped in to feed all three along the way. People have made donations of money, shelter, and even minutes for her prepaid cellphone. A vet stopped in Florida to offer shots for the horses, and another person offered them new shoes.

There are online blogs following the trio, tracking them along their way. Most of the late winter and early spring has included comfortable, dry weather. But, the past few days of rain have been tough on the travelers.

“It’s been going good except for the bad rain we just had,” she said.

Byrne, Tonto, and Jay travel about 20 miles each day, she said. When asked what she needs, she had the horses in mind first.

“I need places we can stay,” Byrne said. “I need feed for the horses. They need good hay and sweet feed with 14 percent protein.”

Byrne and her horses were getting ready to settle down for the evening Monday afternoon. They had already had a long day.

“He’s sleepy,” Byrne said about Tonto. Then, referring to a small business across Highway 84 with a covered shed, “That seems like a good spot to stay. I’m going to ask them if we can shelter there.”

Although they have camped along major highways and backroads between Florida and Mississippi, some nights require a little more shelter.

Many people along the way have offered them a place to stay the night or a couple of days. With tonight’s forecast including strong to severe thunderstorms, Byrne said she is hoping to find a little more shelter for she and her horses.

After that, she’ll continue down Highway. 84 through Mississippi and Louisiana, following dreams of a good life “out west.”

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To track Byrne as she travels to Texas, visit www.cowgirlsjourney.webs.com

Jason Niblett/Laurel Leader-Call