Remembering, honoring a son

A mother's life-changing trip on horseback ends in Howard

November 06, 2005|By SANDY ALEXANDER | SANDY ALEXANDER,SUN REPORTER

After traveling nearly 4,000 miles on horseback across the United States, Linda Losey of Sparks rode one more Thursday to bring her seven-month journey to an end at Days End Farm Horse Rescue in Lisbon.

Days End is where Losey's 10-year-old son, Samuel, had picked out a horse to ride on the cross-country adventure that he envisioned before he was killed in a farm accident in June 2004.

"It was his vision, his dream to do this," Losey said.

As Losey, 43, stepped off in San Diego on April 7 - Samuel's birthday - the journey became a way to honor her son's memory and come to terms with her grief.

The feat of endurance also enabled her to raise awareness of operations across the country that help abused and neglected horses, such as Days End and Equine Rescue and Rehabilitation Inc. in Parkton (ERRI), where Losey is a board member.

With friends in Maryland coordinating the logistics - including mapping her route and calling ahead to find places for her to stay - Losey made her way across the country.

She switched between two horses. Rocky, a 5-year-old Tennessee walking horse was steadfast along highways. Val, a 6-year-old paint who was adopted from a horse-rescue operation, was better on trails.

As Losey followed the American Discovery Trail, which connects several trail systems across the country, she said she spent much more time on highways than in the wild. She covered about 20 miles each day by riding 50 minutes and resting 10 each hour. At night, she camped or stayed with host families.

"So many strangers ultimately embraced me and helped me out on the journey," she said. "I'm surprised by the generosity of the human spirit in America."

Volunteers helped trailer the horses around big cities and at times when they were injured. A Kentucky feed company delivered supplies for the horses along the way and strangers provided water and hay.

Losey's son, Peter, 14, rode with her for the first week. Daughter Cara, 20, maintained the Web site, www.americandiscoveryride. com, where Losey keeps a journal and accepts donations. Her son, Eric, 17, offered his support, as well.

Losey said one of the most difficult parts of the journey was traveling through high desert at the start of her trip, camping most nights.

"It was a soul-searching time," she said, " I needed that alone time. ... Feeling so small and insignificant [in the wide-open landscape] helped a lot in my healing."

In Maryland, she faced days of rain and snow, getting sick, and one particular cold night sleeping in a portable toilet.

It was, she said, one of the most difficult parts of the journey. "I was so close to home I could taste it," she said, "but I wasn't there."

She said she had a wonderful experience with the Navajo nation, where people were especially welcoming. And she enjoyed riding through the wilderness of the Shawnee National Forest in Illinois.

She also knows Rocky takes "1,783 steps in a mile," she said. "That's how bored I was in the West. And there's a fisherman in Missouri that thinks my [singing] voice is really, really bad."

Overall, she said, "I had to look at it as 20 miles a day and each new destination was my home."

She arrived Tuesday in Lisbon and got a car ride home.

There, she said she put up fences (before she left, the horses were at a boarding stable) and cleaned up the house where her son Eric has been living.

As for what next, "I don't have a clue," she said. "I know it was a life-changing journey, I just don't know how yet."

Losey returned to Lisbon Thursday to ride from the fire station to Days End to close the journey on a more ceremonial note.

While the horses grazed on the lawn in front of the Days End farmhouse and had their shoes removed by a farrier, Losey said they actually gained weight on their long journey and deserve credit for an amazing accomplishment. Kim Gordon, vice president of the advisory board at ERRI, managed the trip logistics from Maryland. She said, "This incredible journey has not only been healing for you, but it has raised awareness of horse-rescues throughout the country."

Noting that Val was an abused horse that was rehabilitated by ERRI, Gordon said, "Val has blossomed into an ambassador, showing what time, patience and love can do."

Losey thanked her friends, her children and her sponsors. Choking up, she praised her steadfast horses, as well.

Then she asked Cara and Peter to help her sprinkle glitter into the air, just as she did at the start of her journey, in honor of Samuel's spirit.

"Be free, Sam," she said. "Free as an exploring horse running through the air."

sandy.alexander@baltsun.com

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