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Saddle Sister Rides Through Ellicottville

seagrhydrBy Jennie Acklin

On Oct. 10, 2011, Sea G Rhydr and her horse Jesse James left the Apple Farm in Philo, Calif., where they had been working the Highland Ranch as trail guides. Accompanied by her friend, Gryph Wulfkil riding Vaca Suerte, and followed by packhorse Saint Finehorn, a Norwegian Fjord, their agenda was simple — to rediscover America on horseback.

Rhydr was inspired by author Mesannie Wilkins, who wrote a book titled “Last of the Saddle Tramps” after completing a cross-country trip in 1954 from Maine to California.

When asked why she wanted to make the same trip only in reverse, Rhydr smiled, sighed and listed many reasons. Her blog at www.freerangerodeo.com even has a “Why” tab dedicated to all her reasons.

On her site, you will also see an image of a horse with wings and a link to the Long Riders’ Guild beneath. That’s because Rhydr is an accepted member of this elite group of equestrians and will be carrying the guild’s flag on the final stages of her journey.

The Long Riders’ Guild is the world’s first international association of equestrian explorers and is an invitation-only organization. It was formed in 1994 to represent men and women of all nations who have ridden more than 1,000 continuous miles on a single equestrian journey. Members currently reside in 45 countries.

These Long Riders have collectively written more than 100 books on equestrian travel and ridden on every continent except Antarctica. Thus, the history, stories, legends and knowledge stored on this website represent the largest repository of equestrian travel information assembled in human history!

I talked with Rhydr about the details and complexities of her travels, which started down the Central Valley of California in the winter, then crossed the Mohave Desert in February, arriving in Texas in December over a year later. Somewhere along the way through Texas, her travel companion Gryph and Vaca Suerte decided to leave the ride, curiously enough, to join the circus.

While traveling across Texas, wild boars spooked the horses, which resulted in Rhydr losing most of her pack gear, three broken vertebrae and a concussion. But three weeks later, she was once again on horseback moving on to Louisiana.

Fast forward several months to August 2013 when she arrived in East Otto this past week and was treated to the hospitality of Elliott and Michael Hutten, owners of Hog-Shed Pottery Studio. Enjoying their homegrown country farm, allowing horses and human some much-needed rest, they shared many great tales and stories of adventure.

Annie Widger of Ellicottville helped coordinate the next few nights of travel to a friend’s barn in Franklinville, and even escorted them to the barn through some beautiful backwoods trails. Meeting them on the trail, I got the chance to chat with Rhydr, careful not to ask the same generic questions that no doubt every reporter from here to California has asked.

We talked about cultural differences and diversity of rural America, about Southern food, wonderful fresh fruit and vegetables, friendly Southern hospitality and incredibly not one incident of crime or danger from anyone she has met along the way. That’s pretty amazing considering she has traveled alone for most of the trip, relying on the kindness of complete strangers for her accommodations.

“I have received what I need, when I needed it, by the grace of God and kindness of people,” said Rhydr.

When asked what she felt was the common thread of her cross-country experiences, Rhydr thought a few moments and then replied, “That we all have more in common with each other that we allow ourselves to think or admit.”

She also discovered a curious conversational behavior from many of her hosts.

“People know that they will probably never see me again, so they have opened up about religion, politics, family issues and many other topics with complete abandon and candor, which is a different approach that talking politics at the local coffee shop with your friends and neighbors,” she said.

These and many other interesting details will undoubtedly fill up the pages of the book she plans to write — and that book about her travels is always in the back of her mind. Rhydr hopes to purchase a home built in the 1840s in Big Creek, Miss., where she can relax with her travel companions, and sort through her days, months and years spent on the back of her steed Jesse James, and reflect on her unique perspective of rural America.

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