Blazing her own trail

Published 12:28 am Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Covington County residents who live and work along U.S. Hwy. 84 may have experienced a different kind of “horse show” Tuesday afternoon.

Donna Byrne, originally from Arcadia, Fla., lost her previous home and job and decided to embark on a cross-country journey with only $100, her possessions and her two horses. Following U.S. Hwy. 84 through Alabama, she traveled through Dothan on Tues., March 17, and made her way through Andalusia Tuesday afternoon.

“The bank was coming in there to get everything,” she said of the decision to leave her Florida home, where she worked on a ranch. “I just said, ‘this won’t work,’ and decided to take off.”

Byrne, 44, said she has attracted a lot of spectators on her journey, and many people have offered donations and places to stay. She stops in towns along the way to buy supplies and food, both for herself and for her two horses Tonto and Jay.

“I either find a feed store to buy some food for these guys, or somebody is nice enough to donate it,” she said.

Byrne is planning to make her way to the western part of the U.S., where she hopes to find a job working on a ranch in a state like Texas or Colorado. She said she is on no particular schedule, and started her trek about two and a half months ago.

“I’m just taking it one day at a time,” she said. “I’m not trying to get there at any particular time. I just knew that I had to go somewhere I felt more comfortable.”

She said she tries to travel about 20 miles a day, in order to keep her horses fresh and rested. She could only recall one instance where the animals tried to enter the highway.

“There was one time when we first started out that one of them got a little scared and moved out onto the road,” she said. “It was a close call; we made a big truck have to swerve. But other than that, they’ve been well behaved.”

Byrne hopes to find a place nearby to rest for a few days as she waits out the rainstorm expected to hit this area today and Thursday.

Her story has been covered by national media, including the New York Times and National Public Radio. Several of her supporters have also started a Web site to chronicle her progress at