How Adeline Hallot Went From Cart Traveler to Horse Traveler: Part 2/2
What’s it like to spend 3 years traveling from France to Spain with two dogs, two horses, a mule, a cat and a chicken? Adeline Hallot did exactly that. My wife Julia and I recently spent two days visiting with Adeline. This is Part 2 of the two-part series I’m writing about her.
In Part 1 of this series, you can read how Adeline set off on a walking journey with two dogs, a cat and a hand cart. She’d always dreamed of traveling by horse and a few months into her journey, she bought a young horse named Gezi. In this post, Part 2 of the series, Adeline tells us how she made transition from cart to horse travel and where she ended her voyage.
Note: this post is a compilation of conversations, audio recordings, photos, recollections and emails Julia and I had with Adeline. You can listen to our conversation by scrolling to the bottom of this post.
A Life With Animals
Adeline has always liked and worked with animals.
She says, “I was a caregiver, animal trainer and behaviorist before I met Gezi.” Gezi is the young horse she bought during her trip.
Traveling with a horse takes specials skills, like teaching the horse to walk calmly along busy roads, getting it in shape to carry a load and gaining its trust to deal with all the unexpected surprises that spring up along the way. Adeline says that although she’d worked with horses before, it was only thanks to more experienced long distance riders and Long Riders (people who have completed a continuous saddle journey of over 1,000 miles or more) that she dared buy and take Gezi on her trip.
The Challenges of a Young Horse
One of the biggest things that concerned Adeline about Gezi when she first met her was how young the horse was, only a year and half old. Most horses used for long distance journeys are five years old or older. “When I first saw her,” Adeline says, “I only saw two options. Option A was not to buy her. Option B was buy her, stop the journey, settle down with her, and wait a few years until she was all grown up and trained. In the meantime, I would learn enough to be a professional vet and hoof trimmer.”
In the end, some experienced long distance horse travelers encouraged Adeline to buy Gezi and set out. Without that encouragement, Adeline says, “I might have never started. Some people’s support is sometimes critical. We can thank them.”
Though she may have been young in years, Gezi was mature in other ways. Adeline says, “She was used to humans and having her feet trimmed. She had a nice calm personality. She was really calm and grown up in her head. She had the main thing that I needed, and that was trust.”
Adeline started taking long walks with Gezi, just to build on that trust. “Everything was going fine,” she says. “She was young but not afraid of anything. She’s so trustful and she learns fast. She acted like a 20-year old horse that had already done everything.”
Until now, Adeline had carried all her gear in the cart she pulled behind her. The cart was attached to her waist and flipped over from time to time. “Every time it flipped over, it hurt my waist and made the sciatica pain worse,” Adeline says. She started thinking about a better way to carry her gear on her journey.
“One day, while I was talking to the person I bought Gezi from, she said I should get Gezi to pull my cart.”
Adeline decided to stop for a few weeks, heal her back and teach Gezi to pull the cart. “I wanted to do some desensitization work and training program with Gezi to gain her trust,” she says. She started working with Gezi and says, “She was doing great with all the steps of the training. I got to the point where I could hooker her to the cart. Then I would just lead her around a little bit so she could get used to the cart. She was doing great.”
The End of the Cart
Then one day Gezi got spooked, pulled away from Adeline and galloped off. “Every time she jumped, the cart hit her and scared her,” Adeline says. “She thought the cart was trying to bite her and she ran toward a busy road.”
“I started running as fast as possible after Gezi. I did some intuition training a few years before and tried to connect mentally with her. There was a field off to the left of the road and I tried to connect mentally to Gezi to tell her to turn left and run into the field before she got to the road. That’s the only thing I could do.
So I connected mentally and said, “Please go left when you get to the field. Please go left.” I envisioned it while I was running behind her and kept thinking, “Please go left.”
Gezi turned left into the field, just as Adeline had hoped, before she reached the busy road.
“I found her in the field still fighting with the trolley and I thought, “Oh my god, God. That thought worked. I don’t know how but it did. She didn’t go into the road.”
“I finally caught her and she calmed down when she saw me because we still had that trusting relationship. I finally took her harness off her and there was blood everywhere from where she kicked and kicked the trolley. Her back legs were hurt really bad.
It took weeks for Gezi to heal and Adeline to rebuild the trust she’s lost in the accident.
Adeline’s cart was a total loss and she had to figure out how to carry her gear. What had started out as a cart journey had become a horse journey, which was what Adeline had been dreaming about all along.
Looking for a Second Horse
Adeline says, “Until then it was still a walking journey with me pulling the cart and Gezi following doing nothing because she was too young to carry a load. So I started looked for a new horse, goat, mule or pony to carry my gear.”
She found a pony called Ezka that she thought might work.
“She was being used as a dressage riding pony,” Adeline says. “But she hated it because all she did was go in circles. She was nice, though and not afraid of anything, so I bought her.” Adeline paid 500 euros for Ezka and she joined Adeline’s growing menagerie which now included a border collie, a wolf dog, a Bengal cat, Gezi the young horse and Ezka.
Ezka’s job would be to carry the gear for Adeline and her animals. Adeline says that was, “When the journey turned into a pack saddle pony trip.”
Adeline says, “I spent months working with Ezka in the field where I was camped, getting her ready for my trip. We worked on building mutual trust. Mostly it was basics like ground work, how to tie and carry a pack saddle.”
How to Make a Pack Saddle Without Tools
Adeline needed a pack saddle for Ezka to carry her gear on. She didn’t have enough money to buy one so she decided to make one.
“I had some hand tools,” she says, “and I was getting some results. But at some point I was starting to get depressed because it was a lot of effort. I was not sure I would get to good results and I was afraid I would not make a good pack saddle and that would create health problem like a sore back.”
She was having trouble building a pack saddle. Then, she says, someone told her, “Why don’t you do a crowd funding so people could help you buy good gear. Then you could train with it and go. So I started a crowd fund, and shared my story and people helped. In a few days I had the money I needed to buy the packsaddle. Wow!”
She made boxes, called panniers, to hold her gear on the pack saddle. “They were large enough to carry most of our stuff and small enough to suit Ezka’s small size,” she says. “She never had more than 40 kilograms on her back, which included the pack saddle.”
Adeline also decided to fit Gezi with a pack saddle. “I decided to put some pack saddles on her to get her used to the job. The plan wasn’t to have her carry much weight, only the ropes and light stuff.”
Rucksacks for a Packsaddle
Instead of fitting Gezi with panniers, as she’d done with Ezka, Adeline wanted Gezi to carry rucksacks on her packsaddle. Only she didn’t have any.
One day, Adeline found a small backpack on the side of the road. She thought, “Wow, it’s perfect. What would be perfect now would be to find another one just like it.. A few days later, she found another one. “It was perfect,” she said. “It’s like my guardian angel dropped it.”
Adeline spent the summer working with Ezka and Gezi, building trust and teaching then to carry their pack saddles. She started taking them on overnight camping trips to introduce them to life on the trail.
Summer turned to fall and that September, a year after she started her trip pulling a cart, she headed out again. This time it was with two equines in addition to her dogs and cat. Her transition to traveling with horses, the dream she’d had since she was young, was complete.
Like many long term solo travelers, Adeline felt like she wasn’t traveling alone. Even though she had her animals with her, she had a sense that a something or someone else was with her, especially when she needed something, like a pack saddle, or needed to get by a dangerous stretch of road.
She says, “I felt I was not alone. I like to say I have guardian angels or something like that. In some situation where I was afraid of something I would say, “Can you help us right now?”
“It’s funny because I have read that from a lot of other travelers. That on the way, you’re not on your own. And when you need help, you get help. And you might not think it’s help at first, but it happens so many times that you end up knowing that you can ask for something and you get it for some reason. When I needed a pack saddle and didn’t have the money for it, the money showed up and I was able to buy the saddle. I know I asked people for the money to buy the pack saddle, but maybe the guardian angels helped there, too!”
Hazards to Horse Travel
Traveling by horse added a new dimension of hazards to Adeline’s travel. When it was just her cart and her dogs, she could pull the cart along the side of the road or the trail she was on and not worry too much about getting into trouble. The cart didn’t have fears. It wasn’t afraid of cars or plastic bags. It just followed her and she could focus on carrying her cat Effie and walking her dogs Dazou, and Aiyana.
All that changed when she started traveling with her horses.
“I tried to avoid roads as much as possible,” she says. “Roads were scary for me because I was afraid of the horses getting away from me, getting scared and running into traffic. That was my main fear. The other one was that we would get hit by a car that didn’t see us.”
“I Prefer to Die in the Mountains.”
Adeline says, “There were a few times we had to choose between a bad trail and a road. And the choice was really easy for me. Take the bad trail. That doesn’t scare me because I’m aware of the danger. I prefer to die in the mountains!”
Adeline says she prefers taking a trail, even a bad one, “Because I can pick the pace. It’s not up to someone else in a car, like when you ride a long a road. You have time to make decisions, but on the road I don’t control anything.”
Still, there were times when Adeline was forced to take a road because there was no alternative trail or, if there was, it was more dangerous then the road.
Blind Turns, a Bridge and a Tunnel
One of the worst stretches of road that Adeline had to navigate was a highway in Spain that included blind turns, a long bridge and a tunnel. Remember, Adeline was doing this on foot with two horses, two dogs, and a cat,with no chase vehicle to carry her gear or line up places to stay.
“I had to go through the tunnel because there was no alternative trail,” she says. “The tunnel was so long that I couldn’t see through it. And the people driving through it in their cars couldn’t see me. And there was lots of traffic, including motorcycles and trucks, and the day before, my horse Gezi got scared by a motorcycle, so I had that to worry about.”
“I could feel that this is not gonna be fine and I thought, ‘The next time Gezi gets scared, she’s going to run and I won’t be able to control her. Plus, cars would hit us, because they would not see us in the tunnel.'”
It’s Not Even Legal
“It was a weekend so one option was to wait until Monday when there was less traffic. But it was summertime and I didn’t have water for the animals. I didn’t even have it for myself. I asked some people I met earlier if they could bring me water but they couldn’t.”
“One option was to go back. But that meant walking 10 kilometers back in the direction we’d come on the very same busy road. We were trapped.”
“I decided the smartest thing was to keep going. But we couldn’t do it on our own. I called the police to ask if they could escort me across the bridge and through the tunnel. They said, ‘We can’t help you. You should have called us two days ago to ask for help. It’s not even legal to have animals on the road.'”
Asking a Guardian Angel
“I decided to ask my guardian angel for help. What we really need was a car to drive behind us with its blinkers on to keep the other cars from running over us from behind.”
Adeline was out of options. She saddled her horses and prepared to tackle the dangerous stretch of road. “I started crying out of fear,” she says. “I had never done anything like this and it was really bad, but I told myself to cry now because once I was on the road, I couldn’t have my emotions interfering.”
Adeline lead her animals up the dangerous stretch of road and pulled over in a parking area before the bridge and tunnel she needed to get by. There was a car parked in the parking area and she says, “The horses were so cool and super quiet.”
A young couple was parked in the parking area, taking pictures of the view. Adeline asked them if they could follow behind her and her horses and dogs as she walked across the bridge and the tunnel and they said that would be fine.
“They followed me for 5 kilometers and it took one hour,” Adeline says. “And then they followed me to the next village to keep the cars and trucks off me. They were my heroes!”
The Road to a Deeper Connection
Adeline says situations like crossing the bridge and going through the tunnel helped her build a deeper connection with her animals than would have been possible if she’d never hit the road with them.
“We spent 7 days per week together, 24 hours per day together, which usually doesn’t happen to horse people but is more affordable with other pets. That makes the relationship go much deeper, because there are life or death challenges. If in my everyday life as a “regular/sedentary” animal owner, I don’t get my animal’s emotion or thoughts right, it doesn’t matter too much. If I misinterpret her feelings and intentions on the journey, we might just end up dead. I haven’t experienced that level of absolute connection in any other situation.”
“Of course traveling is not the only way to get that deep connection. I have had some strong, almost magical soulmate-like connection with some animals without traveling. But to me, the difference a journey makes is the fact we sometimes get exposed to life or death challenges, where our relationship is the key to staying alive or getting flattened on the road. That’s real, conscious danger.”
The Second Year on the Road
From north western Spain, where Adeline switched from cart to horse travel, she traveled along the Spanish side of the Pyrenees Mountains toward the Mediterranean.
There, she turned south and headed toward the Castilla La Mancha region of Spain. She didn’t have any particular destination in mind other than “warm weather”. Somewhere along the line, her menagerie grew to include a Spanish mastif named Mut, a mule named Lunita and a chicken.
The End of a Voyage
After three years on and off the road, the fatigue of long-term travel began to set in. “I was tired,” Adeline says. In 2020, as Covid lock downs began in Spain, Adeline began thinking about ending her journey.
“I was loosing patience with my animals,” she says. “Not only was that unpleasant, it was dangerous. I saw that as a sign that maybe I had traveled enough. I had lived what I had to live. But I struggled to end my trip because that was what I knew that was comfortable to me. My travels were not comfortable in every aspect, but psychologically I knew where I was.”
“I was afraid to go back to a sedentary life. If I was traveling and didn’t like where I was camping, I could leave the next day. It didn’t matter. If I settled down and bought a home, it had to be the right place.”
Following a Feeling
Ultimately, Adeline ended her trip just like she’d started it, because it felt like the right thing to do.
“My goal was to start a journey, and follow whatever feeling I had. And I could stop when I thought it was time to stop.”
She ended her voyage in Nerpio, a municipality in the Castilla La Mancha region of Spain. At the time, she didn’t know it was the end of her trip. Not long after that, Covid struck, and she was unable to get back on the road. “Actually, I was quite happy because I didn’t feel ready to get going again. I was rested but I was afraid that I’d very quickly get tired of traveling.”
After three years on the road, her journey was over. “I’m not sure exactly how far I went,” she says, “because my goal never was to go fast or far. I wanted to travel slowly and I think I went about 2,500 kilometers”.
A New Voyage Begins
Adeline was ready for a change. “I became super interested in permaculture,” she says. “I felt like I would like to have a piece of land somewhere so I could build a home. I wanted to garden and have a place for my animals.”
She ended up buying two parcels of land outside Collonges-la-Rouge, a small village in southern France. She turned one parcel into a pasture for her travel companion Gezi, Ezka and Lunita, and built a cabin on the other one.
Adeline is studying agroforestry, planting a food forest and plans to give tours on edible weeds.
If there’s one theme Adeline came away from her trip with, it was the importance of taking a first step in a journey. Then just keep going.
Adeline says, “The hardest part about my trip was to start. The main goal of my journey was to not have a goal, especially not a geographical one. My goal was to start a journey, follow whatever feeling I had, and stop when I think it’s time to stop.”
Listen to Adeline Describe her Voyage
I recorded my conversation with Adeline. If you enjoyed reading this article, I think you’ll love Adeline describing her voyage in her own words. I made this recording while Julia, Adeline and I were eating breakfast on Adeline’s porch. I didn’t have time to edit the recording so you’ll hear things like “Eat one apple and then it’ll be done” sprinkled into the recording. This makes for a lovely conversational tone that really captures Adeline’s spirit. Enjoy!
A Day in the Life of Adeline
Adeline generously took Julia and I on walks with some of the animals she took on her journey. Here are some photos of her new land base I thought you’d enjoy. Thanks, Adeline, for your generous hospitality!
Thank You, Adeline
Thank you, Adeline, for sharing your story with Julia and me. It was lovely to finally meet you after reading about your adventures for so long. We feel like you’re another member of our traveling tribe along with fellow travelers like Melissa Priblo Chapman and Filipe Masetti Leite.
Thanks, too, for introducing us to the animals you took on your journey. We were honored to come walking with you, Gezi, Ezka, Aiyana and Lunita!
More on Adeline
You can read more about Adeline’s voyage at:
More Long Distance Equine Travelers
If you enjoyed reading about Adeline’s voyage, I think you’ll enjoy the following interviews I’ve done with long distance travelers:
- Filipe Masetti Leiti (rode across North and South America)
- Missy Priblo Chapman discusses her book “Distant Skies”
Follow Adeline’s Journey
Adeline is currently living in central France studying agroforestry, building a cabin, planting a food forest and plans to give tours on edible weeds. Follow her here:
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