The Sunlit Project and UNUM Magazine present HER JOURNEY,
a narratology mapping the unique and universally-shared experiences of women's extraordinary journeys.
Brianna Noble at Oakland Protest. Photo by Noah Berger.
The Noble Icon
She’s a mother to a daughter named Genesis. She’s a skilled equestrian and the founder and owner of Mulatto Meadows. She prefers to go by Bri. But chances are, you already know Brianna Noble as the famed horsewoman of the Black Lives Matter protest. Images of her and her horse became iconic worldwide the day she rode through the streets of Oakland, California, in protest of George Floyd’s murder – a handmade cardboard sign with “Black Lives Matter” written in Sharpie swinging from her saddle. Together, Bri and Dapper Dan – a 17-hands-tall horse she trained as a “bombproof” mount – strike an imposing masthead to the anti-racism movement.
Bri’s journey began long before the protest; but powerful journeys aren’t always marked in miles or years. Sometimes they arise in an hour of supreme ordeal – then surge forward wildly from a fixed, historic moment. Bri’s ride down a city street turned out to be the journey of a lifetime.
Lady Long Rider, Bernice Ende, and her horses, Montana Spirit and Liska Pearl, 30,000 miles into her journey. Photo by Nancy Dodd Studio.
The Long Rider
Long riders are rare today; still rarer it seems, a traveler who doesn’t construct a feed or a following. Bernice Ende camps without internet, almost full time. I had traced her map where I could, following snippets on social media where someone had driven past her on a highway or hiked across her campsite. She navigates her way through urban cities and untamed lands at 4 miles per hour, and fences have taken on the grievances they inspired in the Old West. She has encountered grizzlies and snowstorms, outrun a tornado, had a stranger pull a gun on her, and has foraged for her own food and shelter daily. The day Bernice Ende set out to ride her Fjords – a strong horse breed from the mountains of Norway – across the country and beyond, she was fifty-years-wise. At a time in life when people are usually settling in, Bernice Ende was starting out on her most extraordinary journey.
The worldwide Long Riders’ Guild defines a long rider as someone who has ridden more than 1,000 continuous miles on a single equestrian journey. From 2005 till now, she has exceeded that distance thirty times over.
When I finally got ahold of Bernice, she agreed to get on the phone with me one Wednesday afternoon, and while I sat at my kitchen table and she bunked in someone’s barn, we began to map a narrative that speaks to obstacles, transformations, and riding into unknowns.