Sunday, December 29, 2013

My Wife Insisted

Really, my wife insisted that I put this poem on the blog.  The idea came to me when I was stopped at a railroad crossing not far from my home on Christmas Eve.  I've always loved trains, perhaps because I was raised near a rail spur in Cincinnati and noisy trains were a part of everyday life.

 I saw hobos quite often as a boy and they frequented our yard to pilfer fruit from our apple, plum and pear trees.  And yes, I did press my ear to warm rails and they always spoke to me in a way I could understand.

I remember once putting a coin on the tracks in front of an oncoming engine, all the while hoping the train wouldn't derail.  It didn't!

Often I count the cars as they rumble past,
Sometimes only those spoiled by graffiti are numbered.
Today I just sit and watch an oily black engine and its rust-red cars
Flicker by and feel their wash of air on my face.
Hobos jumped from slow moving trains when I was a boy,
dropping down into our yard to peel apples or fill their pockets with pears.
None had much to say. if they spoke at all,
But the rails, silver and straight, were never quiet.
You can ask any boy who ever pressed
A summer ear to a warm rail.
The crossing gate trembles, lifts and the oily black engine and its rust-red cars have gone.
The hiss and jolt of the rails are stilled
And their steel, cold and silent.
Copyright, December 28, 2013 by Loren Schumacher
Well not everything can be about horses, but I promise the next post will be.  Look for a
 new post just after the new year.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


From Stormy, Callie and Me:
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

This is actually Stormy.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

First, Thank You, Then A Few Changes And A Couple Of Questions

I was amazed to find that this blog has been viewed in fourteen countries around the world.  Fourteen Countries!  I can't believe it, so thank you all and I hope you've been entertained, learned a few things along the way, and leaned back in your chair with your hands clasped behind your head and dreamt.

And now a few changes this blog has needed.

  • Now anyone can comment on my blog entries, and I look forward to hearing from as many as choose to comment, suggest, or relay a story of your own.  I might even publish some of the stories and photos of your horse life.
  • There will be word verification to weed out the spammers.
  • Look for the English Conversion.  Not all of you speak or read English and I would like for you to be able to participate as well.
  • The background has been changed from black to red.  I think that red makes the pictures leap from the screen.  Besides, I like red!

  • I am thinking of creating a pod cast about horses and horse people in the next year.  Would that be of interest to any of you?
  • Would advertisements detract from the blog?  I've thought of monetizing the blog but won't without your input.

It's rainy, humid and unusually warm for the end of October.  Winds are gusting to 50 miles per hour as I write.  We'll soon "fall back," gaining an hour of sleep and leaving "Daylight Savings Time" until next spring, putting it away until it's needed again, like a tool

We've already had a bit of sleet and a few snow flurries.  Soon the air will snap with cold and my boots will leave a trail in the snow that even I can follow.  The footprints of our nocturnal visitors will dot the snow: coyote, rabbit; fox; skunk; deer and others.  As winter deepens birds will find it hard to live until the sun rises the next morning and the deer will eat our bushes or any seed the birds leave behind as the sun begins to set.

Ice will freeze Stormy and Callie's whiskers and ice balls will form on the soles of their feet.  I'll chip away the ice with a rusty pair of Channellock pliers and then the horses can stand easily on their own feet.  While I work our breaths will rise and join in the air, forming an opaque cloud, damp and temporary.

The hat is gone and the zipper on the coat has broken, but Stormy and I remain.
Winter can be difficult in southern Ohio for both man and animal.  The horse's coats are thick, but as different as the horses themselves.  Stormy's coat is thick, so thick that my hand leaves its print when I rub her back.  It lays flat against her skin like a black and white blanket.  Born in the upper reaches of Manitoba, Canada, Callie's dark bay coat sticks straight up like a man's whiskers.
Callie and Stormy at the end of day.
Sometimes, when the temperature stands near zero and snow lights the night, I stand by the horse's stalls and hear them chew or sigh, and I wonder at the stars and know that nothing can be better than that moment.
Copyright, October 31, 2013 by Loren Schumacher




Monday, September 2, 2013

A Little Braggin'

The last time my horse trainer, Helge Buflod, was at the farm he mentioned in passing that my horse, Callie, was built for performance.  I asked him in an email to explain and he said,  "Callie's conformation should lend itself to smoothness in all gates.  Her shoulders are nicely sloped.  The length of her back matches her neck and legs and her croup rounds off well.  She looks well balanced to me."  Made me smile, it did. 

Just a few extra pounds.

I picked Callie nine years ago as a two year old from a herd of rescued PMU (Pregnant Mare Urine) foals.  I thought she had the most beautiful physique I'd ever seen.  Although she is a registered paint, she  looked for all the world like I imagined a thoroughbred should look with her deep chest, trim muscular hindquarters and a large head atop a powerful neck.  She has been blessed with a kind eye and a matching personality.  Callie's broad bald face sports a single white eyelash.

Just after a bath.  Notice the kindness in her eye.

At eleven her sleek dark bay coat still shimmers and stretches across muscles that flex and ripple over bone and blood.  And after a summer on pasture with all its high noon sugar levels, she's heavier than I would like.  Her weight can effect her soundness because of past problems with her deep flexor tendon and thin soles.  I keep her in orthopedic boots which support her frogs and soles when the ground is as dry and hard as it has been for the past three or four weeks.  I let her run barefoot when the earth is soft and moist.  The moisture allows the hoof to soften and flex.  She has not been lame in months and I hope in saying that I haven't jinxed her.

Just thought I'd brag about my girl, Callie, the clown that winds my mare Stormy up and then watches her run herself into a lather, my friend that nudges me playfully whenever the mood strikes, and the smoothest horse I have ever ridden.  My good friend, Callie.

Gimme dat!

These pictures were taken just after I wrote this entry on September the second.

Just strolling along. 

This was Callie's longest and most aggressive workout of the year.  She came through it with flying colors and more limp.

Trotting on a loose rein.


On this half-pass you can see Callie's left hind leg passing under her belly and in front of her right hind leg.  The loose right rein frees her right front shoulder.  You can also see Callie's boots in this one.

My wife, Carol wanted this one. 

Just a neat photo, but Callie is resisting.  She's "rooting" her nose even though the reins are loose.  She's telling me that she's had enough. Callie has been known to rear when her feet become "stuck," and once in a great while she'll give you a full fledged sky-sweeping buck.  Still, she's a lovely horse and her few bad habits disappear the more I ride her.   Reactions like these are typical when a horse isn't ridden enough.

Just a fun afternoon.  Though hot, the humidity had dropped to a bearable level.  Callie was only wet beneath her saddle and cinch, and that's a very good thing.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Ahhhh! Sand and Foam

Forgive me if I indulge myself with this entry.  My wife Carol and I just returned from a week on Grand Cayman, where we ate, slept and went diving every day for a week.  We were the guests of our dear friends of many years, Pat and Howard Farr, at their time-share on Seven Mile Beach.

So, here goes.  Whenever we go to the Cayman Islands I have a little trouble getting in to the island's rhythm.  Here I am in black tee shirt, jeans and boots looking a little out of place--but I am smiling.
Carol on the beach.
The Man In Red
This photo, taken as the ocean was beginning to boil, inspired this bit of verse.
...out of Africa
We touched the rough cheek of Africa.
Tossed and turned in tumult, rocked in sleepless dreams,
Wind-blown and blue, hurried and unhurried in our time.
We called out to a man in red, knee deep in foaming, rumbling, sunset-surf, listening to his dream.
His dream is of tomorrow and he is resolute.
It is not his time.
Our time is forever,
And we returned to begin again our journey out of Africa.
The four of us learned to dive together in 1999, and here are some pictures of us taken by Howard and Carol underwater.
Pat and a school of French Grunts
There aren't too many pictures of Howard underwater because he is always behind the camera.
Pat and Howard on the right side of the lense this time.
Carol and I at Pallas Arches.  At the surface, after this dive, I nearly succumbed to sea-sickness once again!
What a dive can look like.  This is a drift dive and that is me in the upper left corner.  All four of us try to avoid the crowds.
What we see:
A Scorpion Fish.  Almost impossible to see among the coral.
A Southern Stingray.  The females are much larger than the males.
The USS Kittiwake was built in 1944, launched 10 July, 1945 and was a submarine rescue vessel.  It was the ship which found the space ship Challengers black box after it exploded during launch.
There are two decompression chambers on board as well a rack which held depth charges.  There are still mirrors in the bathroom and I wonder about the faces that have looked into them.
Kittiwake was sold to the Cayman Islands and was sunk to become an artificial reef and tourist attracion in January, 2011.  It rests in 63 feet of water.
Pat at the bow.
 Looks like the Titanic.
Me at the helm.  No one but me has ever done this.  Sure!
Pat ready to penetrate the Kittiwake.  We swam from stern to bow inside the ship.
Lucy, our English dive master, and Pat.  I believe Pat has told Lucy that she is low on air and Lucy is making the sign of the hull, indicating that Pat should go back to the dive boat,  Cool picture
Our good friends, Pat and Howard before dinner at the Lighthouse (it really was a lighthouse) on the east side of the island.  The water is much rougher on the east side and it is usually very windy.  It was blowing a gale on this evening and the surf was pounding the shoreline.
Sunset and Surf:
"This is the end.  My only friend, the end."
The End by The Doors.
And the beginning....
All photos by Howard Farr copyrighted 5/10/13
All photos by Carol Lang copyrighted 5/10/13
...out of Africa, copyrighted by Loren Schumacher 5/10/13
Copyright, Loren Schumacher 5/10/13

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Damn it, Stormy!

Robert Miller, DVM, is best known for developing imprint training for newborn foals and as one of the early practioners of what is known as "natural horsemanship."  Several years ago at Road To The Horse, I questioned him about the horse's intelligence.  Horses have traditionally fared very poorly when compared to other barnyard animals such as the pig.  I said to him, "We both know how intelligent horses are, they learn easily and never forget anything or anyone, so why then do they score so poorly on intelligence tests?"  He told me, and I paraphrase, "Horses aren't reasoning animals, they're reactive because they are a prey animal.  Their first reaction is to flee or fight, one or the other.  Natural Horsemanship is based in part upon teaching a horse to use the reasoning side of its brain."

Well, we must have done a pretty good job with my mare, Stormy.  Our trainer says that he can see her thinking.  She has intelligent eyes that flash fire when she is angry and are liquid and gentle when she wants something...which is most of the time.

Stormy never pees in her stall, never.  Callie's stall, on the other hand, often looks and smells like the Dismal Swamp.  Lately though, Stormy's begun to pee right outside her stall as soon as I let her out in the morning.  There is a lot of it, and at the risk of being gross, let's just say that it doesn't smell a lot like Fabreeze.  To make matters worse, I like to spread her breakfast hay in front of the stall, right where she likes to pee.

So to encourage her to move away from the stall, I've started tapping the ground with my dressage whip, and it's worked reasonably well.  Still, there's been a lot of snorting and head tossing while her ears are pinned agains the sides of her head.  She's mad and she can't afford to be angry at me so she hazes Callie with nips and threats to kick.

Yesterday, whip in hand, I tapped and tapped the ground until a reluctant Stormy trotted toward the pasture, but abruptly turned on her hocks and headed for the remains of yesterday's hay lying on the ground near the stable.  I could tell she was pissed.  Her eyes were hooded and hard as flint, and I knew something, perhaps a "not good something," was going to happen.  I went into the feed room and emerged with a bucket in each hand.  I fed Callie and, skirting her stall door, saw Stormy standing in her stall waiting to be fed.  I also saw a river of pee snaking its way around and through her bedding as it flowed slowly, inexorably toward a depression in the floor where it formed a small but growing body of water.

So there you have it.  Stormy has shown an ability to reason and at the same time proven that she is intelligent and capable of initiating and executing a plan.  Oh, and she is also a vindictive witch.

Copyright, April 24, 2013

Monday, March 25, 2013

Fresh Horses

Recently I wrote a poem called: The Story, to honor a high school classmate who passed away.  It was the first I'd written in quite a while, but it prompted me to look at some of my old work.  Some of it is good, some not so good and some has proven to be just, well, trash.  But this one, Fresh Horses, still seems fresh as do a few others, which I will publish as time goes along.  I've always liked Fresh Horses and I hope you will too.

Fresh Horses
This string of horses is all that I own,
they keep me sane enough,
but mostly they keep me from being alone.
I watch their steamy breath when
the air snaps with cold,
and they nicker softly to me when the day's
"Hello" is told.
Their eyes grow wide and fearful
when my lasso's loosed to speak,
and they've thrown me to the ground, pitched me up
and down, so often that my brittle bones creak.
Still I listen for the music of their hooves
on rocky ground, and watch with pleasure
the joy they take in a dusty roll-around.
And if they weren't my living
I'd thank them for the best they were blessed to give,
and turn them loose with a tip of my hat and a wish to
live and let live.
Not all of my poems are about animals or cowboys, some are in blank verse and some are just nonsense.  No, I'm not the former Poet Laureate of the United States, Billy Collins, but I have fun with words.
Copyright, March 25, 2013

Friday, January 4, 2013

Sugar Is Sweet: A Little About Wyatt

As a two year old my first horse, Wyatt, a filly, already had a deep chest and powerful, rounded quarter horse haunches.  She was an unregistered bay, possibly a quarter/draft horse cross with a wide irregular blaze on her long face.  Whenever she came near, the other horses in the paddock gave way to Wyatt and the smallish dark bay paint with a bald face that shadowed her.  So dominant was she that the herd scattered even when their meager rations were dumped on the ground.  When Wyatt ate the little dark bay ate too.

Wyatt on the day, June 6, 2004 a 90+ degree day, that we bought her.
My wife, Carol, and I picked Wyatt and the little dark bay that became our horse, Callie, from among a restless herd of PMU  (Pregnant Mare Urine) fillies trucked nineteen hours from Manitoba to Ohio.  Premarin, a compound of estrogens, is derived from pregnant mare's urine and is used to treat postmenopausal symptoms,  The foals of these mares become a liability unless they can be sold to slaughter, auctioned or purchased by "rescue" operations as Wyatt and Callie had been.  While we may have saved Wyatt's life, it quickly became clear that she was a herd animal first and always.
Callie on the left and Wyatt in the center.  All three horses just isolated from the herd had been given a mountain of hay.  Callie obviously needed it.
Wyatt was restless and indifferent toward humans.  She performed lifelessly when longed and in the round pen would canter as if on autopilot, never looking in my direction.  She'd had virtually no contact with humans in her northern Manitoba home, so Wyatt was nearly as wild and untamed as any Mustang.  Our friend Kelly summed up the feelings of most of the barn staff when she said, "There are very few horses that I don't like, but Wyatt is one of them.  Someone just needs to ride the piss out of her until she straightens up."  But our investment in Wyatt slowly began to pay dividends, still, there were just a couple of things she seemed to really enjoy: the company of another horse and peppermints!
Once a horse was purchased it got all of the food it could eat. Wyatt, Callie and the hay pile.
One dark and rainy (really, it was!) October evening, Carol, Kelly and I took Wyatt into the barn's aisle to continue desensitizing her to my weight.  I was draped across her back, head down, rubbing her flanks and feeling her stagger under my weight when one of the barn regulars, a man, walked up, and without asking plopped a spearmint candy into Wyatt's mouth.  I saved my rant about barn manners and not feeding someone else's horse without first asking for the car ride home.
Not knowing this gentleman well, the conversation was strained, and soon the lapses in our talk grew uncomfortably long.  Saying, "See ya later," he left us.  As he disappeared down the aisle, Wyatt raised her head, and looking over her left shoulder, watched the receding figure intently.  After pausing to look at each one of us in turn, she dropped her head and let the spearmint candy slip from her mouth.  It fell to the concrete floor with a plastic click.  I'm sure that Wyatt was doing the horse equivalent of "ich" when she craned her neck as horses will, curled her upper lip, and snorted wetly.  I fished in my pocket and found what she was looking for, a peppermint.  While Wyatt crunched happily, the three of us were still laughing.
I love this picture and loved Wyatt, but...
we never got much closer than this.
Copyright January 4, 2013
All photographs by Carol A. Lang