Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Another Winter's Day, Horses and A Coyote

"A winter's day, in a deep and dark December..."*  Seems like I am always moaning about the weather.  It is cold today and the air is raspy and ragged like a file. It's damp, a sly dampness that penetrates your boots and arrows its way to your knees.  Soon you realize that you are just cold, cold all over, and your mind begins to drift ahead to the hot cup of tea you've promised yourself.  All of this misery and it's just thirty degrees.  I've been warmer at ten degrees below zero.

The sky is a seamless soup, the color of old bath water and the remaining snow that hides in the leaves or just under the pasture gate is a pockmarked froth.

As my wife, Carol, said recently on her Facebook page, "Every day begins with the horses and cats." That's just the way it is and today is no different.  We take the truck, my old faithful Dodge Hemi, eleven years old now, but still a workhorse.  I add three bales of hay to the tailgate and drive across the lower part of the pasture, hoping I'm not leaving a rutted trail behind me.

Isn't this what the horses are supposed to do?

Today's load is large: eight bags of bedding, one hundred pounds of feed and the hay.  We feed, water and clean up after the girls and drudge the truck's load to the feed room in the wheelbarrow.

I use a three wormer rotation on my horses and today Stormy and Callie will each get a dose of Panacur.  Stormy is an easy horse to medicate, she sucks on the syringe and is on her way, just the way she is when the vet gives her shots or draws her blood.  Callie is usually a head-tossing diva when it comes to taking a dose of wormer, but today I gave her a treat or two and when I rub her mouth with the syringe she opens up and...all gone!  Wow, that was easy.  Give credit to Carol whose patience in dosing Callie has been greater than mine.

Callie testing this year's hay crop.

Stormy trotted along beside me when she saw Callie's syringe in my hand.  No doubt she'd figured a treat must be hiding somewhere in the folds of my sweatshirt.  She was right, of course, but no sooner had I finished with Callie, when Stormy, who had been facing Callie, wheeled 180 degrees.  Her movement was so swift and fluid that I felt her absence before I realized she had gone.

Someone might pay big money for my jeans, but I think I can still get a little more use out of them,

Stormy charged toward the pasture fence that runs parallel to Princeton Road with Callie close behind, their ears pinned straight ahead, tails aloft and feet scarcely touching the tacky ground they were crossing. A coyote, a big one, maybe the biggest I've yet seen, trotted in its straight line predatory way across our neighbors alfalfa field.  Prey animals, the horses dark eyes followed the coyote with their bodies rigid and electric, ready to fight or flee.

I watched the the coyote's rusty winter ruff flow like wind-blown grass across its shoulders. As it trotted, the coyote never veered from its path.  When a white service truck slowed to have a look, the coyote slowed as well, raising its head, its yellow eyes watching.  When the truck passed, the coyote dropped it head and ran faster than I could have believed possible, crossing Princeton Road and angling out of sight.  In the truck the coyote saw a threat and its eyes never left it until it drove out of sight.  The coyote never seemed to worry about the horses that were now in full flight.

Stormy began her breathless run from among the blackberry bushes on the fence line, making huge sweeps around the pasture.  She screamed frantically, much as she does whenever she is excited, but there was animal urgency to it now.  Every time she passed by me she flattened her ears, why, I don't know.  I watched her change leads over and over again without slowing.  Callie, feeling Stormy's stress, began bucking and kicking, her breath roaring through her nostrils.  I was trapped against our round pen fence as she did.  I  expected to be kicked and kicked hard, but with all four hooves in the air, flailing and pounding the soft ground, she changed her direction and slashed the air on the side away from me.  She had purposely avoided me.  Her soft eyes told me so.

My hand is on top of her nose to keep her from throwing her head.  I like the way Stormy looks in this pic.

After two or three minutes Callie, tired and wet with perspiration, ground to a stop and began grazing once more.  Very soon Stormy stood with her.

*I Am A Rock by Simon and Garfunkel

Copyright, December 24, 2014 by Loren R, Schumacher
All photos by Carol Lang and Copyrighted, December 24, 2014

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sometimes You Just Have To Take A Moment

My wife says that snow is one of God's greatest miracles.  I tell her that she feels that way because she doesn't have to shovel it.

Monday morning saw our first snow of the year, five inches of new, pristine snow, blessing us with a surreal world, quiet except for the sound of wet snowflakes.  Tuesday's forecast sounded pretty threatening, but I determined to deal with Tuesday on Tuesday.

Because it was raining we put the horses in their stalls early on Sunday evening, so by the time I got to our stable on Monday they were excited and very, very hungry. I guess so, because they had been stalled for about sixteen hours, And for horses that are on pasture twelve to fifteen hours a day, that's a long, hungry time.  I said good morning to them and while I swept snow from in front of the stall gates they fretted, grunted, nipped at one another and kicked the sides of their stalls and generally acted like the spoiled children they are.

Soon enough I opened their gates and out they came in a rush, brushing past as though I weren't there. Free at last, by golly, free at last.  And look at all this snow!

10 a.m. not quite a whiteout, but close.  Callie sizing up the situation.

The rodeo about to begin.

Callie, not flat out but close.

I missed the bucking but still got the head tossing.

Stormy, tireless and fast.  I think all four feet are off the ground in this photo.

Stormy on her right lead.  I have no idea how many laps of the pasture she may have made.

The shutter was too slow, but I did get Callie with her front feet off the ground.
Shortly after this was taken and along the round-pen fence, she cut too sharply, lost her footing and
fell.  She cuts with such power that sometimes her feet are left behind,

Stormy and Callie have spied the two Belgian draft horses across the road,
so some of their shenanigans may have been an effort to impress the male.
The two Belgians remained impassive and clearly unimpressed.

So, in celebration of a new day and the joy it gave me to watch Stormy and Callie play like little children in the snow, I offer this bit of doggerel:

Untitled (And It Should Remain So)

Whilst I was sleeping, and much to my surprise,
five inches of white stuff fell from the skies.

Releasing the beasts seemed the right thing to do.
while they frolicked and gamboled, I cleaned up their poo.

So if you're here in southern Ohio when rain turns to snow,
take a moment to lean on your shovel and just enjoy the show,

Copyright, November 19, 2014 by Loren Schumacher
All photos by the author and are Copyrighted, November 19, 2014 by Loren Schumacher

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Black Clouds, Rainy Days and Thunder

That's what you get when you dive the Caribbean during the rainy season.  Cozumel it seems, is not exempt.  There was a storm that lasted all of last night and well into the day today and still shows little inclination to stop now that it is 10 AM.  There was so much water that I took a seasickness tab just to retrieve our wetsuits from the balcony this morning.  My wife's sandals were actually floating.  We're not diving for the second day and have just one more day in which to dive.  I love to dive, but not so much that I'll dive in poor visibility with the chance of being struck by lightning.  No thanks.

Flooded streets and rooms.

Waiting for our ship to come in.

We dove Champion's and Tormento's Reefs yesterday.  Champion's was a perfect dive with little current and rich light.  The reef here is nearly pristine and teaming with fish, coral and sponge.  We saw three huge Tiger Grouper, a Nurse Shark that was actually moving (usually they stay on the bottom to feed and rest) a large female Southern Stingray and a Lion Fish, which sacrificed its life because it is a rapidly reproducing predator which threatens the ecology of all Caribbean reefs.  And a Rock Fish that remained as still as if it were asleep when surrounded by divers.

Friends, Kathy and Mark Cowen geared up and ready to dive.

We rode gentle currents among towering coral heads, exploring their nooks and crannies and wriggling through tiny passages into still more kingdoms.

Tormento's Reef was just that, torment.  The current was ridiculous. The dive was made worse when my mask filled with sea water through the hole in its plastic frame discovered when the dive was over.   As soon as I entered the water I wanted the dive to be over and it turned out that my wife, Carol, felt the same.  But there was a fascinating sand dune with fine white sand and pressure ridges that showed the passing of water and its slowing.

Nearly everyone in Cozumel commutes by scooter or small bore motorcycle.  Tired and ragged, some more than thirty years old, these little engines chug on and on while the paint fades, the chrome rusts and ripped and torn seats show their yellow-brown foam stuffing.  Scooters are so important to the economy that they are even sold in grocery stores.

One of many.

Another one and a few more.

Cars seem to be decades old, rusted and dented warriors of tough island life, survivors of the indifferent care of many owners, but without the character of Cuba's 1950's era cars.

The municipal police patrol with their lights flashing at all times.  I'm not sure how you know when you are being pulled over, but these guys, the police, are tough guys and I am sure can make their point in a number of ways.  You have only to see a truckload of police in battle array with training inspired hard, steely looks to understand that they tolerate very little.  Heavily armed troops in the streets is so foreign to the U.S. that they capture you gaze and hold your attention and linger in your thoughts until long after they pass by.

A new recruit class passed us yesterday afternoon, running and chanting as the military will, with young faces that will soon turn to stone.  One large busted young woman pressed her hands against her breasts as she passed, her face a mask like all the rest.

Each shop you pass has it's own pimp hawking the shop's virtues, button-holing you with absurd enticements like free tequila.  At first you are polite, "No, thank you," and after a good while you dismiss them with a wave of a hand.  There are Cuban cigars, T-Shirts with the likeness of Che,  panama hats and cheap trinkets that are the difference between walking and riding, eating and hunger.

Even the postal service building, Correos de Mexico, speaks of use and decay.  The windows have not been washed in years and are smudged with oily fingerprints, fly specks and the accumulations of neglect.  The architecture is dated by its curious flying buttress style and what paint remains has faded to unintended colors, red to rose and blue to a chalky hue.  The interior is bleak in an uncompromising utilitarian way. 

One clerk, a woman, helps a customer fill a bag with what appears to be second hand baby clothes and a second, sweet with kind dark eyes and flawless toffee skin, helps Carol select stamps for her
collection.  The young clerk rings up Carol's purchase and thanks her with a smile.

 Until the shops close and the weary walk or ride into the evening, Quitana Roo, Cozumel, is a place of smiles and laughter.

Quintana Roo

Monday, October 20, 2014

Don't They Know We're Americans? (I'm Kidding)

I don't understand, everyone here in Cozumel, Mexico speaks Spanish, or at best Spanglish!  Just kidding, I speak some Spanish, so no es una problema grande.

Drift diving yesterday was spectacular, first at Pasar de Central and later Paradise Reef.  There was heavy current on the first dive after which my dive computer died.  Fortunately I have a backup.

The first dive's highlight was a swim through that was as pretty as any I've seen in fifteen years diving.  I didn't see the dive master make the turn into the swim through and had to swim against the current to make the entry or be left behind.  Emerging into the light from the darkness of the swim through is something that just can't be explained, it has to be experienced.  Lots of sunshine and deep blue light and sweet shadowed places where the smallest creatures live and thrive.  Other than the swim through the highlight was a blue Parrot fish that must have weighed nearly fifteen pounds.  When they reach that size they are grotesque and have distorted features that give no clue to their delicate and stunningly colorful juvenile past.  As it passed the giant fish evacuated.  The poop's fall reminded me of the way bombs look as they leave the hold of an aircraft and spread their devastation on the landscape below.  The poop, though,  just contributes to the sandy bottom's growth.

You are never supposed to dive on someone else's computer, all the books say so.  Naturally, my wife and I dove on her computer for the second dive.  The person sans computer must watch their air consumption on their own gauges and the dive time and no decompression dive time on their dive buddy's computer. 

Our second dive was much like diving in your aquarium, with its endless changes in light and with schools of fish arrayed in colors from bold to subtle and soft.  A school of young Barracuda facing into the current, French Grunts huddled in schools between coral heads, young solitary Tiger Grouper, all of them confident and at peace among themselves.  Oh, there is the occasional territorial squabble, lots of chasing and kicking up of sand, but no shooting and no knives, just invisible lines not to be crossed.  The violence though begins at nightfall when the predators begin to hunt the reef.

Best of all were the several Queen Trigger fish, who  look like hand painted china and are so rarely seen.  I watched Cowfish turn a spectrum of shades as they moved near then away just as an octopus will.  Little Trunk Fish that for all the world look like bathtub toys as they bobble about without noticeable fear.  And a huge crab that would more than fill an old iron skillet.

I am always amazed by the ocean, blue as the sky, but clear and transparent when you are part of it, yet the distance is still ocean blue.

Today it has rained and we didn't dive.  I've seen the ocean many times and its glory, its life is in the sunlight which blesses the water with vibrant light.  And this is the way you think life should be with its infinite and slow moving time, casual talk, short naps, books to read, plentiful food and cares that belong to someone else.  In the end the boredom and restlessness overcomes you and, like almost everyone, you must move, create and be productive.  It is the nature of man.

Maybe there will be more blogging as the days wear on, maybe not.  This is the land of tomorrow and there is always that. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Friend Has Cancer

This post is not about horses.  It is about a friend and client, Amy.  Amy is the single mother of a fifteen year old daughter, she is a highly educated professional and she has cancer.  Breast cancer.  A highly aggressive form of breast cancer.

On the day she was diagnosed the oncologist told her that there was a 30% chance that her cancer had already spread.  She has just finished her third chemo treatment and there are three more to follow. She will definitely require radiation treatments and will surely undergo surgery at some time in the future. Mortality?  If she knows the odds she hasn't told me.

The week Amy was diagnosed, her high paying job was eliminated.  I don't know the reason and perhaps she doesn't either, but to the company's everlasting credit she will have a job, salary and insurance until her chemo is complete.

Amy is the person who catches everything so that you and I don't.  When I first met her she was on crutches...foot surgery.  Because of her weight she has high blood pressure and diabetes.  She has trouble with both knees and at least one needs replacement.  I could go on but I won't.

Unable to exercise and unable to lose weight by changing her diet she had stomach reduction surgery earlier this year and has lost a considerable amount of weight.  Attractive to begin with she looks great, but don't think this has been an easy solution.  She cannot eat liquids and solids at the same time without becoming nauseous and vomiting.  But her blood pressure and diabetes now seem to be under control.  And so it goes.

Her family lives out of town so she has endured most of chemo's bad days on her own, just sleeping and feeling terrible. Her family and out of town friends have not forgotten her, but they have lives and problems to deal with as well.  Often it is hard to be where your heart and your thoughts want to take you.  I am sure she has local friends, but I don't know anything about them.

Yesterday, Tuesday, she had a hollow-eyed, pale, hunted look.  It is a look I would associate with the dying.  She had a high fever, 100.1 and her doctor said to call back if it reached 100.5,  I hated to leave her but she was much too ill to talk. Today she was feeling much better, so perhaps it was just a 24-hour thing.  Just something else to deal with.  It seems that every day her misery arrives in a different package.

 Last Friday she broke down and cried because a relationship with a male friend had gone bust and I didn't know what to do for her.  She apologized to me for God's sake.  I laughed and told her that she was not allowed to feel sorry for herself.  To see her cry broke my heart.

 On Sunday I called and left a message of support and concern for her, which she appreciated.  I was relieved that I could leave the message on her voice mail. A phone message is something I had done before. It's easy to do and cost me nothing but a little time, and I was glad to do it.

I have asked Amy several times if she needed me to do anything for her, but the answer has always been, "No, but thanks for asking."

I've never been this close to the suffering of a cancer patient before.  The sickness from chemo seems like its own hell, a kind of death.  All I can do is to try to be there for her and ask how she feels on a particular day.  I can let her talk when she wants to and respect her silence without getting angry at her on the bad days.   I know she must lie in bed and wonder if she is going to live long enough to see her daughter graduate from high school, get married, or hold her first grandchild.  And I don't have any of the answers for her.

I've always thought that to say, "I'm so sorry," has never been enough,  It bespeaks our impotence and in this case impotence may be the perfect word.  I may be watching someone that I like and care for die and all I can do is to try to be there for her.  Maybe that is enough for now, and I refuse to say, "I am so, so sorry."

Monday, October 6, 2014

Why Nip and Duck?

It doesn't matter the season or the weather, Stormy and Callie's morning routine never varies.

In the fall and winter they are normally still facing the back of their stalls, resting and letting any weather from the east break over their butts.  In the warmer months Stormy is usually drowsing in the morning sun while Callie keeps the watch. As I trudge up the hill toward the stable Callie begins pawing her gate, which sags beneath her muscle-powered impatience. Stormy, never a paragon of patience, paws her floor mats relentlessly, monotonously and sometimes irritatingly.

Both horses are anxious and very hungry after a night in their stalls.  Stormy has to pee and Callie can only think about the grass that grows just a few feet outside her stall.

In the last year Callie has begun to assert herself more and more,with small but dynamic changes in her behavior, while not challenging Stormy's leadership role.  There are more flattened ears when Stormy approaches, defensive postures at feeding time, and once in a while she refuses to groom Stormy.  Occasionally she has taken Stormy's food with almost no protest from Stormy, who defers without so much as a flick of her ears.  But don't be misled, Stormy is still the leader of the herd.

And don't forget the little animosities that have grown between them in the ten years they have shared together.  All of this becomes Nip and Duck, as they agitate one another, bare their teeth, snap at one another and snake their necks looking for an advantage, one over the other.

Here is what it looks like.


A calm before the storm.

Do I have anything stuck between my teeth?

Let me get a closer look.  Notice that their ears are flat.  They are not happy.

Nip and Duck are what they do every morning.


No matter the weather.

Stormy ready to strike.  Callie's normally wide, kind eyes are narrow and hard.

Recently someone asked if horses ever show emotion.  What do you think?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Just An Old Hose

There are sheets of rain.  Every last drop of moisture sucked from the Gulf of Mexico arrives on the crest of easterly winds.  When it's not raining the temperature boils into the middle 90's and the searing heat grows just beneath your skin.  Everything feels like rot and nothing ever dries.  Water stands in muddy puddles where two weeks ago the earth lay cracked and thirsting.

In the horse's stalls, which face eastward, the heat and humidity are overwhelming.  With just a few minutes labor you begin to smell like a feral goat.

Saturday, after I picked their stalls, I hooked up a hose to the hydrant in the feed room.  It's an old hose, soft and full of kinks that not even the pressure of water can straighten.  I make a note to buy another one the next time I am at Tractor Supply or Home Depot.  Until then this one will have to do.

I emptied Callie and Stormy's water tank and stretched the hose over the stall gates and dropped the nozzle into it.  My playful horse Callie was there to give me a hand.  She dropped her bald-faced head into the tank and licked the bottom, you know, where the green slime lives, until I turned on the hydrant.  The trapped air and water that came in gasps startled her and she stepped back a few feet to study the situation.  That's when the hose sprung a leak, and here is what happened when it did.

What's this?

Lemme get just a little closer.

Water, water everywhere and more than enough for me to drink...and wear.

Wonder where it's coming from, this water?

Sure hope Stormy doesn't find out about this.

Callie is really wet as you can see.

While not the herd leader, Callie is my brave girl, the one full of curiosity and the one with a sense of humor.  Callie is much like a first responder, she runs toward a problem. Her reaction to the leaking hose is so typical of her.  

I thought you might enjoy the following quote from a book I am reading, The Ghost Horse: A True Story Of Love, Death, And Redemption by Joe Layden and published in paperback by St. Martin's Griffin, New York.

"Some people merely claim to have a lifelong love affair with horses, while others have the scars to prove it.  Horses, after all, are not like most other animals, and certainly not pets in the conventional sense of the term.  They are big and strong and willful; they can be loyal or unreliable, prickly or affectionate.  They are as unpredictable as they are majestic, their beauty stemming as much from inner mystery as it does from pure aesthetic.  Spend enough time around horses, the true horseman will tell you, and eventually you'll get your heart broken; maybe something else, as well."

All of us who love horses would tend to agree with every word.

Copyright, September 2, 2014 by Loren R. Schumacher
Photos, Copyright, August 30, 2014 by Loren R. Schumacher

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Looking Back At Montana

There was not a wrinkle in my face, nor crow's feet around my eyes and not a single grey hair to be found.  That day and time is past, but the memories remain, fresh and lively as the days they were lived.

Looking younger than I remember being. I still have the Stetson, but it is in sorry shape.  Yep, those are hiking boots, I hate cowboy boots and only wear them when I ride.

The ranch headquarters sat in a bowl surrounded by low hills, green and smooth, split by rock outcrops that buzzed with rattlesnakes on sunny days.  The red earth turned purple after days of rain in the high desert, and although the soil is thin, there is enough mud to pull the boots from a cowboy's foot and a shoe or two from a horse's hooves.

In the nearby distance, a mountaintop in the Pryor Mountains wore a shroud of newly fallen snow on July 4th.  I wrapped my cold hands around a marbled tin cup of hot coffee for its warmth and drew deeply on a first cigarette.  And I watched frothy water splash down from the hills in torrents, music to sleep by and awaken to.  From splintered steps in need of paint I watched horses, bays, sorrels and a palomino, graze in the yard, grass sticking to dew wet noses.

Some of the ranch horses and some of the mud.

Prayers before breakfast whether or not you wanted or believed in them.  That's just the way it was.  There was much quiet talk and more hot coffee and the Englishman who had never before had maple syrup and the arched eyebrows as he licked his plate clean - literally.

My jingle-horse mornings at a trot that I could never post or ride very well.  Still there was nowhere else I wanted to be.  Twenty or thirty horses pound into an old corral where the tack room, worn leather, and their capture waited in the whisper of a braided loop around the neck.

Selected and ready to work.  I love this picture.

To the day's work of sorting, driving parts of the herd and watching the mud and green feces-covered backsides of hundreds of Black Angus.  A surly bull, weighing close to a ton, is peeled from a fence line and gingerly encouraged to follow the herd with a rhythmic slapping of a coiled rope against my knee.  The bellowing of cows separated from their babies by thin strands of barbed wire, calling them to join up on the other side, and a bull in a bush that drove a top hand to distraction.

Spring calves roped and their brands rolled on, one after another after another.  Care must be taken not to burn through the hide.  The perfect brand looks a bit like well cooked bacon. I can still see the hair smoldering and the acrid scent lingers near the back of my throat,  Young bulls are castrated and turned out none the worse for wear,  Some stagger and shake the fear and shock from their heads and trot off to their mothers.  And for the hearty appetite there are mountain oysters cooked over the branding iron fire.  I never had the stomach for them.

A hail storm, the day's last act of defiance, rolls down out of the hills and overtakes the horses just turned out for the night.  They run for the willows along the creek, pushing their heads into the green cover.  None are injured badly, a few knots here and there, but none have to be put down as sometimes must be.

More hot coffee, quiet talk, glasses of iced tea, more prayers and a bitter, tough steak from the grill.  I remember it all so well.

My wife, Carol, reapplies the brand.

Copyright, August 17, 2014 by Loren R. Schumacher
All photos, Copyright, August 17, 2014 by Carol A. Lang

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Dan James Clinic

Beyond his Australian accent, killer smile, and sly humor, you'll find Dan James, the horseman.
The horseman, Dan James, succeeds by relentless attention to detail and he tries to instill that focus into those who attend his clinics.  Dan is one half of Double Dan Horsemanship, he resides in Lexington, Kentucky, while his friend and partner, Dan Steers, holds down the fort in Australia.

James' reputation continues to grow with wins and highly placed showings at events such as the 2008 Way of the Horse at Equitana Asia Pacific, a highly popular win at the 2012 Road To The Horse with fellow Australian, Guy McLean, a fourth place finish at the 2013 Mustang Millions riding Smart Little Mustang (know by his barn name, Punk, this mustang died of colic in February of 2014) and by winning the 2014 Kentucky Cup Freestyle Championship on Smart Little Elan.  You can see both of these rides on YouTube by typing in, Dan James.  I guarantee you will be impressed by both his ability and his creativity.

James is well known for Roman Riding and for his astonishing work with horses at liberty.  Not to be lost in all of this is his exceptional skill as a rider.  My horse's trainer says that above all else, Dan James is an incredible rider.

Within minutes of introducing ourselves at the start of the clinic, James had made the connection between faces and names, an art form at which I've never been very good.  From then on he never failed to call anyone by other than their correct name!  And he made it clear from the beginning that we would work hard, stay busy and that he would spend time with each of us.  He reminded us that we had invested time and a considerable sum in his clinic and that we should try to take away from it as much as possible.

This was a ground control clinic that would stress five elements: flexing the horse for softness, circling the horse around you, backing the horse, the side pass and disengaging the horse's hind quarters.  We were quizzed repeatedly on each of these five elements as a part of that attention to detail.  Each of the exercises was done quietly without raising a cloud of dust and while remaining almost stationary near our horse's shoulder.  James was looking for movement from the horse and not the horseman.  By the way, the experience level of those in attendance varied from rank beginner to very proficient riders.

Bubbles.  Size doesn't matter.

One horse relentlessly bullied its owner to the point of being unmanageable.  Taking the horse's lead rope, James, carriage whip in hand, asked for a response from this rogue horse and when he didn't get the proper response, James backed the horse from one end of the 200' arena to the other and back again.  The happened over and over until the horse began to give the desired response.  Finally, James handed the lead rope back to the owner and joked that her horse might have a few "knowledge marks" on its ankles, but not to worry about it.

My clinic partner, Sarah and her horse, Tank.

James did spend some time with Stormy and me.  He wasn't fond of the way I backed Stormy up using a Clinton Anderson method.  Instead, he had me hold the lead rope just under Stormy's jaw and by putting pressure on her nose cause her to step back.  When she did, I released the pressure which was her reward.  He loved Stormy's side pass and seemed satisfied with her overall groundwork.  Stormy is a smart little horse and is pretty good at groundwork, but she hates it with a passion.

Stormy and I watch Dan James and his horse, Swampy.

Jessica was test driving this leased gelding.  She is a great rider.

Dan James with one of the student's horse. was Stormy's attitude that got us into trouble with Dan.  Stormy is a high energy horse and bores easily, and when she is bored or impatient, she paws the ground.  Twice James told me to, "Get after her when she does that."  I'm so used to her pawing that I seldom notice.  But it was at the end of the day when he asked to gather around in a semicircle that brought us some unwelcome attention.  I had tried to keep her away from the other horses the entire day, because as dominant mare she has a flair for bitchiness and has a peculiar herd management style.  She will kick any horse that steps into what she considers her space.  And she did, scaring a horse and its owner, who nearly jumped in Dan James arms.  In an icy tone James said, "And Loren, bring your horse along anytime, won't you?"  Ugh!

I wasn't able participate in day two of the clinic because of the serious injury to my wrist and hand sustained while loading Stormy for the trip to the clinic.  Everyone, including Dan James, was very concerned when I arrived wearing a huge and cumbersome splint.

Don't try this at home.

For me the highlight of day two was a demonstration by James and his horses working at liberty.  It was an incredible experience to be seated mere feet away as he put them through their paces using just two cue sticks to communicate with them.  And then, taking his Australian Stock Horse, Amelia and another horse to the opposite end of the arena, he walked, sticks held vertically, to within a few feet of where all of us were sitting.  Dropping the sticks, Amelia and her partner charged at full gallop, hooves pounding, nostrils flared and every muscle straining, directly at us, and at his signal they slid to a dusty stop just a few feet away.  Incredible.  Have I said that already?

Laying Top Gun down.

Nearly there.

Top Gun coliced and nearly died shortly after this clinic.

Day two was a lot more relaxed and as he watched the second group perform he answered our questions.  Here are some of his answers.

He has several tattoos and the one on his left arm is a copy of the mustang Punk's BLM freeze brand.

He worked for a racing stable in Japan that had 450 horses.  Each day 100 were ridden roughly 60 kilometers or about 37 miles.

The Road To The Horse (RTTH) victory did not have the effect on his career that he had expected.  Contestants pay their own expenses and stay where they are told to stay by the organizer. 

 From another source not connected to Double Dan Horsemanship, I was told that it is strongly suggested that each contestant buy the horse they used in the competition.  Dan's horse Swampy is a 6666 ranch horse used at RTTH, as is the horse, Ringer, trained by Dan Steers at this years RTTH.  Ringer was purchased by another of Double Dan's interns, Shalise.  Ringer was also at the clinic and like Amelia he is a big guy, just over two years old and at least 16 hands.  Shalise told me that all of the horses from the 6666 ranch are large like Ringer.  From my seat in the stands all the colts seem to be just 15 hands or so.

Amelia, the Australian Stock Horse, does not particularly like people nor does she care for a lot of attention,  By the way, she is a big girl.

Asked why he never mentioned a horses chewing, usually a sign that the horse is learning, he said that he felt the act of chewing was overblown and that he wants a reaction from the horse instead.

He has had too many broken bones to count, including a skull fracture suffered during a motorcycle stunt if I remember correctly.

He worked for his new intern Maggie's father at one time.

Maggie standing next to Swampy and Dan James.

He worked for six years on a 1.5 million acre cattle station in Western Australia where he was responsible for breeding, breaking and the maintenance of 200 horses.

Like Pat Parelli, many of Dan James' training methods were learned from a circus trainer.

Copyright, August 14, 2014 by Loren Schumacher
All photos Copyright, August 14, 2014 by Loren Schumacher, except that of Loren and Stormy by Carol Lang.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Who was Levi Rosaba?

As far as anyone knows, Levi Rosaba was a Washington State Cowboy working at the Denoo Ranch in the early 1900's.  Recently, a picture postcard addressed to someone in Waldo, Wisconsin, and a single yellowed page of what might have been part of a letter or memoir, came into my possession.

I haven't been able to find a definition of the name Rosaba, but my guess is that Rosaba is a derivation of the Italian, Rosalba, which means "white rose."

So here is perhaps all that is left of Levi Rosaba:

There are several things in this photo that caught my eye.  Levi seems to be wearing a cardigan sweater, street shoes and a "pinky" ring on his left hand.  Click on the photo to enlarge it.

He has a very light touch on the reins of his beautiful dappled grey horse.  The saddle is too large for his horse.  He's used a saddle pad and a blanket to make the saddle fit better, but the saddle still gaps behind Levi's left leg.  And the saddle may be a bit too small for the rider, because no part of the cantle is visible.  Maybe Levi just has a big butt, and it appears that he does.   He also seems to be virtually sitting on the saddle horn.  Things are a little tight in the saddle for Levi to be sure. Much of his equipment dates to the late 1800's, so it is possible that Levi has been a cowboy for some time.

Levi's handwriting leaves a lot to be desired, but he is not uneducated and uses punctuation properly.  He also shows a sense of humor when he calls the hair on his woolies "whiskers."

This postcard was mailed after December of 1908 when the stamp, Scott 331, was printed.  We are looking at a pre-WW I document.

The other document I mentioned has similar handwriting and references the Denoo Ranch in Washington, so it is likely that Levi Rosaba is its author.  Apparently he and another cowboy roped a Grizzly for sport or profit and things got out of hand.  Levi wrote:

"When my first loop missed, the Grizzly, with Joe Hoke's loop still around its neck, made straight for him and his horse, Lickorish (sic).  Lickorish, he was terrified, he stumbled and threw Joe hard. Joe was quick to his feet, but the bear was quicker and crazy to get at him.  He ran over Lickorish and knocked that good horse flat.  And soon enough Hoke disappeared under the Grizzly and made nary another sound.  I guess he was dead in an instant by the look of it.

All the while I levered my Marlin into that bear.  Poco {the dappled grey in the picture?} and me got close enough for me to give that bear five from my Colt, but the job was done and the Griz loped off to lick its wounds or die I guess.  But it did no good, Joe Hoke was dead.

You couldn't figure it was Joe by the look of him, so I wrapped him in his blanket and piled some creek rock on top of him.  I said the few words I know over him, then Poco, me and Lickorish made for the home ranch.  I guess the coyotes and the worms will take care of what's left of Joe.

They was stunned back at the Denoo and all said I didn't do enough to save him.  I did all I could. No one will speak to me and I guess I am about done here."

I've added some punctuation to make this read more smoothly, otherwise it is all Levi.

Copyright July 7, 2014 by Loren R. Schumacher
Photos from the author's collection.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Oh, S**t Update (Take two aspirin and call me in the morning.)

While the laceration on my wrist has been healing nicely, the middle finger on my right hand continues to hurt.  This morning my surgeon told me that the finger is fractured in two places and that the tendon which extends the finger has been torn away from the bone.  This condition is called "mallet finger."

I'll be in a splint for about six weeks and believe me, since the finger has been straightened, it really hurts.  The surgeon said that if my wife has to dress the finger she has to be willing to hurt me to do it properly.  That should not be a problem for her.

So far a pretty expensive horsemanship clinic.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Dan James Interrupted

Not all stories have a happy ending and this may well be one of them.

How Rhonda got my name, I don't know, and for some reason I didn't ask.  She was looking for someone with experience to exercise her quarter horse mare, Gunny, while she was on vacation.  "Why?" I asked, "Is there something wrong with her?"  Rhonda explained that Gunny's right stifle joint was literally just bone against bone.  In fact, x-rays showed fusion of the femur and tibia with other visible issues.  The stifle joint is roughly equivalent to the human knee.  She didn't want to give up on her favorite horse in spite of its twenty three years, but both Rhonda and Gunny were running out of options.

While Gunny didn't put her entire weight on the leg for more than a few seconds, I could not have guessed the extent of her lameness.  On the other hand, abrasions, some fresh and others in various stages of healing, showed that there might be other issues with Gunny.  And there were.  Rhonda said that if Gunny were to lie down on her right side she could not get up.  The abrasions were remnants of the last time she had tried to pull herself up.  It had taken nine people and a Bobcat to get her to her feet.  All she ever needed, it seemed, was just a little boost, and then she could get to her feet on her own.

As it turned out there would be no need for me to exercise Gunny.  Rhonda had uncovered a stem-cell study being conducted by Dr. Bertone at Ohio State University's Galbreath Equine Center.  After a flurry of phone calls, shuffling of forms and x-rays sent to the doctor, the prognosis was not good.  Dr. Bertone said that Gunny's condition was one of, if not the worst condition of its type she had seen and doubted that stem-cell injections would help the horse.  The doctor added that she couldn't believe the horse was able to walk at all.   But Rhonda's love for her horse somehow overcame the doctor's clinical doubt, and with a lot of reservation she agreed to see Gunny and do an evaluation.

I agreed to trailer Gunny, who had not been in a trailer for years, to Columbus on Tuesday, June 3.  Despite bad roads, impossible traffic and multiple detours, we arrived at about four o'clock in the afternoon after a three hour drive, one that should have taken about an hour and a half.

Dr. Bertone did a brief physical exam of Gunny's stifle area, watched her walk several steps, and again said that it was unlikely that stem-cell injections would be of any help, and that the horse's condition was so serious that she might have to be put down.

Gunny's loss of muscle mass in the hindquarters is evident here.

Dr. Bertone, in white, evaluating Gunny.  Rhonda is holding the lead rope.

Dr. Bertone talking to Rhonda with her staff and two third year vet students in blue in the background.

While Rhonda talked to the doctor, I walked an impatient Gunny up and down one of the receiving area's aisles,  Whenever I needed a break from the boredom, Gunny would nudge my arm or paw the ground as if to say, "Come on mister, let's walk some more."  It's likely that Gunny is more comfortable when she moves than when she is forced to stand still and bear all of her weight on just three legs.  She probably becomes quite stiff and sore.

I heard the doctor tell Rhonda that Gunny would not qualify for the study, but perhaps the study sponsor might donate some cells.  Dr. Bertone added that if the horse had a bad reaction to the injections she might have to be put down anyway.

The decision was a difficult one, but Rhonda made it quickly. She opted to try and save her horse's life.  I led Gunny down a long aisle in the Equine Ward where a large clean stall with a thick layer of straw bedding and several flakes of alfalfa hay waited for her.

Rhonda tied her sweatshirt to the stall's sliding door so that the lame horse would have something to remember her by.  As we walked toward my truck, Gunny was already eating her alfalfa hay.  She seemed comfortable and not at all concerned.

On the drive back home, Rhonda asked if I thought she had made the right decision. "Without a doubt," I said, "Without a doubt."

The "Great White" waiting to take us home.

**** In the end Gunny did not qualify for the stem cell study.  The owner financed treatment, but sadly, in the fall of 2014, Gunny was euthanized.

Copyright, June 5, 2014 for by Loren Schumacher
All photos by the author