Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Don't Run from the Gun; Class Helps Horses Stay Calm in Stressful Situations

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Don't Run from the Gun; Class Helps Horses Stay Calm in Stressful Situations

Article excerpt

Byline: David DeCamp, Times-Union staff writer

********************CORRECTION November 12, 2002

Diamond D Boarding Stable is a Westside horse stable. Because of a reporter's error, the name was incorrect in a story on Page B-1 yesterday.

***************

You've got to admire a man with enough backbone to hand a gun to a novice atop a horse, yell "Fire!," but stay nearby.

That would be Tek Marciniak of Ocala, a gravel-voiced native of Scotland, who trains and outfits mounted police horse patrols -- and civilian riders -- across the country so the equines don't scare too easily. He offered the civilian clinic, at $195 a participant, this weekend at the rustic Double D Boarding Stable on the far Westside. It was stable's first such class, said co-owner Jewell Griffin, who took part.

"All horse people admire mounted patrol horses . . . because they do one thing that horse owners want," Marciniak said. "That is, they stand still."

To get their equines to that point, riders on 24 horses rode this weekend through an obstacle course of tires, a teeter-totter jump, flags and large black wind chimes. They pushed a giant ball -- a "battle ball" -- around a pasture.

And yesterday, they fired .22-caliber blanks while sitting in the saddle to see if the horses would do anything more than a ditty bop of the feet.

If they succeeded, the horses would be less apt to be spooked by quail going up or other surprises along trails. It's the same kind of training that keeps police horses steady in large crowds, or even riots.

"It was really good. It was a great experience because of the bonding," said 11-year-old Leslie Castello of Arlington while atop her horse, Skittles.

Only a few horses got skittish at the crack of the spring-action revolver. A few more riders, however, found it harder to remember to point the gun down and not in the direction of other riders. …

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