Monday, February 06, 2006

Tevis rider's rhymes reflect joy of the trail

An equestrian for 75 years and part of the Tevis Cup since 1961, Dick Barsaleau has his poems on endurance riding, cowboys and horses in print, with proceeds benefiting the Robie Foundation. Photo by Ben Furtado/Auburn Journal

Proceeds from recently published book to benefit Robie Foundation

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
Sunday, February 5, 2006 11:12 PM PST

LOOMIS - Long known for his humorous poems about endurance riding, cowboys and other aspects of the equestrian experience, Tevis Cup 100-mile endurance ride veteran Dick Barsaleau had collected the best of what he calls his "rhymes and jingles" into book form.

Barsaleau, who turned 80 in August, is pleasantly surprised with the reception his book has received since it was published by Auburn Printers two weeks ago. More than 200 copies have been sold, mostly to equestrians. Orders are coming in from across the United States and Canada.

Barsaleau's poems range from odes to Auburn as endurance capital to several done in the French-Canadian patois.

"I call them rhymes and jingles instead of poems," Barsaleau said. "Poems formalize words and that can scare people."

"View From Riders Rest" pulls together 85 of Barsaleau's poems. Written over a 40-year period, many were kept in a dog-eared binder that the well-respected veterinarian and longtime Loomis resident would break out for readings when cowboy poets or horse lovers would get together.

Auburn Printers co-owner Merrill Kagan-Weston said she heard Barsaleau read at a Tevis Cup event and called him later to suggest that he put his poems together in book form.

Working with Barbara Jacinto of BJ Design, Kagan-Weston and Barsaleau published 1,000 copies of "View From Riders Rest," with the goal of donating all proceeds to the Wendell and Inez Robie Foundation. The foundation preserves trails and endurance riding history.

"I liked listening to Dick read and I enjoyed the book as well," Kagan-Weston said. "He's pretty entertaining."

On a recent visit to Barsaleau's rural Loomis home, with five endurance horses running free over his spacious "back 40," the author recounted his early experiences with Tevis Cup pioneer Wendell Robie and his own rich life around horses and riding.

Born in Massachusetts, Barsaleau was schooled in horsemanship by his father, a trick rider who taught his son to ride astride two horses at once, with separate reins.

"We put a lot of rosin on our sneakers," Barsaleau said.

His father was also a member of the U.S. Cavalry during the 1910s.

"I grew up hearing tales of chasing Pancho Villa on the American border," Barsaleau said. "They never caught up with him but they wore out a lot of horses trying."

A Marine in World War II, Barsaleau set out for Colorado after peace was declared, breaking horses, pitching hay and picking up a veterinary degree. While Parkinson's Disease has kept him from riding this past year, he can still touch a horse and that's good enough for riders to continue to ask advice from a horse doctor they fondly refer to as Doctor B.

Barsaleau was practicing in Visalia when he first got an invitation to judge the fitness of horses and riders at the Tevis Cup ride in 1961. Over the years, he's judged rides in 33 states, as well as Canada and Australia. The Tevis ride had been founded in 1955, with equestrians taking their horses along a mountain course from Squaw Valley to Auburn once used by settlers and gold seekers. Wendell Robie, a lumber company owner from Auburn, spurred the success of the ride in its early days and soon knew the straight-shooting ride judge well.

"I pulled him the first year - it made me infamous," Barsaleau said. "But he came up late and shook my hand - said 'You're right, he's lame.'"

In the 1960s, Barsaleau played a key role in establishing the standards that continue to be in place that protect the horse from overzealous riders.

"I have the dubious distinction of making the rules to eliminate the risks," Barsaleau said. "A lot of riders lost their cool, lost their sense of judgment and became competitive."

The Tevis Cup marked its 50th anniversary last year. Barsaleau continues to stay involved as governor emeritus of the Western States Trail Foundation. Beginning in 1964, Barsaleau was a rider in 16 Tevis Cup events, finishing 14 times on nine horses. His best finish was seventh in 1967. By 1978, he was able to join his friend, Wendell Robie, in the elite of endurance riding, having finished his 10th Tevis. At the time, he was the 10th rider to reach the 1,000-mile club. Now there are more than 50.

Barsaleau's poetry attests to his lifetime as horse owner, breeder, trainer and judge.

"I've been a student of horses for 75 years and I'm still learning," Barsaleau said.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Was just wondering if you are related to Ewdward Barsaleau of Connecticut.

Gene Barsaleau

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