Louisville Magazine

APR 2019

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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102 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 4.19 en came the December day that, if Rocky had regrets, he would ponder on restless nights. ere were people. More than usual, but that happened sometimes. ere was the hay, just like always. But one thing was different. He saw it. Julia saw it. But Chocolate didn't think twice, if she even noticed the temporary corral. And in she walked behind Julia's baby, Blaze, followed by her own little one, April. Julia was so frightened, not even her baby could entice her to feed. But there was Chocolate, head down, munching away; Chocolate, who Karen called Rocky's main squeeze, al- ways the first mare on the mountain to have a baby each year. Rocky couldn't let her go. He couldn't leave her. And while little Blaze tiptoed back out to his mother, the stallion stepped into the corral. en the gate closed. It held firm against his pushing and jumping. He was trapped. Now he cannot see the horizon. He can only see the sullen gray bowl of sky above Shelbyville. He cannot see more than treetops above the horizontal slats of the tall fence encircling him. He sees the woman in the center. He watches her warily from beneath his long, tangled fringe of mane. His every muscle tenses as he waits to learn what happens next in a life suddenly notable for its losses. Julia and Blaze were left behind. Chocolate has vanished. e baby, April, has too. For the first time in his life, he is alone. He trembles. He peers at the woman in the center of the round pen. She holds a long pole that ends in an orange triangle of cloth, wet from a constant drizzle only slightly more substantial than fog. She flicks her wrist, the flag snaps like a rifle shot, and Rocky runs. "is is a little bit showing him how I'm in charge," Mary Rose Cissell says as she stands beneath a white sky, her black cowboy hat sheltering the dark curls of her ponytail from the misty drizzle. Mary Rose clicks her tongue. e stallion startles, shuf- fling his feet in panic before trotting away. But his trot doesn't last, and he soon slows and stops. is time, she snaps the orange flag; he trots faster in the confines of the round pen, moving longer before slowing. Now she takes a few steps in his direction, and he's off again and trotting. She's talking nonstop as she urges him on, explaining her process, keeping him moving. For most of his life, Rocky has been in charge. When he brought his mares and babies through the crowd of 70 horses on Ruff-N-Tuff, the other horse bands moved aside. Mary Rose says with horses, it's all about which horse can get the others to move. Now she's moving him. "I want to show him I'm the dominant one in this situation and earn his trust through that leadership." e nanoparticle drizzle turns every hard edge on the Antioch Road farm fuzzy and vague. Barns, houses and trees lie behind a gauzy veil. Mary Rose, 24 on this day in December 2017, is tall and lean, in cowgirl regalia, except, perhaps, for the maroon-red nail polish. She wears a green neckerchief held in place by a shiny scarf slide bigger than an old silver dollar. Embossed on its surface — the brightest thing for miles — is a cowgirl riding a bucking horse. She does not want to be that cowgirl. It's exactly what she's hoping to avoid as she brings Rocky under her influence. Although Mary Rose and her closest friend, April Harvey, captured the black stallion nine days earlier, it was only yesterday that she brought him to Allday Farm, where her business, Dark Horse Training Center, leases barns and paddock space. Rocky spent his first eight days off the mountain in makeshift quarantine at a Kentucky Humane Society facility near Simpsonville. Now he must learn to live with humans. Mary Rose has experience training feral horses, twice taking on wild mustangs for a challenge in which trainers have 100 days to make a Western horse from federal Bureau of Land Management lands rideable. But the Kentucky moun- tain horses are different, she says. She has already invested a year training another feral Kentucky mountain stallion (now gelding) named Dante, this one from a strip job in Knott County in eastern Kentucky. And she often talks about what she views as the mistakes she made working with that crafty blue-roan horse. She's still figuring out how to best help a horse trust a species that has proven itself so damnably untrustworthy. Up on the mountain, the horses saw the best and the worst of humans. When the horses on the Ruff-N-Tuff strip job in Floyd County were starving, Dwight Slone made a plea on Facebook, asking anyone who had ever enjoyed watching the mountain horses to come to their rescue. Many responded and made donations, Karen Slone says. e Slones had been feeding the horses out of their own pocket and with their own hay. at was humans behaving well. But too often, humans behave badly. ere was the guy who came up the mountain and urged 16 of the tamest horses into a trailer, carting them away. "He sold them to somebody," Karen says. Where they went, no one knows. "ey were some nice horses. It was done before anybody knew anything about it. at got us started trying to keep an eye on them, make sure nothing bad happened." But bad things kept happening to the 54 remaining. ey found one tame mare dead. ey don't know what killed her. It could have been natural causes. e Sunday before they found her body, she was fine. Someone shot another horse — one of the many abandoned pets — in the shoulder; the Slones engineered her rescue, but the shoul- der proved so shattered, she was euthanized. Karen named one of the sweetest colts Leroy. He was a copper-red horse with a white star blaze on his face, maybe two years old. "You can love on him," she says. "You can pet him all over. My husband could even pick up his feet. I was actually starting to work with him with a halter." Leroy would follow them around. One day, a drunk tried to sell Leroy to her for $300. "Show me proof he's yours," she told him. Not long after, they found Leroy had been lassoed. e loop was stuck up near his ears, and the rope dragged along behind him so that other horses stepped on it. e once friendly colt was now flighty and frightened. It took the Slones months to get Leroy to approach again. When he finally came near, it took two more weeks and the enticement of a salt block to get the rope off. "We would hold food in one hand and try to rub his face up to his ears to get the rope. If you touched the rope, he would run," Karen says. "We went every day trying to get that rope off." "Brett is as close to a horse whisperer as anyone I've ever seen," Phyllis says. "When Brett trained Callie, the first couple times he came, he walked into the stall, leaned against the wall, pulled down his hat and crossed his arms and waited." Phyllis thought, "I'm paying this guy to stand here?"

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