Heart of Louisiana: Arabians in Folsom
FOLSOM, LA (WVUE) - He's gone from chasing drug dealers on the streets of New Orleans to raising Arabian horses in St. Tammany Parish. He's an ex-cop who has found a peaceful second career. FOX 8's Dave McNamara takes us to Colthill Crescent Arabian Farm in Folsom, where you will see a horse-whisperer at work in tonight's Heart of Louisiana.
When Mike Cimino retired from the NOPD's narcotics squad a decade ago, he was looking for a real change of pace. And he found it in the rolling pastures of Folsom.
"I loved being a cop in New Orleans - I loved it. But it's everything that is not. We have peace and quiet and gentleness out here," Cimino said.
In an area that's known for raising thoroughbreds, Cimino opted for Arabians, a breed that can trace its lineage back thousands of years to the Middle East.
"If you can read Sanskrit and/or Arabic, their pedigrees are that well-documented. It's the oldest documented breed in the world," Cimino said.
Now, you won't see an Arabian running in the Kentucky Derby - they don't have the sprinter speed of a thoroughbred. But they do have other talents. Coming from a hot desert climate, the Arabians are known for their superior endurance.
"The Arabian has one less vertebrae, the back is a little bit shorter. Bigger lung capacity. You look at the head and you've got a real concave head, which gives them the ability to cool more air," he said.
All of these Arabian mares are pregnant. They'll give birth in the early spring. And as the young horses mature, they will need to learn to be ridden. But you won't see any bucking horses being broken in. At Colthill Farms, head trainer Joe Ellis takes the approach of a horse-whisperer.
"He doesn't actually break them," Cimino said. "We call it putting them under saddle now. He never has a horse that bucks, because he's already taken them through steps where they trust him implicitly, and by the time he gets on their back, it's just a natural thing."
The horse is desensitized to the sound of a whip as trust of the trainer grows. Then the first attempts are made to lie across the horse's back.
"She's relaxed and calm," Ellis said. "It's something brand new and feeling the weight and wanting to be a prey animal and get away from me. But I've had worse.
With patience, the horse will eventually allow Ellis to ride.
But not today.
The imprinting begins the moment the horses are born with lots of human contact.
"At first, they don't like being handled," said assistant trainer Jeanette Beard. "They don't know who you are or what you are."
And when you see the beauty and good nature of these Arabians, it's easy to see why the breed is growing in popularity. And why this pasture has become the perfect retirement home for an ex-cop.
If you're interested in learning more about Arabian horses, Colthill Farms is having at educational day on Nov. 22. For more information, click here.
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