Trainer isn’t just horsing around


THE DOG DAYS of summer are here. It’s the perfect time to watch

“Seabiscuit” in an air-conditioned theater near you.

I cried a muck bucket of tears when I saw it last week, but I’m betting

attendance will be up when Golden Gate Fields runs its fall horse races.

I’m also betting you’ll like the interview I did this week with Petaluma

horse trainer Steven Haines.

Modest as the day is long, Haines doesn’t see himself as a horse

whisperer, or even a horseman. “I’m not there yet,” he says, saying that

deep spiritual connection between human and horse goes beyond the

physical and mental.

“It’s such an elusive thing. I see a real similarity between

horsemanship and martial arts,” Haines says. “It’s how you are with life

— how honest you are in expressing yourself.”

Haines is holding monthly horsemanship clinics at Oakland’s Anthony

Chabot Stables on Skyline at Keller. For some people, just watching him

work is therapy.

“I’m of the opinion that horses have more to offer humans than humans

have to offer the horse. They’re very forgiving and they offer love

without conditions,” he says.

But reading a horse’s signals takes time and patience. Haines picks up

clues in the animal’s eyes, ears and body language. He can tell whether

the horse is relaxed or troubled or in pain. He adjusts his response

accordingly — building friendship and trust with a steed — like the

trainer in “Sea Biscuit”.

“I haven’t seen the movie,” Haines says, “but from what I know, that guy

was a horseman.”

If you have a horse you’d like Haines to work with, call clinic

organizer B.K. Doyra at 510-339-3217. The clinic cost is $60 an hour

(for horse and rider), or $10 if you just want to watch and learn some

honest communication techniques. Sounds like good horse sense to me.

E-mail bag

Speaking of horses, my piece on Big Sky, Mont., was a big hit with

reader Albert Chiu. He writes: “I too came home to Oakland from Helena a

week ago Saturday night and had a culture shock after spending 18 days

in Montana.” He says he found folks there had a slower pace of life and

weren’t “into making lots of money like people here in the Bay Area.”

A note to Albert: I agree with you, but it doesn’t help that we have

record gas and home prices here.

It’s a bird…

If God wanted us to fly, he would’ve given us wings. But apparently,

that notion doesn’t hold water with the guys at the Berkeley Hang

Gliding Center.

The center charges a sky-high fee — $275 — and gets it, for a

2,000-foot drop off Mount Tamalpais and down to the shores of Stinson

Beach. All the while, you’re piggyback with the pilot, riding air

pockets in a harness with wings.

From liftoff to landing — the dips, turns and gorgeous scenery (if you

can keep your eyes open) lasts about 15 minutes. Air-sickness bag not

included. Call 510-528-2300 to face your mid-life crisis head on.

Coming clean

Call this guy “Mr. Clean.” Reader Nicholas Vigilante has come forward as

the man who donated the sidewalk pressure cleaner to the Montclair

Village Association.

Nick says he bought the machine to clean the siding on his house before

repainting — and never used it again. Seeing the grime on the sidewalks

in Montclair, he decided to donate the powerful pressure cleaner to the

merchants. As head of the Montclair Safety and Improvement Council, he

says there are a number of residents who want to help the MVA spruce

things up.

Mailbox muses

As Friends of Montclair Village works to get a drive-by mail box in the

Village, at least one reader remembers a similar effort many years ago.

Nancy G. says she never understood why parents put the kibosh on a

drive-by box in the little parking lot above Montclair Elementary School

(Mountain near Colton).

“I still think it’s perfect — even if the kids have to watch what is

going on around them for a change,” the senior resident writes. She adds

that any child who’s too young to know traffic safety is probably driven

to school in the first place.

Bad is good

Heard of the movie “Three Men and a Baby”? Well, this is three guys and

a stage.

Local actor Tim Orr and two other artists make up the theater group

“Three for All,” opening at San Francisco’s Bayfront Theater on Sept. 5.

They aren’t called the bad boys of improvisation for nothing. Given

nothing but a situation, these guys create a full-length comedy, night

after night. The best part is that profits from their opening night

performance go to a Berkeley-based sports program for wheelchair-bound

kids. For information, call 415-474-8935.

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