Photo by Christine Pelisek
Ray Daniels knows he is in over his head. That’s why the Texaco mechanic, after a long day of work, is leaning on a fence at the Circle K Riding Stables in Burbank, watching trainer Peter Kozak break in a new horse. Just five days previous, Daniels and his girlfriend had received an equine “living legend” (not Marlon Brando!) from the Bureau of Land Management’s adopt-a-wild-horse-or-burro program at the L.A. Equestrian Center. At a starting price of $125, wild horses descended from stallions that escaped or were abandoned by settlers, ranchers, prospectors, Native American tribes and the U.S. Cavalry from the late 1800s to the 1930s were on the auction block.
“It gives folks like myself the opportunity to do this kind of stuff,” says Daniels of the 24-year-old program. He’s no horseman. “I have only been on a horse once,” he muses, “and that was five weeks ago.” He hasn’t yet mustered up the courage to get into the stall with his horse. And what kind of horse might that be? “Brown,” Daniels replies without a trace of irony.
Daniels hopes the training video that came along with his gelding, Wildwind, proves helpful; if not, he may have to dig deep into his pockets to pay Kozak the $1,000 asking price for professional training. (Daniels is banking on Kozak needing some car repairs, so they can trade services.) He is also paying $245 a month to stable the horse at Circle K (estimated annual cost of boarding, feeding and training his horse: $3,000). Until then, he is content to study Kozak as he breaks in Ruger, a 2-year-old buckskin/appaloosa. “At least I am not out running amok,” says Daniels with a sheepish grin. “I’m taking a different attitude, to stay out of trouble.”
Hungarian-born Kozak looks every part the cowboy with his Stetson, leather chaps and boots. Unlike novice Daniels, Kozak has been training wild horses for the last two years, and his knack is obvious. His other wild stallion, Duke, was trained in four days, he says. Ruger, however, is a different story. Kozak has been struggling to break him for three weeks. “He is being very stubborn,” says the visibly worn-out trainer as he gingerly attempts to get on the skittish beast without getting thrown. “But he is getting tired and thirsty like me.”
Kozak admits he picked Ruger because he had that wild look in his eye; he likes the challenge of breaking a rambunctious horse. Moments later, Kozak successfully hoists himself onto Ruger’s back. “He will try to throw me off,” says Kozak matter-of-factly. “He has spirit. I might be the only one who can ride him. It will be his choice.”
Daniels is visibly pleased at Kozak’s results. “It is very inspiring to watch the transition. It is good to know that I am not going to deal with something that is a monster.” Daniels, however, is no fool; he does realize his limitations. “I’m 6-foot-2, 240 pounds [and going into this] with a handicap . . . I don’t have a clue!” he smiles. “I will start by building a friendship with the horse.”
NO GIRLIE-MEN HERE
Sokol said sperm counts have held steady since the 1950s, dispelling media-fanned fears that tight drawers or too much time behind the wheel had diminished the American male’s reproductive storehouse. Her comments came in a news release on a three-year study of 1,385 men who gave sperm samples at County-USC Medical Center as part of their partners’ infertility treatments. Sokol noted that many of the men were blue-collar workers with likely exposure to toxic chemicals, suggesting that male sperm power has not been hurt by industrial pollution, either.
Virility seems to be a big concern over in Trojanville, where a search of the USC Web site for the keyword “sperm” turned up 116 entries, including a couple under the headings “lesbian” and “Qur’an.” But as we read on in the USC press release, we were aghast to learn that half of the men tested showed some sperm abnormality, including 52 percent with borderline low levels of motility, 18 percent with abnormal sperm concentration and 14 percent with abnormally shaped sperm. Sokol didn’t feel moved to comment on the relationship of pollution to wacky sperm. Or to birth defects. Nor did she explain why high sperm counts equal virility. Oh well, what’s a few zillion screwy sperms? The important thing is, the guys aren’t shooting blanks.
Sometimes limbo is the best place to be, even if that limbo finds you cooling your heels in an INS holding tank. For Alex Sanchez, gang member and peace worker with the group Homies Unidos, the alternative is the dusty streets of San Salvador, where admitted gangbangers, especially vocal ones, are targets for police harassment and roving death squads.
Sanchez was arrested by Rampart CRASH officers in January on charges of entering the country illegally and has been in INS custody ever since. Police critics say he was targeted for his peace work with gang members, and because he was a witness to police misconduct.