Bloomfield 'Cow mumbler' DeLaws Lindsay teaches people how to talk 'horse'
BLOOMFIELD — DeLaws Lindsay has done many things in his life, and most of them have involved being in a saddle atop a horse.
Born in Provo, Utah, Lindsay grew up rodeoing, riding bulls and bareback broncos. He trained colts, or began "colt starting," at age 12. In the early 1980s, Lindsay trained to be a jockey at the Hawkeye Hill Racing School in Commiskey, Ind., and raced competitively for 12 years. He settled in Bloomfield in 1987.
Lindsay practices the natural horsemanship method, which emphasizes subtle cues and gentle but clear body language that can appear more like a Zen exercise in body movement than barking commands punctuated with a whip or spur.
"I work with horses that have people problems," Lindsay said. "The No. 1 form of communication horses use is body language. It's their language, and a lot of times it comes down to us learning it."
On Friday, Lindsay hosted a three-day clinic at his five-acre Bloomfield home and horse training facility to help improve the quality of the conversation between horse and human. The event was a collaboration between Lindsay, Four Corners Equine Rescue — a Flora Vista nonprofit organization run by Debbie and Terry Coburn — and Albuquerque natural horsemanship trainer Eric Bravo.
Durango, Colo., resident Shawna Frost drove down to have a two-hour one-on-one training session with Lindsay and Bonnie, an 8-year-old quarterhorse Frost adopted from Coburn's nonprofit. Bonnie, Coburn said, was rescued from a kill pen at a sale barn in Las Lunas two years ago. Coburn's organization had eight horses from her rescue on hand for participants to work with at the clinic. Frost, who lost her longtime horse six months ago, found Bonnie listed on the 4CER website and got to know Lindsay through Coburn, who often sends rescue horses from 4CER to Lindsay for his gentling and saddle-training expertise.
At 5-foot-6, Lindsay, who said he gave up jockeying at 37 when it became a health concern trying to keep his weight down to 113 pounds at middle age, manages to strike an imposing figure. He said his style is quiet but firm, which he attributes to the "vaquero style."
"The vaqueros, the Spanish, were some of the greatest horse riders," Lindsay said. "You're always riding a horse, hoping to do less and less and still communicating with the horse and keeping a relationship there. The horse didn't come into our world. We brought them into our own. They were doing just fine in their own world. But it's all based on natural communication rather than force, using bigger severe bits, bigger whips or bigger spurs."
Lindsay said spurs are practically unnecessary unless they are used for "refinement, never punishment."
On Friday morning, he led Frost and Bonnie through various exercises in his round pen, speaking in soft timbres, providing a reassuring tone as he gave instruction and led both the horse and her new owner through the ABCs of effective horse-human communication.
"She's got her head down, Shawna," Lindsay said reassuringly to Frost as he had her take the rescue animal around the pen in deliberate steps. "She's really listenin' to ya. Keep staring 20 feet in front of ya so she knows where you'd like her to go."
Lindsay later took Frost and Bonnie up into the sandstone hills on Bureau of Land Management land east of his facility for a trail ride. When they returned, Frost was all smiles, a big change for her, she said, since the death of favorite horse. She said Lindsay deserved all the credit.
"He's so patient. He works with the horse, not against it. He's incredible," Frost said. "Today is the first day I've been able to ride a horse in six months (since the death of her horse)."
Lindsay praised Frost and assured her that she and Bonnie had many trail rides ahead.
"He's as unique as his name," Frost said. "He's seriously like a horse whisperer."
"Cow mumbler," Lindsay said, joking.
Lindsay said he came by his unique first name from his mother, who named all her four boys with the same first letter.
"All my brothers got D names, and by the time my mother got to me, she'd used all the normal ones up," he said. "So I got her maiden name, Laws, with the De in front. It made coming up in school a bit difficult. I got teased a lot, but I learned how to handle it after awhile."
Horsemanship trainer Eric Bravo met Lindsay for the first time last week and said the two of them became fast friends.
"We like each other's approach and agree on natural horsemanship as a method," Bravo said. "He knows it. I know it. More people need to face it. It's a people program all the way."
Lindsay's wife, Cheryl Lindsay, attributes a lot of her husband's skills to his lifelong experience with animals and people — and to the injuries he's sustained.
Most recently, in 2012, a horse spooked and bucked Lindsay, smashing in his face and torso, and causing him to break both wrists before he could regain control of the horse. He had titanium plates surgically placed in each arm at the wrist.
"He's been through trauma and pain, so DeLaws, his heart, can sense and feel others' pain and help heal others who have been through trauma," she said. "He honors the horse and the owner. He's always been like that."