Obituary: Veterinarian, teacher and poet

02/21/2013 12:00 AM

02/21/2013 7:48 AM

Dr. Richard Barsaleau, a veterinarian and noted equestrian who championed care for horses as a competitive rider, teacher and poet, died Feb. 13 at 87.

He died in his sleep after receiving an X-ray test at a hospital for a complaint of chest congestion, said his son Dean. The X-ray showed no problems, his son said.

Dr. Barsaleau was widely recognized as an authority on the care of horses, especially in the sport of distance riding. He was a longtime veterinarian and judge for the annual Western States Trail Ride, also known as the Tevis Cup Ride. Meanwhile, he competed 16 times in the 100-mile ride from Lake Tahoe to Auburn, finished 14 rides and won three top-10 awards.

He judged horses professionally for many years and was a lecturer and clinician at horse events in the United States, Canada and Australia. He wrote a handbook for veterinary judges and many articles on equine performance, training and conditioning.

Dr. Barsaleau also co-founded and served as director of the animal health technology program at Cosumnes River College from 1972 to 1989. He invited students to practice skills at his Loomis home, where he raised and trained Arabian horses.

"He could be gruff because he was an ex-Marine, so you kind of toed the line his way – but it was a good way," said former student Cheryl Buch, a registered veterinary technician. "He set a high reputation for Cosumnes River College, and our students are recognized all over the state."

Richard Bernard Barsaleau inherited his love of horses from his father, a U.S. cavalryman. Born Aug. 17, 1925, in Falls, Pa., Dr. Barsaleau fought in the Marines on Tinian and Saipan islands in the Pacific during World War II.

He earned a veterinary medicine degree from Colorado State University and practiced in Los Angeles and Visalia before settling in Loomis. He helped set state standards for veterinary technicians and belonged to many professional and equestrian groups.

He was predeceased in 2012 by his wife of 42 years, Maggie. He had four children from a previous marriage that ended in divorce.

Dr. Barsaleau was a beloved figure in the horse-riding community. He served on the Western States Trail Foundation board and belonged to the Wendell & Inez Robie Foundation, which promotes riding and trail preservation in the Sierra Nevada.

He was honored in 2005 with the dedication of Barsaleau Pavilion, a meeting area at Robie Equestrian Park near Truckee. The American River Classic, a 50-mile trail ride, established the Barsaleau Cup to recognize proper care of participating horses.

Dr. Barsaleau celebrated his love of horses and riding in verse. He was a regular performer at the annual Cowpoke Fall Gathering, a cowboy poetry event in Loomis, and published "View from Riders' Rest," a collection of poems.

He told The Bee in 1993 that he loved riding horses because of the bond formed between rider and animal.

"The relationship between a rider and his horse is especially satisfying because you have a living, powerful animal as your partner," he said.

Dr. Richard Barsaleau

Born: Aug. 17, 1925

Died: Feb. 13, 2013

Survived by: Children, Mark of Porterville, Robin Chriss of Carlsbad, Mary of Irvine, and Dean of Summerville, S.C.; brothers, Jack of Meriden, Conn., and Warren of West Willington, Conn.; six grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren

Services: 3 p.m. March 16 at Blue Goose Event Center, 3550 Taylor Road, Loomis

Remembrances: Donations in lieu of flowers may be made to Wendell & Inez Robie Foundation, P.O. Box 714, Foresthill, CA 95631.

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