Whenever I would teach one of my career planning courses for adults at the University of New Orleans, I would always mention my dad as someone whose vocation and how he spent his leisure time were the same — his love of horses.
My dad, Anthony "Tony" Schiro, grew up in the 1920s and 1930s close to Municipal Auditorium. He helped his dad sell ice cream, coal and ice from a horse-drawn wagon. During the early 1960s, my dad built a stable on a former dairy farm in New Orleans East. I spent time with my dad on the weekends, learning that there was much more to owning and caring for horses than riding.
My dad enjoyed riding his horse, Terry, in Mardi Gras parades, first with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Posse then with the New Orleans Mayor’s Posse. My dad always talked about the thrill and electricity of riding into the French Quarter in Mardi Gras parades during the 1960s and early 1970s. In addition to the parades, my dad loved to participate in horse shows throughout Louisiana and Mississippi.
My dad had his ideal job throughout the 1960s and 1970s; he was the stable person for the New Orleans Police Mounted Division. While he cared for and trained the police horses, his brother, Joe, was a mounted policeman who rode in parades, worked the French Quarter, rode in City Park during the summer and was at the Fair Grounds during racing season. As the stable person, my dad was responsible for training mounted officers in crowd control. It was his job to show officers how to care for themselves and their horses.
After my dad retired in the early 1980s, he continued to participate in horse shows in the buggy classes and to teach adolescents how to care for and to ride horses.
In 1985, there was a horrible fire where my dad kept his horse, Fox. Over 20 horses died in the fire. Due to the bravery of New Orleans firefighters, they were able to lead Fox out of his stall to safety. Fox was burned over 80% of his body. My dad nursed Fox to a complete recovery with a daily potion of love and lard. I will never forget the sadness and pain my dad experienced when he lost his beloved Fox in 1994.
When my dad died in 2016, I was deeply moved by the kind words of one of his students who kept in touch with my dad from the time when she was a pre-adolescent taking riding lessons from him, through her high school and college days, and as an adult with her own horses. Annie said of my dad: “You shaped me and as you shaped your beloved horses, kindly but firmly for 18 years, as a rider, and, more importantly, as a person. Your example of hard work, perseverance and patience was not just for the barn."
Dad, throughout your life and your love of horses, you touched many. Thank you, Dad. I miss you.
— Schiro lives in Metairie