LARGO — When Preston Schaub walked into the stable, the horses started kicking. They recognized his voice. Soft. Soothing. Somehow special.
"It was the type of voice that makes you feel calm and excited at the same time," said his daughter, Cindy Schaub. "You knew something good was coming."
He grew up around cats and dogs. When he had kids of his own, he brought them stray rabbits, chicks, ducks. He conversed with backyard squirrels and gave them names, like Petey. Once, he hid a tiny beagle-terrier puppy in the pocket of his winter police coat.
"He came home for lunch one day and was sitting there and this little nose came out of his pocket," said Cindy.
Mr. Schaub had been a police officer in New Jersey for a couple of years when he took a mounted horse job. He patrolled nature parks and rode in parades, bonding with the horses. There was Bandleader, Trigger, Chief, Patty. He trained them to bite his summons book in his pocket and place it on his shoulder. He taught them to smile for the sergeant. He let his four children ride bareback while the horses cooled down at the end of the day.
Mr. Preston retired and moved to Largo in 1985. Over the years, his health began to slow down. He suffered from mild dementia and was bed-bound for a couple of years. In August, a hospice arranged for him to visit a horse at Amber Glen Equestrian Center in Pinellas Park. Though his hands were curled, he found strength to feed the gentle Rheinlander apple chunks. His eyes sparkled.
His only regret was not being able to ride, because horses love to be ridden, he said. Mr. Preston died Thursday. He was 86.
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at email@example.com (727) 893-8857.