Schott's stories--about modern horse-trainers, cowboys, riding stables, and cattle drives--are more than your average ol' straw-chewing Western tales. Small incidents, underplayed tensions, clear-eyed pushes and shoves--these lend Schott's characters subtle ethical dimensions that seem appropriate in people who spend so much time with animals. Schott, a former horse-trainer himself, knows his stuff. Horse-training is rough business, allowing a kind of sentimentality that only people so deeply out of synch with what the rest of the world is doing could possibly afford. You can smell the hay, the horse lather, the boot leather. But the problem with this collection is simple: the horses can't talk. If they did, the mostly male characters would come off better. As is, we're too often dragged along at the slow pace of cowboy's low-metabolism reactions. When Schott works a woman into a story, though--gets her close to a cowboy--things really come up popping. ""The Old Flame"" and ""The Sinner""--women causing tension in these laid-back men, how they react to it--are outstanding stories. The chords of a novel lurk in these pieces (they already share most of the same characters), and a novel's glue might have been useful. Maybe we'll see one in time. Until then, this introduction shows Schott off as an especially assured writer, not quite like anyone else around.