Fourth day at Real Escuela. Not much news, apart from pirouettes still being an issue. I managed to do more or less proper ones in walk, but gallop ones made me feel like a stuffed doll – boneless and useless. And just to add more to my anxiety ;-), crowds of visitors were passing by and taking shots of me doing the lousy moves, which I couldn’t even blame the horse for, as I knew perfectly who the weakest link was here. So I had to remind myself that it’s good to be out of one’s comfort zone. Don’t get me wrong, I like to feel my comfort zone expanding, but unfortunately expansion is impossible without getting seriously uncomfortable first. :-(
Between lessons, Carlos, another visiting student, and myself were asked to take pictures for the local newspaper. (It’s not very often that people come from that far away to train in Real Escuela.) And a few minutes later I gave my first interview in English. A journalist from the Diario de Jerez was asking some basic questions like how I learned about the school and where I’d come from, and was really amazed to hear that Spain is country number 21 in my globe-trotting list. Unfortunately, I left back home before the article was published. :-( But a few weeks later I got an e-mail from the school with a scanned copy of the published article in attachment.
But the most interesting thing happened after the lessons. We were invited to visit Yeguada Militar, the Military Breeding Farm. And what made that trip even more exciting? This was the place where my beautiful Tematico was born 18 years ago.
The origin and selection of the P.R.E. horses as we know it today goes back to the 15th century at the Carthusian Monastery of Jerez, where monks bred an extraordinary genealogical line which still defines the Andalusian breed. Ever noticed that lots of great things were created by monks? Kung-fu, different sorts of wines (including champagne), the Andalusian breed, genetic science, the mechanical clock, musical notation, the “@” sign… I can go on and on. One-way ticket to a monastery, anybody?
Anyways, Carthusian horses were considered to be the superlative riding horses for centuries. The Bugattis and Rolls Royces of their time, they were highly praised by the best equestrians of that period. Pluviel, the horse master of the King of France, Louis XIII, wrote about the Andalusians: “Sire, for certain,e fixed it the best I can, but I might be misquoting the guy now. Your Majesty, as the greatest king in the Christian world, you shall learn to ride the most perfect horse.” And Louis XIII did. :-)
Nowadays, there are numerous breeding farms in Spain, but the Yeguada Militar is special. The farm got worldwide recognition thanks to the one of the first Olympic horses in Spainish history, Evento. Ridden by Ignacio Rambla, a former Olympic-level showjumping rider, Evento took part in the Olympic Dressage competition in Atlanta in 1996, where he was ranked 11. Rambla and Evento framed picture is the first thing you see when entering the farm’s award room, packed with well-deserved rosettes and cups.
But back to the farm. They keep over 600 breed mares here and unlike other farms specializing only in P.R.E., here they keep an almost equal number of Arabian horses of 3 father lines coming from Syria, Poland and Russia.
All Yeugada Militar, Andalusians are branded in the traditional way. Mares will have the YM brand on the right hip and a number on the left, while stallions’ YM brand is on the left hip and the number is on the right.
The numbering is interesting in itself: the first digit will always represent the last digit of the year the horse was born, and it will be followed by the successive even number (if it’s a colt) or odd number (if it’s a filly). So the first colt born this year got the number 400, while the first filly 401. The second filly will be 403 and so on. So looking at Tematico, I can say that he was the 19th colt born in 1996.
Continuing our excursion, we also saw a few foals, taken from their moms just a few hours ago. :-( It’s hard to believe that these babies feeling sad and misplaced are the future champions, parade and show stars. But there is time for everything.
On the way back Joaquín told us that this is the last year Tematico will spend in the school. He will be sent to Madrid to take part in official ceremonies. I’m so glad I had a chance to meet this stallion. He might never become an Olympic-level horse, but he is more than it for me – one of the best equine teachers I ever had.