We’ve been raving about the horsemanship culture in Lagos de Moreno and while we were there we got to know some of the local trainers who are crafting amazing horses.
One of the most sought-after trainers of horses for use in competitive charreada (Mexican rodeo) is Juan Zermeno. Juan is a competitive, perfectly-attired guy with steely eyes and a better grasp on the English language than he lets on. More importantly, he speaks horse. Fluently.
To watch Juan ride any of the dozen or so horses that he’s training at any given time (some sent to him from the US) is to understand that the old saw about “horse and rider becoming one” isn’t always a ridiculous cliche. With a minimum of movement or effort or fuss Juan seems able to convince his horses to do whatever he wants them to do. It’s almost like brainwashing or telepathy.
At the other end of the spectrum is Eugenio Macias Guerra, a lanky cowboy with a mischievous, moustachioed smile that creeps up on you. Eugenio is not fancy. Eugenio is not showy. Eugenio is one of the gentlest horsemen we’ve ever seen. Unlike Juan, Eugenio doesn’t so much convince a horse to do what he wants it to do. He convinces the horse that it’s doing what it wants to do.
We saw Eugengio’s approach in full swing the day we watched him put a saddle (and himself) on the back of a mare for the very first time in her life. In a small cobbled together wooden ring Eugenio and the mare (wearing nothing more than a rope halter with a lead rope) came to an understanding. First trust, then comprehension at which point Eugenio was able to make the mare follow him, change direction and walk to him at will. She wanted to do it.
Eugenio was so confident of the mare’s acceptance and understanding of these basic (but crucial) tasks that he let Karen into the ring with the horse for a few intense moments. Then it was time for the saddle pad which Karen put on the mare’s back, following Eugenio’s instructions about moving the pad around the mare’s body and never losing contact with her. Hey, it worked.
Saddle pad in place, Eugenio took over for the big stuff: the saddle and his own body. Forget any images you may have of fiercely bucking horses trying desperately to get out from under the saddle, fear and mistrust in their eyes. After a few minutes of quietly introducing the saddle to the mare Eugenio had it on her back and cinched without anything more rebellious than a twitch of her tail. Within minutes the mare was also quietly, tentatively moving around the ring with Eugenio dangling off the saddle.
It would have been anti-climactic if it hadn’t been so beautiful. The process was like watching a seduction and by the end of it it really did seem like the horse believed she had succeeded in getting that dang trainer to finally put a saddle on her just like she wanted.
Yet another side of the rich world of horses in Lagos de Moreno is presided over by Jorge Guillermo who trains Friesians sent to him by owners around the world. His stable is 5 star (we’re fairly sure the horses drink Perrier) and the horses are 6 star. While it’s all way too fancy and rarified for every day riding, the animals are gorgeous and Jorge makes the most of all of their many wonderful natural attributes.
All of these trainers use different styles to achieve different goals with different types of horses. What they have in common, however, is deep knowledge and talent that they’re not selfish or possessive about. Like every horseman (and horsewoman) we met in Lagos, they want more people to ride better and they’re happy to share what they know. You learn a lot from just watching guys like Juan and Eugenio and Jorge. No, we can’t go out and do what they do. But now we know for sure that it’s possible.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pr8k1qWv3w0[/youtube] Watch the trainers in action