I am extremely privileged to have known Carlos for almost three years now. Over that time he has provided endless inspiration and advice as well as practical support for my six horses and me. There have been countless “Ah hah” moments where Carlos has contributed the necessary insight to a training or handling issue. Always effortlessly, always with the very best interest of my horses in mind, always without diminishing them in any way. But nothing compares to the awe and gratitude I feel at Carlos successfully restoring my beautiful mare Hanna’s dignity, confidence and sense of rightness in her own existence as he did recently.
Hanna is an Anglo mare, the most open and trusting of creatures. I have had her since she was a yearling. Hanna has never known ill treatment or abuse and has had no need of the defences some horses establish to protect themselves. Carlos was the first person to back Hanna at a clinic in Maleny when she was three years old. When she turned four I had another local trainer work with her.
Unfortunately, despite the best of intentions the particular skills and understanding that Carlos epitomises were not present and I am ashamed to admit that despite a growing feeling of unease I never took the initiative and brought the process to a halt.
I am sure we are all familiar with the trainers who produce ‘results’ through intimidation and domination but how many trainers have such a feel and affinity for the horse to be able to guide and allow, ask a question of a horse and actually wait for the answer, to afford the horse that dignity. Many rather tell, or worse demand, so the horse maybe gets the message but not the engagement of his mind or heart, the true understanding or the respect he deserves. When we tell or demand it is easy to make everything the horse’s problem when they don’t comply. When we ask we shift the onus onto us to ensure the horse understands what we require of him and in so doing we maintain the dignity and trust of this sentient being.
Carlos can ask a question of horse, stay present and in the moment, feel the energy of the horse build but never pre-empt them. He always gives them the opportunity to respond, to make a choice. If the response is inappropriate he will redirect the energy and simply ask again.
By contrast Hanna was shut down prematurely when responses were slow or absent. Imagine asking a question of a child and then saying wrong answer when no answer was in fact given, imagine the impact this could possibly have.
In the majority of horses this may not have developed into such an issue but for this sensitive, open mare it was devastating. As the confusion built, things unravelled and when the remaining trust was lost Hanna could no longer cope and up she went. Ironically, both times Hanna exploded I had walked away seconds before. Perhaps I foresaw the inevitable or perhaps I was Hanna’s lifeline and I literally tuned my back on my mare.
It took me months to rebuild my relationship with Hanna, for her eyes to soften and her body to lose that angular look. Eventually, I hopped on a couple of times myself, just bareback with a halter but I knew I was not capable of being all this mare needed to do any more than a couple of laps of the arena at a walk.
So Hanna’s rehabilitation fell to Carlos. Carlos worked with Hanna several times whenever he travelled to Maleny over the last year. He worked with patience and empathy to overcome Hanna’s negativity and insecurity regarding being ridden and her lack of confidence in her own ability to make ‘good’ choices. The process was hardly smooth with Hanna having to relearn to trust herself and the human on her back, to overcome the impact of her previous experience under saddle.
I know that it was Carlos that made Hanna’s rehabilitation possible. I doubt that anyone else would have been able to bring my mare to a place of relaxation, confidence and connection. There were times I doubted Hanna would find her way back to herself but Carlos never lost faith. He found just the right combination of sensitivity, firmness and persistence and provided the space and support for Hanna to explore the unfamiliar feelings that his efforts provoked. Success came as Carlos knew it would. Please understand that it’s not just about getting the job ‘done’, the innate beauty of any solution or outcome bears testament to its validity, its rightness, and this was truly beautiful. Hanna was able to reclaim her birthright.
I am beyond grateful to Carlos and the guilt that I felt exposing Hanna to the situation I did has been replaced by a sense of awe and privilege that I have attracted this special creature into my life to teach me so much. All horses deserve the best but none more so that the sensitive ones who can be so easily crushed in less sympathetic or aware hands, or indeed hearts.
The horse has always known who he is and Carlos is one of the very, very few who truly understands who the horse is as well. I don’t doubt that in the hands of the many pretenders in the equestrian world part of Hanna would have remained lost to herself and me forever.
My deepest gratitude Carlos for the person you are and for the integrity, skill and heart you bring to horsemanship – for remaining steadfast to the path less travelled, the only path where we can meet our horses on equal terms, the path where the horse is already waiting for us.