Boooom. It’s summertime or almost summer which is even better. It’s June which is adventure time. This is the best month to get outside because it’s not super hot yet, and there are no bugs. So when the bell rings, I put on my boots and hat and come ready to ride. This was a day in the country. We rounded Wheelabrator in Milton and kept-on driving north on Hwy 25 to Sideroad 15. I posted an Instagram of the entrance.
On Tuesday the 22nd of June , myself and other gals toured stables and rode horses with a famous jockey, Eurico Rosa da Silva.
You can read about Eurico on Canadian Thoroughbred magazine and Horse Sport magazine. He’s a World class equestrian that has won all the biggest horse races in Canada including the Queens Plate, a couple of times. He’s even met The Queen. Over the last seventeen years he worked his way up the rankings at Woodbine Racetrack, a career detailed in his autobiography, Riding for Freedom.
Halton Place is an amazing ranch (it’s a ‘showbarn’) where all manner of horses live and work. These beauties run races at Woodbine and jump fences in sand rings at other show barns all across the province. The ones we rode do equine-therapy where they work in people’s minds. Athena is still working now because I’m thinking about her.
“This is a good horse,” Mr. da Silva says, holding the bridle. “She is smart and willing, you see.” He slips the gear over the animal’s muzzle and brings a strap up over her ears. “She lowered her head for me.” This is especially significant gesture for jockeys who are vertically challenged. But having said that, Eurico doesn’t need to use the mounting block to get atop a horse. He high steps and turns himself into the saddle in one fluid movement.
Halton Place is the home of Louise Masek and Look Ahead Sporthorses. Louise and Eurico are friends and he helps her manage the sportiest horses and he brings clients, friends and people like us to her facility. She is amazingly kind and generous.
Louise is very passionate about her business and about breeding perfect equines – animals which conform to breed prototypes. I get the impression she’s really happy with her life, despite its many daily challenges, and that’s because she’s really accomplished something with her horse breeding program. Louise has an Hanoverian stallion who’s getting lots of attention and she’s getting lots of requests for his semen from other horse breeders around the world. Charlie is quite popular with the mares in the barn too and quite vocal about it.
Every time a horse was led by Charlie’s stall he would whinny loudly and remind everyone that he was willing to work for free. There are young and old horses here, and some are getting ready for competition while others’ careers are winding down. Some spend their days outside and others hang around relaxing in the barn. It’s a pretty swanky setup. The horse stalls here are extra roomy and bedded with straw on rubber mats. Eurico told us about the horses he knew, and he described the best features of the animals he was just meeting for the first time.
Now that he’s retired, at age 45, Eurico da Silva helps Canadians sharpen their brains. He calls his business Mind Coaching and he usually points to his own head when he says the name. He’s a life coach who focuses on brain acuity and on helping high powered athletes and executives build mental awareness which a jockey needs and develops early to stay alive. He needed to stay sharp to keep safe, and Eurico told us all about his near-fatal accident in Macao, the worst of his career, in which he was airlifted by helicopter to a hospital in Hong Kong. Eurico has seen some things in his life and can share many of these experiences with his clients and friends. He doesn’t normally give riding lessons, but he’s kind and generous with his time and he told me so many things about himself and about how to treat the animals, and just what a horse expects from someone in the saddle holding the reins.
Eurico showed me how to mount and take the reins inside the bright and beautiful indoor arena. Overhead in the beams are hundreds of barn swallows which make incredible music that’s probably a chorus of complaints at our presence in their nesting grounds. I found egg shells on the sand in the arena, and so I know there were baby birds in the mud nests overhead. This is the season for birthing animals and there were new calves in the field and week old foals in the barn and in fact one horse had just given birth earlier that morning.
Eurico tells me that horses need daily exercise, especially if they are kept in stalls which is what happens when horses stay on site at the racetrack. Horses should be groomed, and their stalls kept clean. During the grooming, horses need to be checked-over for any physical problems. The sturdy steeds we borrowed were lively and curious and it’s true they seemed happiest in the huge arena where there are bits of fence which are jumps.
Horses teach the power of non-verbal communication. Athena’s ears were bent forward which means she’s inquisitive and enjoying the exercise. She was curious about me when I brushed her sides. It takes some time and patience to understand what a horse wants; you have to pay attention to them, and in that respect they show us how to communicate. They don’t speak English, but they can read our body language and they can understand our tone of voice. When Athena’s ears were bent forward, she was listening and attentive. Her swishing tail told me that she was happy.
Tuesday was Eurico’s first time meeting Athena, a clever five-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare. She was joined by Raven, a retired racehorse who has won many matches at Woodbine. Athena was clearly eager to follow Eurico, and she was very patient with us neophytes clambering all over her body and hugging her head for selfies. Good riders quickly learn the personalities of their horses and they adjust their riding style to better fit the horses’ temperament. This is what Eurico tells us, but it’s lost on me as I have no style at this point, other than balance and self-preservation.
Horses treat everyone as equals at first; its only after you interact they form opinions. But even then, even if you’re unbridled and annoying, they ask for nothing but kindness.