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Mission to Mallorca

old-olive-treeWho would not jump at the opportunity? A trip to Mallorca, all expenses paid, you would have to be seriously crazy to turn this offer down, right? So okay, there is a catch to it. You would have to accompany your sister-in-law to travel a little under 900 km from Andalusia to Valencia in a vehicle that is not known for its creature comforts while towing and looking after two strange polo horses which have never set eyes on each other before and while enduring two back-to-back, eight-hour ferry crossings to Mallorca with a stomach that literally goes belly up in the back of a car let alone crossing the sea, followed by another long-distance return trip immediately afterwards. Upon serious consideration, sane humans would probably have turned down this opportunity. So why didn’t I and why are there so many other humans who would probably have decided to be as foolish as I have been?


The horses

Exactly! Because of the horses, this is what does it every single time. So who are these horses and what is so special about them? A smallish chestnut mare, large soft eyes melting on either side of an emphatic blaze, Clarita has a calm but assertive presence which demands and secures immediate attention, something which her reluctant companion declines to grant her. From a different home but also a chestnut, albeit a gelding and slightly taller, with a blaze that is as unpronounced as its owner is non-assertive, Tunante, is nervous and anxious. Initially, he declines to enter the trailer but the experienced staff at the polo facility soon calmly persuade him to follow the mare.

Tunante and Clarita shortly after the big journey commences

Tunante and Clarita shortly after the big journey commences

Vicki’s twin sister, Agathe, has been contracted by the horses’ new owners to transport the polo horses to an equally new home serving as a temporary stop en route to establishing a livery yard to the south-east of Palma, the capital of Mallorca. I have no doubt that Agathe will be able to this on her own, just as I have no doubt that I will be able to walk Pip on a rope lead without suffering rope burn. And yet I always wear gloves to cover that one per cent of chaos or less which unforeseen circumstances may produce. It is for the very same reason that I offer to go on this mission to Mallorca a week shy of a planned trip to the other side of the world … for the horses, just in case. Fortunately, Agathe welcomes my offer with open arms. It is a long trip. The company will be appreciated.


Thank you!

So there I am driving Agathe’s big, red Landover with an empty two-horse trailer hitched up behind it a little after 7:30 am on Friday morning en route to collecting the horses from the polo centre in Sotogrande. The trip is uneventful and the young polo horses (six to seven years old) load relatively easily. At about twenty minutes to ten we are on our way to Valencia. Along the way we stop every two to three hours to check on the horses and to give them water and hay. Again, reassuringly, it is an uneventful, if not rather lengthy trip, although we are somewhat concerned about Tunante, as he is not drinking. A little after nine in the evening we arrive at a jumping livery yard just to the north of the city, which is to serve as the horses’ overnight shelter.

It is with something akin to wonder that I contemplate what I have just accomplished, a trip just shy of eleven hours. A mere three weeks ago I was confined to a bed in the emergency ward of a hospital with symptoms pointing to a severe heart condition. Fortunately, it was just a virus which had caused mayhem on the outside of that organ. A battery of powerful medical thumps on the head (or should I say “heart”) shook off the virus and put me on the road to a rapid recovery within 48 hours.

At this point I would like to express a heartfelt “thank you” to those of you around the world who have taken the trouble to wish me a speedy recovery on this blog or through email and other personal messages on social media. The numbers involved make it very difficult to respond to each of you personally but my gratitude for your concern is no less appreciated as a result. Your messages have meant much to me. Fortunately, I can take consolation from the fact that the medical tests conducted in the hospital have revealed that I have a healthy heart and blood vessels. All that I have to do is to ensure that I do not run myself into the ground again through work and play, so as to render my body susceptible to every bug lurking in the shadows.


Breaking bonds

As I sat in the passenger seat watching the varying landscape slip past, I contemplated what it really is that we do to horses, when we wrench them from their routine surroundings, confine them to a potential death trap and transport them over varying distances to an utterly alien environment. I recalled the painful breakup of our little herd of three in Australia, when we put our two ageing geldings into long-term livery pending our return to the country and flew our mare, Anaïs, ten years old at the time, to Europe. We knowingly broke up a very close relationship between her and the older gelding, Gulliver, a relationship which she had developed with him from the time that she was four years old, and one which she has not managed to replicate in Europe. We were also not aware of the pain of absence that her departure would cause to the younger gelding, Farinelli, if his cries of loss were anything to go by.

Our small herd in Australia.

Our small herd in Australia: Gulliver, Anaïs and Farinelli (lying down)

Horses have the capacity to develop very close friendships, one with another. Such friendships can be so special that they can take precedence over the creature’s utterly basic need to survive. We humans have the capacity to develop such friendships as well and we know the pain, often intimately, that separation can cause. And yet we never seem overly concerned when we break such bonds between horses. I ask myself whether, knowing what we know now, Vicki and I would have ever dared to break up our little herd. I suspect not, although I cannot be sure of it.


The questionable herd

Which then led me to contemplate the nature of a herd. In recent years we have gravitated towards keeping horses in conditions which most closely address the essential nature of equines, although this is not a religion with us, as ultimately the well-being of the horse is paramount. This has come to mean that we usually opt to have our mares kept in a herd here in Europe. And this in turn has generally come to mean that they are placed in a herd in a so-called natural horsemanship livery yard.

Yet it is a questionable herd, for it is anything but natural. Unlike wild or feral horses, a herd in a natural horsemanship livery yard is an arbitrary collection of equines, some of whom are utterly unnatural. There is no such thing as a gelding in nature. We humans mutilate stallions (often at risk to their wellbeing if not their lives) to turn them into manageable eunuchs and call them geldings, a rather sad euphemism. In addition, we select which horses become part of the herd, rather than allow the horses to do so, as they do in the wild. This totally unnatural selection has the capacity to cause tremendous social and other problems amongst horses, which we humans often fail to appreciate. The effects are compounded whenever the members of the herd have to compete with each other for resources, which is often the case when profitability dictates which horses get to be in the herd and the conditions in which they are forced to live.

Rather than condemn this, which would essentially achieve nothing that would be of benefit to either horses or humans, I wish to highlight it as a starting point for the contemplation and consideration of the issues which we need to take into account when deciding how to accommodate our horses. While a herd may be beneficial for many horses, we need to be aware that there are some horses who may even suffer a death of the spirit within what passes for a herd in captivity.


Energy up

Her soft eyes inviting me to share the grounded serenity of her presence in the moment, the mare claims my soul through a curious mixture of self-assurance coupled with a willingness to respond to energy that matches and complements hers. In the subdued light of the lampposts lining a large jumping arena dark with night, she senses my intent at the other end of a slack longe and breaks from walk into trot. A few circles later she subsides back into walk as I drop my energy in search of the downward transition. And again, I am amazed by the sensitivity of horses to the energy we humans are capable of producing even so subtly that only the trained eye is capable of noting it, assuming that there is enough light in which to observe it, which now there is not.

Lucky Andrew, graced with the presence of two special polo horses

Lucky Andrew, graced with the presence of two special polo horses

The following morning Clarita displays her sensitivity to energy again. This time though the centre is filled with humans riding horses, on their own, as part of a group in lessons…. With all of these strange humans around I am somewhat self-conscious to the point of distraction. Within moments the mare shows me that my energy is both ungrounded and misdirected. At the end of the longe again, this time she suddenly halts, turns towards me and backs away in obvious confusion. What are you asking of me? Ashamed, I acknowledge my lack of presence, reassure her and start again. We regain our connection to each other and she begins to trot, an eye and her body closely sensing my intent.

The early evening session goes smoothly, my energetical connection with the mare reciprocal and measured. In the interim we have been out on a walk through the countryside together with Agathe and Tunante, stopping along the way to allow the horses to graze on grass sprung green and fresh from autumn’s early rainfalls. The horses were relaxed, Clarita maintaining her position at my elbow throughout our walk. As the sunlight begins to wane, we are joined by another horse and his human, a youngish woman leading the gelding on a longe with a long longeing whip grasped firmly in her hand. After relatively unsuccessful attempts to longe her horse, she disappears with him into the jumping arena, where we later encounter the two of them in action, the gelding at canter bucking and kicking into the evening air at the end of a very taut longe grasped firmly together with the long whip by his owner, who informs us that her horse is 29 years old. We are truly amazed.


Energy down

As I write this, I recall my angst-ridden early teenage years and the utter amazement through which I expressed my appreciation of the power of emotional energy produced by humans. It seemed to me that, if it were possible to capture and package that energy, there would be enough to light and warm up the world ten times over. I was in awe of such energy before I packaged the thought into what would become a forgotten memory for decades to come, resurrected only rather recently.

Nowadays, I am equally in awe of a human’s ability to affect the energy in another being, in this case a horse, without even touching the creature and to do so simply by controlling their own, not only raising its level but also lowering it, both in the moment and over time to change their temperament. Tunante came to us nervous and anxious, a condition which was not helped by the mare’s attempts to create a ladder of bites down his neck, as they competed for the better hay net in the trailer, a situation which we could only remedy by tying Clarita shorter.

Agathe with Tunante and Clarita during a grazing stop on our walk

Agathe with Tunante and Clarita during a grazing stop on our walk

In the course of our interaction with the horses Tunante was clearly influenced by Agathe. Although she is guided more by conventional concerns in her dealings with horses than I am, Agathe is calm and grounded when with horses. Judging from his changing attitude, the gelding was clearly influenced by this. In the course of the walks, exercise and other forms of interaction with Agathe, he began to unwind and rediscover the serenity of contentment, so much so that, by the time it came to load the horses back into the trailer for the trip to the ferry on Saturday night, we were pretty confident that he would not be difficult, especially as I had made a point of explaining to him what this trip was all about. Yes, I talk to horses. No, I have no idea whether they understand me or not, nor do I particularly care. It just seems to work. That is all.


Energy in sync

That night as we get ready to drive to the ferry, Clarita accompanies me into the trailer as though we are resuming our late afternoon walk. Along with a wedge of moon, the darkness is held at bay by the yellow light of the street lamps on the other side of a high hedge, casting our shadows long across the sand. Perhaps it is those moving silhouettes which cause Tunante to falter. He balks at entering the trailer. I attach a longe to his side of the trailer and we try again.

The lead comes loose. Clearly I have botched the overly simple task of affixing it. Agathe thrusts Tunante’s lead into my hands as she bends to retrieve the longe and reattach it to the side of the trailer. I walk off with the gelding to find a space where just the two of us seem to be alive. Turning my eyes away from the gelding, I consciously sense his energy and try and match it. This I manage to do and, as I whisper reassurances to the horse, I seek the calm beauty of the night and help him share it with me as I lower my energy and breath to the centre of my being. And then it is there. You can almost feel it, the connection of two species, brought closer than any words or devices ever can. We begin to move together.

Agathe comforts Tunante en route to the polo horses' new home

Agathe comforts Tunante en route to the polo horses’ new home

At first away from the trailer, I guide the gelding in walk to halt, breathe, and then we are away again, only this time turning back towards the ramp leading into the trailer. At my elbow I sense him move and then stop just in front of the ramp. And it suddenly occurs to me that he will not accompany me as the mare has just done. He is not yet strong enough to do so. Follow … this is what he can do. So I move in front of him and turn to capture his gaze. Tunante, come! I sense this so strongly that I become the thing he wants me to be, grounded, authentic, decisive, a creature whom he chooses to follow. Leaving the lead slack, I take a step backwards up the ramp moving slowly enough to invite him to join me. And he does. Not for a moment do his eyes leave mine as we move into the trailer together guided by two longes secured to either side of the trailer. Then we are inside and I rejoice in the glory of the night with this noble horse who is finding his strength again thanks in large part to Agathe’s grounded influence.


The ferry

Fortunately, we have given ourselves ample time to get to the ferry, for it is difficult to find. At the first two boats we are informed that no ferry is scheduled to sail tonight, which is rather disconcerting to hear but we persevere and third time lucky we find the right vessel. On and off-shore, the staff are exceedingly helpful and enable us to board without having to reverse. We give the horses water and hay and make our way upstairs to the passenger decks. There we learn that we will only be able to see the horses again at two o’clock in the morning, so we dutifully set our alarm clocks.

Spot the horse trailer on the ferry.

Spot the horse trailer on the ferry.

Again fortunately, Agathe and I have been assigned a cabin together, which we do not have to share with anyone else, as the trip is far from fully booked. At two in the morning we are guided downstairs to the horses. They are calm and relaxed. For their sakes and mine I am thankful that the sea is calm. We give them water and hay. Tunante has been drinking well since we boarded. The hay nets we do not bother with. Tunante is content to eat from the floor of the trailer and Clarita from the ledge in front of her. Utter calm while munching away, at last. A mental note: ensure that you have the same type of hay nets when travelling with two horses in the same trailer in the future. It reduces the potential for competing for food.


Mission accomplished

Although we sleep well, the night is short as the ferry docks at seven in the morning. We are amongst the first out and make our way out of the harbour and along the Palma waterfront until we are on the motorway heading south-east. Not too long after we arrive at our destination, an eight-acre (about 3.2 hectares) property, lushly green with sugar-laden grass, which will sorely test the polo horses, who are accustomed to a sober diet more closely complementing their physiology. Still, that is not our problem. We unload the horses and release them. Mission accomplished.

In the huge green candy factory which is the polo horses' new home

In the huge green candy factory which is the polo horses’ new home

Emma and Arthur are happy to see their new horses, especially when they observe them revel in the spacious field into which they are released after their lengthy confinement, galloping around it several times before burying their muzzles in the damp grass. Our hosts insist on us staying for breakfast, in the course of which Clarita brings down the temporary fencing. The horses are led into a large covered shed which was once the milking centre of a dairy farm and has now been converted into a stable. Just as well, I think, for a sugar overload on the very first day would do neither of them any good.

Taking leave of Clarita and Tunante, content and at home

Taking leave of Clarita and Tunante, content and at home

Alone, I take my leave of the horses. Calm and relaxed, their muzzles are now buried in a thick covering of straw on the floor. I spend a few minutes tuning in to their energy. It is comforting.

As we drive out I reflect on the effects of travel on horses. Anaïs lost a tenth of her body mass and developed a respiratory condition when we brought her over from Australia. Both her and Pip were confined in a lorry for almost four days when we moved them to Spain, which did neither of them much good, especially Pip. What we do when we transport them, is it fair? Can we really justify it on the grounds of it being for our pleasure, when we know that it is neither for theirs nor their wellbeing? And yet, has not Tunante calmed down beautifully during his trip and have not both he and Clarita developed the beginnings of what may turn out to be a close relationship during their confinement in the trailer?

Just arrived in Holland, Anaïs inspecting the facilities with Andrew.

Just arrived in Holland, Anaïs inspecting the facilities with Andrew.



The daylight hours Agathe and I devote to playing tourist in Palma, as we had done in Valencia a day earlier, before heading to the port on our way back home. This time the ferry is full and the closest we get to sleep is an uncomfortable night in a chair. A day’s drive gets us back to where we started, tired but content.

On the face of it, the journey has been gloriously uneventful, even smooth for the most part. And yet I feel that so very much has happened below the surface of everyday occurrences. More than anything, reflection on relations between horses and humans – both inter and intra-species – during this trip is building on past experience to lead me inexorably to the growing conviction that energy has the potential to play a, if not the, pivotal role in interaction between sentient creatures. And again, I have witnessed first hand how instrumental it is in helping humans interact with and care for horses.

Body language: authentic consciousness embodied by the human in action

Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling is absolutely right to insist that it all starts with the human. Without developing our body and spiritual awareness – where “spiritual” refers to our capacity to live consciously and authentically rather than the pursuit of some “pie-in-the-sky” – our capacity to influence and interact with horses is reduced to a mundane reliance on force or the threat of force accompanied by an armoury of restraints and instruments of coercion which have more in common with bondage and discipline sessions between non-consenting creatures than dancing with one of the most sensitive species to grace this earth which we call home.

In short, this has been another major light-bulb moment for me. The mission of this man from Málaga to Mallorca has truly been accomplished thanks to the horses and a sensitive friend cum sister-in-law. There are times when I feel truly blessed and this is one of them.

A tourist's view of Palma, Mallorca

A tourist’s view of Palma, Mallorca



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2 Responses to “Mission to Mallorca”

  1. Patrick says:

    hullo again from Patrick and thanks for that advice to ensure two identical type haynets in a two horse trailer.

  2. Hi Andrew, great blog, I totally agree, being conscious , present and feeling energy is what its all about. Energy is something I have played with for a long time and only recently really felt. I feel it in everything now and we are all connected through it, so thank you for being brave enough to talk about these things, not everyone is open to it. or ready. I think the world is changing and more of us are becoming truly awake. Regards, Jayne.