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We Are Flying Solo

September 22, 2010

Day 3.1: La Merced Baja

After we passed under the gate, the horses had only one thing in mind. Capuli, my hardy little horse named after a tart native cherry, made a beeline for relief!

You can also hear Gaspar in the background discussing the farm's stallions. Oh, did I not mention they had stallions? Well, guess what, La Merced Baja (I can't read their website, I just look at the pretty pictures) breeds wonderful Pure Spanish Horses (PRE; Pura Raza Espanola). This baroque breed is subject to much inspection and regulation, as we learn at dinner, and you can see the results in their pastures. I also learn that "Andalusian" is just a generic term that marketers in the US love -- we think it's a special special breed, but in reality, it can refer to any number of thick-necked hairy horses of European origin and doesn't mean much at all. And by the way, should you want a hairy, thick-necked horse with a talent for collection and suspension, importing one from South America is wayyyyyyyyy cheaper than getting one from Europe. And this farm, at least, is breeding quality, nestled in this beautiful valley.

Their prize stallion is Kilimanyaro (but pronounce the "y" like a "j", like the mountain in Africa). He is 20 but he looks 13. To get to Ecuador from Spain, as a 3 year old, he spent 8 days on a ship, locked in a container without moving. They were heartbroken when they picked him up at the dock, he could barely move. It's a testament to the toughness of these horses that he survived!

And you know what's cool?  He gets to be a horse.  All their stock are used, working the farm.  There are 125 head of dairy cattle and a herd of Spanish fighting bulls to tend to daily.  The breeding goal:  to produce a beautiful-moving horse that also has a good brain and a solid, working temperament.  Their oldest son is even showing one of their youngsters in the show jumping ring (I tried to convince them that they needed to give me one so I could teach it to event and expand their market.  For some reason, they laughed at me...) over serious jumps and doing well!  But each horse is out in the pasture all day, muddy and happy and snarfing down grass.  Kilimayaro, of course, gets his own pasture next to the mares, where he can keep a watchful eye on goings-on.

 There are also two older stallions enjoying retirement with great dignity.

The yearlings get their own pasture. Manes and tails are kept cut short until the horses are four years old so it's easy to see conformation and movement unfolding. Each horse must be inspected three times if it will be used for breeding, so it's important to keep a sharp eye on what's growing out there.

Then there are this year's babies. Because who doesn't love baby horses! The littlest one is just starting his halter training and he is all sass and vigor. I measure his legs with eyes, trying to figure out how to best fit him in my suitcase.

As with most grey horses, the foals are born dark and lighten to white by about age 6 or so. A rare few do stay dark though, like this mare.

I think my favourites though, were a pair of two year old stallions who always came running to the fence if a person walked by. Absolute love bugs they were and if you stopped scratching their heads and tried to walk away, they would follow you down the fenceline, nickering for more. The darker one was my favourite and his is the pride of the farm, as Kilimanyaro's son. He has absolutely exquisite movement and when he sits down and trots, he looks like he belongs in the ring at Devon with a blue ribbon on his neck.

More scritches, please! His name is Kilimanyaro MB (for "Merced Baja"). And there are even more! They've also imported two young 5-6 year old stallions from Spain to bring fresh blood to the program. Of course, they are lovely too. This one is Falcon IV -- a bit into the video, he brings his head up and you can see quality just oozing out of him.

Needless to say, I went to bed tired that night, worn out from staring at so many beautiful horses at once. I built a big fire in our room (no small feat in Ecuador, where fires sputter and go out in the low-oxygen air), snuggled up with the hot water bottle and passed out.


  1. Aaaaaaaawww! Cute pooonieeess! And lying doooown poooonies! And BABY pooooonies!
    Why didn't you steal one of those foals for me?! I'm sure the customs guys at MIA totally wouldn't have minded you smuggling a cute little foal into the country!

  2. Absolutely beautiful ponies!!! Thanks for sharing!

  3. I'm sooooooo in love with Iberian horses. These are GREAT pictures, and I'm so jealous!! It's great to hear how well they treat their horses, and I love that the Stallions are allowed, y'know, OUTSIDE:)
    I still don't get the short tails on the youngsters, though. Manes, I guess I could see, but I just feel bad for the babies with no tails-how do they keep the flies away?
    Anyway, thanks for sharing! I can't wait to finally ride an Andalusian or Lusitano in some exotic land somewhere:)

  4. I tried, Frizz, I really did! They got all angry when they heard the nickering coming from my carry-on, the stingy bastards! I think even the farm hands were a little worried about the weird lady who stood by the fence for hours staring hungrily at the ponies and flashing the camera at them 300 times.

    Miles, actually there are no annoying bugs there, it's amazing. It felt just wrong to be standing in a dairy yard and see zero flies, but such is the magic of elevation!

  5. What beautiful horses! And what a fabulous adventure you had!