Back in the 1980s, José Soto Cortés - better known as El Tijeritas - used to sing that love was like a horse: it is fast, and if you are enamoured of someone no reins can hold you back. Now, every Wednesday at Club Hípico El Ranchito, visitors can watch and enjoy a short love story between a dancer, a rider and his horse to the rhythm of 'sevillana' music, and this show is now about to be performed at the Malaga Fair.
Although it only lasts for a few minutes, it appears to be a relationship which has become consolidated over time, thanks to the more than evident chemistry, rapport and respect between the three of them. However, in reality Estrella Lara, José Carlos González and Profeta have only been dancing as a threesome for a few weeks and it is their hard work and training that gives a different impression.
"Although it is the first time I have worked with this horse and its rider, anyone who sees the show has to think I have been dancing with them all my life," says Estrella, who has been at El Ranchito for nearly three years.
And Profeta XII, a six-year-old thoroughbred, is a very special horse. As José Carlos González, Spanish classical dressage champion and Profeta's trainer, says: "He is a gifted horse and if he were a human, he would have a very high IQ".
The horse was born on this family firm's finca in Álora and came to El Ranchito when he was only two years old to start his education, which has been speedier than most horses due to his ability and quick learning: "Everything we do in training today, he will remember perfectly tomorrow, as if we were just continuing the lesson. He obviously does his homework at night!" José Carlos says.
Profeta's training is essentially based on repetition, and they avoid generating tense a atmosphere that could cause him stress. That's why the horse works for one hour a day from Mondays to Fridays; during that time he warms-up, does stretching and flexibility exercises and a few others.
"The horse has to come out and train, he can't learn in a stable. He has to be like an athlete, who trains every day to reach this standard. And that is where he is now, six years old and starting to make his debut," says his trainer.
After the training session, Profeta is given a few quiet moments to rest before going back into the stable. Although as González explains, sometimes the horse has internalised the exercise so well that he does it straight away: "You let him out then, because he has done his work well. You take him out into the field and you reward him. He likes that because he relaxes, it can't all be work, you have to give him something more. I'm the one who has to work long hours," he laughs.
Trust is essential in any relationship and that also applies to a relationship that takes place on the dance floor. Even more so, in fact, when your partner is an animal who weighs half a tonne.
Several dancers have preceded Lara and some were very talented at dancing sevillanas, but none have shown as much courage and composure as this 21-year-old.
"Estrella does a great job and has a lot of trust in me, because she doesn't only need courage herself, she has to have confidence in me and in Profeta as well, and know that the horse is going to respect her," says González.
That trust between the three of them creates an almost perfect symbiosis every time the first chords of the music are heard, when the horse seems to move around the dancer with no need to follow the instructions of the rider, which are practically imperceptible to the audience. This is precisely one of the objectives of dressage, that the rider and the animal are perfectly matched in mind and body, so the movements are not noticed.
"The horse has to feel me through all his senses except sight, because he only has to see her and what she is doing. He has to listen to me through my changes of position, so he knows which exercise we are going to do. I handle Profeta through the contact with the reins, with my hand and his mouth, which is what joins us together," González explains.
Dancing sevillanas in front of a horse is nothing new. It is a discipline which began several years ago but it would be wrong to sum it up just as a horse dancing around a girl while music plays. "The horse has to do dressage, with a good 'passage' and a good 'piaffe' and a good 'paso español'. And he has to do all those exercises within 20 square metres, which is why it is difficult," he says.
Before each show, they ensure that Profeta familiarises himself with Estrella and the outfit she will be wearing during the performance - the frills, the colour of the dress and accessories that could make the horse nervous - and anything she will be using during the dance, such as a fan or shawl.
Although they have been working together for only a short time, she has complete trust in José Carlos and Profeta, although she admits that there is always a slight feeling of fear as well.
"In the end we are talking about an animal, who communicates through his movements. Nobody can tell I'm afraid, because I know the horse and the rider and I know that if he is scared because I have made a sudden movement, José Carlos will be prepared for that and I won't get trampled on," she says.
Despite Profeta's extraordinary progress for a horse of his age, González is still cautious and maintains some distance from Estrella every time they do a show, because the animal's learning process is constant.
"It's not just a case of him not being scared by the girl's movements, or the colours or the frills, he has to learn that she is meant to be there and he has to respect her," he says. The work with the dancer is also constant, and there is a strong connection between Lara and González.
"She knows how far I can or can't go," says the rider, who recognises that his experience in the bullring can make him too brave sometimes, although he is always extremely careful. "A horse, without meaning to, could take a slightly bigger step and knock her down or trample her. But it's like bullfighting, if the bull doesn't get close to the bullfighter, there won't be that sense of thrill. Well, it's the same with this," he says.
When the last Malaga Fair took place, in 2019, Profeta was starting his education at the riding school. Now, three years later, he will be making his debut at the equestrian 'caseta' in the fairground, taking part in several numbers during the seven-day event.
This year will also be special, not just because it is the first fair for three years, but because El Ranchito will be celebrating its fifth anniversary as a participant in these free activities which attract large numbers of people.
For this occasion they will be incorporating some new features, such as the number called 'la garrocha' which represents the work done with fighting bulls in the countryside.
The show will be marked by its variety, alternating basic numbers such as the high-stepping horses with the sevillana dances, among others, and there will be special emphasis on female riders: "We are going to introduce parity between men and women at this fair, in numbers like 'La Vaquera', which will be performed by two boys and two girls, and 'Binomio Ecuestre', which will be two girls on their own," he explains.
Until the fair begins, Profeta will continue to train every day at El Ranchito, developing his already high abilities even more. All with the aim of achieving the perfection of that wonderful fusion created between the rider, his horse and the dancer, to the sound of sevillana music.
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