This photo was taken about two years before I got Coro, and represents the beginning of my love affair with Spanish horses, turning into an interest in Latin culture (another affinity shared with my mother, who adventured in South America as a young woman and was fluent in Spanish), dreams of travel, and the shape of my life. I had read about the Paso Fino in Western Horseman magazine - who can say what about the chestnut stallion struck a chord with me but they instantly became my favorite breed, and imagine my delight when I located a breeder in nearby Mancos in the yellow pages. (I later learned that the foundation sire Hilachas spent his retirement in Hesperus, Colorado, probably the reason for the area becoming a southwestern hub for the relatively uncommon breed). I boldly called the farm owner and he invited us to come for a test ride. At the time, another horse was out of the question, and solidified by the designer price tags of Pasos in those years. Undeterred, I tried to soak up the experience of getting to ride one - I laughed as she seemed to glide over the ground, her feet staccatoing over the gravel. A momentous instant captured against the La Plata mountains, as this sweet buckskin mare cortoed up and down the driveway, who knew that I would go from helmet-less, inappropriate-sandal-wearing teenager riding with my toes pointed down, to later training a Paso Fino gelding myself, always keeping horses close, learning how to really ride, trying to build a career out of them, and discovering who I was from the vantage point of their backs?
That mare's name was Duende, one of the many Spanish words for which we have no real English equivalent, a word at the heart of their most expressive art form, flamenco. Just one of so many threads that have intertwined and led me to where I am today. While I now pursue dressage and so prefer a trotting horse to a gaited horse (my Coro seemed to point me this direction in his own way by being decidedly non-gaited despite an impressive pedigree), my favorite breeds now the Andalusian and Lusitano (whose blood contributed to the Paso Finos that developed in the New World), I will always hold buckskins and Paso Finos in high regard. Next year I will at last travel to Spain - the culmination of so much of what began on that fateful day. I will get to see Andalusians bedecked in flowers, I will get to hear the intricate strains of flamenco and answer the call of an unseen country that has been beckoning for decades.