OWNER, GRELO FARMS
RIDING MASTER, HORSE TRAINER, PHILOSOPHER
Established in 1978, Frank’s boarding, training and breeding facility — the first Lusitano breeding farm in Canada — occupies 40 acres in Caledon. Students from all over the world come to learn Classical Riding and more from this legendary teacher, who came to Canada from Portugal in 1971.
When you first came to Caledon, was classical riding established here?
So-called classical riding was very unknown. There was lots of cowboys and lots of quarter horses, but nothing like this.
Was there an appetite for it?
Well, when things are unknown nobody has the appetite, right? It was a creation. I started my school, brought in some horses, boarded some horses, showed them a little bit in the fairs and along and along, bit by bit, the appetite was created.
Speaking of teaching, you’ve said that your horses have been your teachers.
The philosophy, the reality is, the horse cannot reason like a person. The horse acts and reacts in an instinctive way, but deep inside they have feelings and fears, they are horses, they are animals. The invention of riding was not by the horse — it was by man, so it is a conquest to conquer an animal, to convince him to ride. Of course to have that, you have to have the reasoning, the tact, the respect, the approach to the animal, in order to get him on your side. To bring back the second nature of the animal, doing the things that they do so graceful in their liberty.
You can create unity between you and your horse, and bring out the gracefulness of his own nature. The walk, the trot, the passage, the piaffer, the cabrioles, all those things that the little colt, an hour or two after he is born he’s already doing on his own. That’s the beauty of the whole thing.
But like you’ve also said, you have to recognize that the horse is separate from ourselves.
It’s a different being. Mankind is a very new species compared to the horse. They’ve been around for about 60 million years, mankind for two million. It’s a big difference. Instinctively, the horse can survive a lot better than you and I out there!
Sometimes we think the horse is like a car, like we’re in charge, but it’s not.
You need to reason like a horse reasons, then make the horse follow your reasoning, and that’s the way you learn from the horse. The horse is going to be your ultimate teacher.
You need to figure out the animal and yourself, and how you connect. The horse does not connect with you like a car that comes with instructions, where you read the book and press the buttons. The horse will always fear you to begin with, as you fear the horse. Then there has to be fusion between the two — and of course, we are supposed to be the intelligent one. We are the ones who want to ride the horse, the horse doesn’t want to be ridden by you. So in the approach there’s caution, there has to be understanding, and then finally, again, it’s a conquest.
If you treat them with firmness, with guidance and with respect, the horse will end up understanding and deciphering what you want from him, because you treat him as he is, not what you think he should be. You cannot treat a horse like a human, but in human terms, it’s like, “I want to ride you, I know who you are, I know I’m a wolf to you because I’m a predator to you.” They know that very well. And you have to realize that’s just the way it is.
Frank, I think you should not just give horse advice, I think you should give marriage advice too.
You know what, around me I’ve got lots of people, and the philosophy is not only for the horses…
That’s what I’m saying!
It’s a philosophy of life. Look, we all have words and with words we can make things clear, or we can hide them. But with the horse, you cannot hide anything. You have to be as clear to the animal as the animal is clear to you. Because if things don’t go well with him, he lets you know instantly. He doesn’t go, No, I’ll catch you the next time. It’s now! The horse is not going to wait for tomorrow to tell you.
You have two daughters and they ride — did your wife ever ride?
My wife, no. She likes cooking and I like eating. It’s a good combination. But the girls are extremely good riders, and they both enjoy riding, they can train and even teach. But they don’t have this life. Melissa has a TV show, Rosanna is also in show business.
How many students do you have in general?
I’ve got about 20 boarders with their own horses in my barn, and all of them are my students. Then of course some others come from other places, from Japan, Russia, Florida, Spain, Brazil, Mexico… people who like horses and like what I do come for a visit and stay for a few days. Often they’ll come for their riding in the morning, and then they tour the region.
Thank you, professor.