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From Coffee to Horses

The rolling lush hills of a former coffee plantation are now home to 450 of the finest Lusitano horses in the world. The Interagro stud farm is situated just outside the small town of Itapira, an hour and a half away from the bustle of Brazil’s city of São Paulo.

450 hectares of picturesque countryside are divided up into paddocks surrounding the center of the stud farm where indoor and outdoor arenas; dressage ring in official dimensions, a breeding facility and the stallion barns are located.

A tour around the farm will show the mares and young horses grouped in different pasture divisions. In one of them, weanlings are prepared to be sent to the secondary farm only 15 minutes away, where they remain until the age of 3, returning then for breeding and training.

The mares are kept in groups of some 20 per field. The colts are turned out together in another pasture and the stallions are often grazing in individual paddocks close to the stallion barn. Certain stallions are allowed to run with the mares during the breeding season, reflecting Interagro’s intent to respect nature’s role in the procreation of these magnificent horses.

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Stallions With a Kind Temperament

A horse with a kind temperament is on the wish list of many an aspiring rider. At Interagro this is something the staff enjoy on a daily basis. One of the things that struck the publisher of Sidelines – a national US equestrian newspaper – Samantha Charles, on her visit to the Brazilian stud farm was exactly that.

Employees Use Quiet Approach

The importance placed on nurturing this gentleness in the horses at Interagro is reflected in the work methods of the stud’s employees.

The kindness and calmness of the staff’s approach is impressive. There is never a harsh word or a heavy hand involved in the management of their 450 charges. Several of the stable hands are second generation employees and have learned the philosophy and practices at an early age from their fathers and uncles.

Antonio, one of Interagro’s longstanding employees is one of the principal work riders, spending his day training horses both on the ground and in the saddle. He explained his way with horses: “If you are not hard on the horse, but kind and gentle and talk to the horse it will respect you and you will get results,” he said. “If you get nervous and try to force a horse to do something it doesn’t want to do, you will not get results – not with horses, cattle or any other animal.”


Photo: Bob Langrish

Talking to the Lusitanos with Stud Farm Manager, Cecilia

Interagro’s Managing Director, Cecilia, has a love for Lusitanos that is hard to match – not bad for someone who does not like to ride horses and up until 15 years ago had just a passing interest in them. All that changed when she met the legendary Lusitano stallion Xique-Xique.

“Xique-Xique had all this folklore around him,” Cecilia reflected on the grey stallion that has become one of the most important influences of recent Lusitano history. “I never thought I could have a relationship with a horse like I had with him.” When Cecilia walked to and from her new office doing what she first perceived to be a ‘desk job’, Xique-Xique would watch her from his nearby paddock. (“He followed me with his eyes,” she explained. ) Soon Xique-Xique had captured her attention and her interest. It was the start of a long-term rapport with the stallion that carried over into a passion for Lusitanos.

“I’m scared of riding horses,” she admitted. “But on the ground I brush them and hug them and I love to see them move. What I love to do is observe them in the pasture – not in the arena or in their stall.

“At the end of the day I love to just sit and watch them. You can see their character. It’s a lovely way to understand and recognize a horse. Every horse here [at Interagro in Brazil] has a story and its own peculiarities. I know who prefers to eat in the morning, who prefers to eat in the afternoon and who prefers to wait. I know the way they like to be brushed. They may all be horses, and all the same breed but they are individuals and they show you their personality.”

Cecilia had planned to be a vet before being offered the job at Interagro – a decision that changed her life and her interests.

“It’s not just a job,” she said. “It’s a pleasure – a way of life. It’s fascinating to watch them – just look at their eyes.


Photo: Bob Langrish