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A Q&A with Dressage Star Presenters Pedro Torres

Who? Pedro Torres

What? Dressage star presenter and a world champion in working equitation

Where? Sintra, Portugal

Awards? Three time team world champ, individual and reserve individual world champ; six time individual European riding champion

What’s your first horsey memory?

When I was little I had a pony – Navarro – it was a nice pony and belonged to my father who lived on a little farm. Navarro was my first contact to sit on a horse. I was five. Then I was just riding at home. My parents were separated so every second weekend I had time with my father – it started my passion for horses. Every time I see a horse my heart goes a little more strong. Started like that at the beginning. At eight or nine I went to riding school in Lisbon but I didn’t start competing until quite late – 19 or 20. Working equitation was not so popular in that time. I started with normal dressage and also a little showjumping. Then working equitation appeared in Portugal in 1996 – the discipline was just mostly in the Mediterranean countries...

Working equitation involves a dressage test along with exercises done in the fields like controlling cattle and other farm-type tasks and finishing with an outright speed test where the fastest combination win.

I do love it. I am a trainer for the Portuguese team and for a lot of riders from other countries. Portugal always do very well at both the European and World Champs. Really strong. It is a part of our culture.

Favourite horsey memory?

Oxidado, which means rusty, has been a very good horse for me. He is now 23 and fantastic. I use him for demonstrations now. I remember 2002, it was world championships. I was in the speed test with him. At that time it was really hard to win the speed test. I really needed to win to get in front of the leader. I was a little nervous outside but immediately the horse went in and the public started to clap. He was like a rocket – amazing. I was five seconds faster than second place. I love that memory. When I looked at the clock we were so fast – it was very very special.

Oxidado is a Lusitano stallion and while just 160cm has huge presence. He has been with Pedro since he was just three-and-a-half years of age.

He is a funny horse and he has really taught me a lot. The way I ride is from him. He is a very strong character – he says, ‘I will not be a slave, but I will be your partner’. He is full of power and his character is like his strength. I have to convince him to do things but in difficult situations, he will take the reins

What is the best thing ever?

I love to ride – I love to feel the horses, feel the temperament and the movement. It is like a drug. Every time I sit on a horse, I am in heaven – on any horse. The movement and the communication is magic. When I sit (on a horse), I try to figure out what kind of horse it is – is he shy or strong. I try immediately to make a dialogue – that is my passion. Understand the mechanics, the brain and learn lots of techniques.

How do you describe yourself and why?

To be happy – this is my first rule in life. I am born to be happy and I have a fantastic family to help me. Everything around me – my team, things, animals , horses – it is what I am born to be . . . happy.

First time to EQUITANA?

Yes – in Melbourne. I have been in Germany 2001 and 2003 – both times in the show. In 2003 I was in the big show at night.

What are you loving most?

The people here are a big surprise to me. They like a lot of horsemanship – not just a specific group but everything. They are very open – like a sponge – to absorb everything that is possible around the horse. As a judge for The Way Of The Horse, I am so impressed with what they are doing. It is crazy what these men are doing in such a short time. I am very impressed and really enjoying being a judge.

Tell me about your masterclass?

I think the people want to see me on the horse. To share what I feel on that horse in that moment and what kind of techniques and decisions I make to use the horse in a better way. I give the trust to the horse in that lesson and I try to really share my feelings.

How have your found the horses here?

I received 10 and I chose five from that. I chose the horses that fit better to me and have an immediate connection. It is not easy for a horse to sometimes go in the middle of the audience. The horses here have been fantastic – particularly the big grey Spanish one and the brown mare – she was very tense in the beginning and I could feel the heart between my legs, but minute by minute she started to trust me and did very well.

What is your best training tip?

When I communicate with people, I try to keep it simple. The horse is not a complicated animal and people sometimes make it too complicate. Easy signals make better results. I try to teach that – it doesn’t have to be difficult. It has to be easy too for the horse to understand your signals.

What do people generally do wrong with their horses?

They squeeze their legs and hold at the same time – sometimes it is a problem in the balance (of the rider) and other times it has started to be like a cycle . . . the signals get too close together and it becomes confusing for the horse, but you see it all the time. In Portugal there is a saying – when you ride your horse you have to use legs without hands, and hands without legs.

What does a normal day look like for you?

I wake up 6.30am and help prepare my daughters (six-year-old Carmen and seven-year-old Leonor) for school. Then, when they have gone to school my wife Claudia and I have breakfast together before I go to the horses and ride or give lessons. On Monday evenings I have Spanish dancing lessons – my wife Claudia is a dancing instructor. I would like to be better. On the horse I think I have very good coordination but dancing is not so easy for me to have the same coordination of the body. And on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday I have boxing training for coordination and fitness.

Are your daughters budding young riders?

Both of them ride and dance and so far, they like it a lot . . . Carmen more for horses and Leonor more for dancing.

What is the most important thing people can do with their horse?

I think to be patient and respect your horse. Many people I see love their horse but what they do many times is not respecting so much. More understanding, listen to your horse and be very patient. My best horses come to me with a lot of problems and in the end, they are fantastic . . . not Oxidado because I started him from the beginning. I do love to be challenged and this for me is a big challenge – why and what can be changed and what is the best performance to do in the end.

What is your proudest moment?

It is every day – today – every time I look back and what I have around me. My family, my horses and my team . . . this is my proud moment. Every moment in my life I try to have more of this. This is my way of living. I want to be happy. When I say to someone I am going to do it – I do it – if I don’t like it, I don’t repeat it. I am not rich but rich enough to say no if I don’t like it. It is good energy where we live too.

What are your goals?

My best wish is just to ride better – I learn from everyone. My father gave me a lot of knowledge in the beginning of my life. I learn with my friend of 20 years, Joao Pedro Rodrigues who is the master of the Portuguese Riding School. I have been with the school for seven years and I learn a lot from him.