Walking the boardwalk in La Mision, I noticed that most of the guys renting their horses keep them firmly tied to a line. But another group of horses are just standing around, like people at a cocktail party. No ties, no restraints at all. After asking around I learned that these horses belong to Villa. One day I found him sitting in front of a cafe and asked him why they don’t wander off, run away, seek their fortune. He said, “They know their job.”
With an affectionate chuckle he elaborated. “If I’m not here at 5 o’clock, they go home without me.”
“At exactly 5?” I said, incredulous, and his reply was, “Yes.”
Villa is the working horse part of “La Mision Equestrians.” He’s a kind, gentle English speaking man who’s lived in La Mision all his life. If you have questions, or would like to schedule a ride, please contact Carlita, the administrative part, at [email protected] 760 807 9353.
Villa is a font of horse information. He told me he started training horses at age twelve, 44 years ago. Six years later he started renting horses at the beach. At one time he had 48 horses, 18 out every day giving rides, the rest in rotation or training. Now he only has 18. Only 18! Seems like a lot to me.
It took awhile for me to understand what Villa meant when he said this is the dream of his life. I think I got it.
He’s proud of his horses. They’re well trained – gentle, reliable, well controlled on the rein. They stop, go, turn. They listen to the rider and don’t buck, bite or kick. They’re happy horses. They come in the morning from the range to the coral and wait for him. They stay on the beach nicely until it’s time to go home. He says “I trust them. Each one is different, but they have something in common. They are all safe for a person to ride.”
For a brand new rider, Villa gives a one-to-one private lesson to get the first timer started. I asked if people want to buy his horses, and he said “Yes. They say, ‘This is the best horse I ever rode.’ but I don’t sell my horses.” And he doesn’t train other people’s horses either. It’s a personal thing, and he’s found that the owner might not understand his ways.
Villa has one goal – to train horses to prepare them for other people to ride safely and for fun. With this goal in mind, he is very pleased to be part of the equestrians because there’s a schedule. People make appointments and he knows ahead how many people and what time they’ll come.
This man is a phenomenon. He says he can look in a horse’s eyes and know if he’s trainable or not. He explained how he communicates back and forth with his horses–it’s not “whispering” but reading the attitude. He can tell exactly what the horse is feeling and even what he’s going to do. I believe it. A lifetime of watching, listening, and teaching horses has made him a rare expert. I looked in his eyes and saw someone I could trust.