When Christopher Columbus bought the 153 Andalusian horses he planned to travel to the Indies with, the steed merchant hoodwinked him and – a handful of days before setting sail – sold him Berber ponies. Columbus had no choice but to take them with him on his voyage and thus return the horse back to the Americas, a land this creature had abandoned millions of years ago upon extinction.
Once back on the continent, some individuals managed to escape the tyrant Conquistadors, flee into the mountains and hide in the remote páramo expanses, making places like Mount Cotopaxi their secret home. Horses have coexisted with humans for only some 5,000 years (out of the 60 million years that horses have existed on this planet), and since Medieval times Man has maintained a relationship of submission with this animal. Cotopaxi, it turns out, is one of the few places in the world where they run truly free.
Juan Bernardo Bermeo has dedicated his life to understanding the world of horses. He has been studying and observing the behavior of the groups that have settled in Cotopaxi – their movements, their food, how they live, how they interact, even how they play. He has employed the studies of the herds which roam the páramo wilderness to develop situational leadership programs for humans.
As the only mammal that does not vocally express pain, horses allowed humans to believe they felt no pain. This is why they were considered noble animals. They never complain. But few true lovers of these noble animals understand that their happiness depends on the space they enjoy, the pasture they graze freely on, the community with which they live, their freedom.
Horse-lovers like Bermeo truly understand that saddles, balanced meals and stables only encourage a torturous life. They know, deep inside, that the real challenge is to leave a horse free. Not think of mounting it with the equipment the methods that Man has created for his own leisure and ease.
Myths from various cultures around the world tell that when thunder strikes, a horse is born on Earth. Walking through the wilderness of Mount Cotopaxi, it’s easy to believe this myth. To watch these runaways, without stable to return to, without a rider to tell them where to go, where to stop, or when to gallop, these wild horses continue to live with instincts that have been saved for millions of years in their gene pool; instincts Man still has not learned to comprehend.