By guest author Susan Liset
It is summertime in Ontario and people are excited to get back on their horses and ride free of pandemic stress and precaution. Last Tuesday, we couldn’t wait any longer and a bunch of us girls drove north and went horseback riding with Eurico da Silva at Halton Place.
You could call it horse therapy, I suppose, but our impromptu riding program wasn’t real equine-assisted therapy as we don’t have a medically sanctioned treatment plan. We’d be doing the real program a disservice by describing our outing as therapeutic, but that’s how we treated it in our minds. We met and hung out with a world-class jockey who has won the Queen’s Plate twice and just published a best-selling book chronicling his career. Eurico rose from poverty in Brazil to ride and win some of the biggest horseraces on planet Earth.
Eurico Rosa da Silva doesn’t give horseback riding lessons to new riders or even other professionals. He’s famous and was regularly featured on Canadian Thoroughbred magazine as he won race after race at Woodbine throughout his career. Today he’s more likely to be discussed in HorseSport magazine as he charts a new course toward an even bigger challenge.
At age 45, Eurico has now officially retired from horseracing and has started a new business to help Canadians sharpen their brains. He calls his consulting work Mind Coaching, and he usually points to his own noggin when he speaks the name. He’s a life coach who focuses on brainwork and on helping high-powered athletes and c-suite executives build mental acuity to score more goals and win larger contracts.
He was working with us, consciously or otherwise as we groomed the horses. On some level, these animals are much like Eurico in the way they show us how to communicate. They don’t speak English, but instead, we read body language and they understand our tone of voice. When their ears are bent forward, they’re listening and attentive and their swishing tails tell us they’re happy.
Louise Masek at Look Ahead Sporthorses provided our mounts and all the tack necessary for our adventure. She’s the resident equestrian at Halton Place, which is expansive with numerous sand rings and round pens outside the horse barns, all of which are clustered around a massive indoor riding arena.
Authentic horse therapy sees patients with limited mobility galloping about in sand-bottomed arenas as they recover sensation in their digits and appendages. Horseback riding helps patients repair motor skills as they practice balance and coordination. At one point, I asked Eurico how he steers a racehorse while riding at top speed alongside sixteen other contenders in the heat and confusion of the Queen’s Plate. He replied that there’s a mind-to-mind connection he feels with winning thoroughbreds; they visualize openings and pathways forward together, instantaneously. I cannot even comprehend what that might be like, but watching him work our horses, it’s easy to believe it’s true. The gentle jockey seemed to know just what our sturdy steeds want and what they are feeling as we rode them. Eurico praised our mounts and Louise for her impeccable horse husbandry.
Equine therapists believe that feeling the physical cadence of horses in action can help stimulate a patient’s lower back and leg muscles and is especially effective for reconditioning the human spine. It’s a natural rehabilitation as old our recorded history; Hippocrates wrote about equine-assisted therapy in ancient Greece. But let’s be clear that wasn’t our prescription on Tuesday. We went to Halton Place seeking adventure, intellectual stimulation, and a break from the homogeny of being cooped in up our homes.
Horseback riding increases problem-solving, leadership, and social skills. In addition to being relaxing, riding horses can also be an excellent workout, and be remembered as a great day at the stables.
The memories we made that day are sure to live forever in our minds and the experiences we had on those horses gives us a tiny glimpse into Eurico’s life and what he offers his consulting clients. To be clear, he doesn’t take his patients riding. He prefers meditation and more sedate mental exercises, but I’m left wondering if the mind-to-mind connection he feels while piloting winning racehorses is what he packages and sells to top athletes and bankers, and maybe that’s his big secret.
You might be interested in reading, “The Queen’s Plate 2015 at Woodbine Racetrack“.