"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Bloodline: My Mother

My mother's story is so awesome that even as a child, I recognized it. Somewhere back in the old house in Puerto Rico, there is an illustrated version of my mom's story of her horse, Brisa, by yours truly. This is the first story I want to tell you. 

But to tell you the story of my mother, I must first tell you about my grandfather.

I come from a long line of horsemen. Horsemen of power who owned enormous sugar cane plantations and cattle haciendas that bred their own horses for working their ranches.  What breed were these horses? Why, Paso Finos, of course. 

One of the last remaining sugar cane fields on the island. Photo taken by me in the late 1990's. These fields are long gone.

The Paso Fino breed is originally from Puerto Rico, a mix of Andalusian, Spanish Jennet, Spanish Barb and some Morgan. Their gait started as an adaptation to the mountainous terrain of the island. It was then deliberately bred for, as gaited horses were so much more comfortable to ride when checking fence lines for entire days at a time. The Paso Fino was originally bred to be a working farm horse. My ancestors were long riders, men who spent more time on their horses than on their own two feet.

My family owned the land over which the great metropolis of Bayamon and Guaynabo developed, two of what are now the largest and wealthiest cities of the island. There are streets and neighborhoods in these two cities named after my great-grandparents.

My grandfather was the last in that line of power. He was the last to own huge expanses of land, the last to breed his own horses. 

My grandfather as a young man, on his gorgeous bay Paso stallion, Beibi, out riding on my great-grandfather's hacienda.
He had four children: three daughters and a son. My mother was the eldest daughter. When each of the children came of age, they were gifted a horse, but my mother was the only one of the siblings that carried in her blood the love for all things equestrian. 

My uncle Rafa on Morito, a gray gaited pony my grandfather bought for $50 outside of a convenience store! He taught the four siblings how to ride.
My mother was given a sorrel mare. She was a chestnut with a golden mane and tail. They called her La Rubia. "The Blonde". She was pregnant by a Palomino stallion named Casablanca, the grandson of Dulce Sueño. Dulce Sueño is the foundation sire of the Paso Fino breed.

Casa Blanca later became one of the first Paso Finos to be imported to the United States and is considered one of the foundation sires of the American strain of the Paso Fino.
La Rubia gave birth to a colt. Almost white when he was born, he shed out to a lovely Palomino like his sire, golden with dapples that shimmered in the hot island sun.

My mother called him Brisa. "Breeze". He was trained by my grandfather's trainer, Sandalio, one of the last Puerto Ricans with known Taino Indian bloodlines. Sandalio was special. Horses naturally trusted him and followed him in the fields, without ropes or halters to lead them with. In a time long before natural horsemanship was a thing, Sandalio's skills were nothing short of magical. 

He broke Brisa to saddle and brought him to my mother on the day of her 15th birthday, ready to be ridden by her for the first time. My grandmother was deathly afraid of horses and was so terrified by the idea of her eldest daughter riding this young stallion that she hid at the back of the house, crying hysterically. 

From that day forward, Brisa was my mother's horse and only hers. He only allowed her to ride him. His heart was hers. His heart, which had a defect. A defect so severe that at age 7, the family veterinarian turned to my mother after  a physical exam and said, "The only thing keeping this horse alive right now is his love for you." Brisa required weekly injections to keep him going. The injections could only be given when my mother was present: he was untouchable without her there. If she was there, he stood quietly for the veterinarian with nary a complaint. 

Just one month later, on a day when my mother was away for her college classes, he walked to the farthest reaches of the back field to die. My grandfather found his body right before my mother got home from school, at the same time as the man that would be my father showed up at the house for the first time ever. 

My father had been attempting to court my mother for a while but she had never been really interested. He chose both the worst and best possible day to show up uninvited.

My grandfather did not tell my mother that Brisa had died. My father walked in right then and the entire family basically forced my mom to leave with him in a desperate attempt to get her out of the house before she learned what had happened.

And that is how my mother ended up on her first date with my dad.

Brisa was buried that afternoon, in the last remaining acreage owned by our family, behind the house my grandfather built where I would later grow up. My mother learned of his death upon returning from her date.

My father always asked my mother if she ever really did love him, or if she had simply transferred her love for Brisa to my father. 

Perhaps the answer lay in the fact that my mother never owned horses again. 

Until I came along, close to a decade later.

Hint: the adult in this photo? That is NOT me!
This was the first pony I ever rode. :)


  1. What a fabulous story. Thank you for sharing

  2. The photos are a really nice touch to these incredible tales <3 I cannot wait for more!

  3. I can't tell you how much I enjoy these stories and your writing! A world I know NOTHING about and you tell it so beautifully... I'm so sorry about your mother's beautiful Palomino stallion. Was she terribly angry at her father for burying him before she could see him (I would have been)? I'm sure he thought that was the right thing to do but oh boy, I would have been furious... Amazing that she was out with your father at the time!

    You look exactly like your mom but I'm sure you always hear that. ;)