By Anna Domings, Guest Editor (*) — Down a long and winding road in the small town of Merrimac, Massachusetts, is a quiet haven of Portuguese culture. Sons of the Wind, owned by Victor Silva, is a horse farm, which exclusively breeds, trains, and sells Lusitanos, a breed which originates from Portugal.
The farm offers regular lessons with a specific ideology developed by Mr. Silva, who says that his life has always been lived around horses. “The chapters of my life are defined by the horses in it,” he says.
Growing up on Terceira, an island that is part of the Azores, Mr. Silva says his first contact with horses was through the working horses they kept on the family farm. His father was from Lisbon, and he brought the Lusitano from the mainland to Terceira.
The Lusitano was first developed as a war horse, which made them perfect for later work in the bullfighting ring; they need the agility and courage to outmaneuver a bull. Mr. Silva’s father’s interest was what first introduced him to the breed. “They are bred to be bullfighting horses,” he says. “They are hot, they are noble, and they are willing to please—that’s why I like them.”
But every horse, no matter the breed, has its limitations, and Mr. Silva believes it is important to know them. “In any breed of horse, three percent are exceptional horses, fifteen percent are good horses, and the rest are just horses.”
In order to get to know these limitations, Mr. Silva has developed a special training program designed to connect the rider and the horse so that perfect synergy can be achieved. “Whatever you do on top of the horse, you must first do on the ground,” he explains. “You should know the footfalls of the horse before riding. First you spend time grooming the horse and developing a relationship. Then you go to the lunge line. You do exercises on the horse without reins to practice balance, to create an ‘independent seat.’”
Before horse meets rider, however, Mr. Silva has to determine that the horse is fit for life on the farm. He goes four or five times a year to Brazil, where a Lusitano breeding program is set up. There, he watches the training and analyzes how the horse is coming along. Once he purchases and brings the horse back to the farm, he closely monitors behavior, nutrition, and other important factors of the horse.
Besides buying horses, Mr. Silva also breeds them. Merrimac’s farm is home to eighty horses living on twenty-eight acres, twenty of which are stallions, and one or two are brood mares. Sons of the Wind has also expanded to Florida, where there is a farm spanning fifty-five acres with seventy horses.
On Saturday, June 4, from 2 to 6 p.m., Sons of the Wind is holding the Portuguese Festival of the Lusitano at its Merrimac location (84 Birch Meadow Rd., Merrimac, MA).
Proceeds will benefit the “Ride For Life” and the Johns Hopkins Avon Foundation Breast Center Foundation. Anyone living in the area who is interested should attend what promises to be a spectacular demonstration of Portuguese heritage.
A $5 donation, $12 per family, is accepted at the gate. For more information, visit Sons of the Wind Farm, or call 978-423-9619.
(*) Anna Domings is an intern at PAJ. She is a third generation Portuguese American with roots in São Miguel, Azores.