Piyayo was originally been bred and trained in Spain
for bullfighting and then purchased by a Finn who lived
in Spain, who trained him in Spanish High School dressage
and our more conventional English style of dressage.
The former school concentrates on the very highly collected,
high stepping movements while the latter works towards
greater extension. Despite Piyayo’s predominance of Spanish
blood he could produce fantastic extension albeit elevated
above ground like a hovercraft!
After some time, Piyayo’s Finnish owner had to return to his homeland and the stallion
was sold to a large prestigious riding establishment in Marbella. Apart from being used as
one of the elite riding horses for the best clients, the proprietor realised that Piyayo had
phenomenal potential as a show jumper and under her tutelage Piyayo excelled as a top
puissance horse. Unfortunately for Piyayo his star status and charisma brought him to the
attention of a British ‘countess to be’ who while not a horse rider decided that Piyayo was
the ‘accessory’ most desirable for obtaining as a wedding present.
Piyayo arrived in Britain in 1984 to the luxury of a country estate, and a spiral into abuse.
His former owner’s husband had accompanied him to Britain intending to stay for a year
to settle Piyayo in and help his new owners to ride and look after their wedding present.
Less than six months passed and Piyayo’s Spanish guardian returned to Spain in disgust
at the behaviour of Piyayo’s new owners (he had tried to persuade them to sell Piyayo
back to him in an effort to ‘save’ his charge).
Piyayo was left to an owner who considered that the way to handle a stallion was literally
to ‘lock them up and not feed them’, added to this physical abuse was the response paid
out to Piyayo for the incompetence of the guest riders who thought they could teach
Piyayo a lesson or two! The lifeline for Piyayo was his enormous spirit and gentleness,
and the groom and country estate servants who literally ‘sneaked’ food and care to him.
In all this strange change of fortune for a horse that had thus far been treated so well
Piyayo exhibited an amazing sense of humour:
The staff on the estate had on several occasions found the other horses released to roam
lose in the grounds while the stallion that the groom had turned out in the paddock was
locked back in his stable. Then one day the chauffeur watched from his rooms as Piyayo
unlocked his paddock gate and carefully shut it behind him. Piyayo then returned to the
Victorian stable block and released all the other residents before locking himself back in
his own box! From that day on an extra lock was put on gates and doors and no more
horses were released.
Less than a year after arriving in Britain, due to the ignorance and cruelty of his owners Piyayo had falsely been given the reputation of being unmanageable and savage. The penalty for failing to make his owners ‘look good’ was an appointment with the slaughterhouse. By chance I crossed paths with Wendy, Piyayo’s groom; I was not planning on acquiring a horse at the time. I had spent all my life working and training horses and had a track record of retraining so called dangerous animals (most of which were only manifesting problems caused by owners). I was in the Armed Forces and as a secondary duty I was Tri-Service Equitation Training Officer, and on that day sourcing riding facilities for my unit saddle club. Wendy asked me to at least take a look at Piyayo, he literally had two weeks before being destroyed and she thought I might be his last chance. Apparently prior to the death sentence he had been offered for sale and a few well known horsemen had viewed him but all decided he was not safe to ride or handle. My first ‘trial’ ride on Piyayo took place that weekend in the paddock he had proved so expert at escaping from. My family had bred horses for centuries and my grandfather had said always listen to a new horse and find out what he has to say rather than just what the people around him say. So I sat quite on Piyayo and let him show me what he could do, not exactly a concept I easily relished given that all his past training was totally alien to the Germanic style of riding I had been trained in. At the touch of my leg Piyayo leapt into action and took me through what I could only describe as a startling whirlwind of spins and leaps and fast changes of paces as to all intents and purposes we ‘careered’ about the paddock. Wendy told me that this performance with the ‘would be buyers’ had resulted in the title of him being unstable and unsafe to ride. At any time this 16hh powerhouse could have dumped me but he was not trying to get rid of his rider or harm me. Piyayo was reverting to his earliest training, I was sitting on top of the pride of Spain; a bullfighting horse. To this day I do not know the aids or have the skill to take a horse through the full manoeuvres that the rider and horse execute in their intricate life and death dance with the black bulls of Spain. But on that day Piyayo in his great hearted struggle to tell me in his own way just who he was gave me an exhilarating taste of another world.
From that day on for me the Tom Jones track
A Boy From Nowhere’ has always been Piyayo’s theme.
The Spanish boy, whose heart and soul was for ever searching
for his place back in Andalucia where he would always belong.
After a ride out in the estate grounds which involved Piyayo
trying out dressage routines to manipulate me into going the
route of his choice (often to avoid the cross country jumps that
he associated with abuse), I asked to arrange for another visit
to ride him out on the roads.
This request was met with shock as they did not think it would be safe and the only choice of escort ride would have to be a mare! Not really a problem as I pointed out since it was winter and a stallion certainly would not be interested in a mare at that time and given that he had freely been letting the other resident mares out on the estate in the past riding in company would be nothing to him.
The following weekend Wendy and I had an enjoyable winters ride out off Ickworth Estate and onto the busy roads surrounding Bury St Edmunds. Both horses enjoyed the change of scene and were perfectly well behaved. Some years later when my research uncovered more about Piyayo I discovered that our ride on that day was his first experience being out in traffic!
On that day it was arranged that I buy Piyayo; who was originally bought less than year before from his Spanish owners for £39 thousand, for the price of his slaughter fee.