Animal Tales: Have horse, will travel

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When Candace Platz traveled to Portugal earlier this month, she planned to look at dressage horses. Ride a few, maybe. She did not expect to actually buy one.

But then there was Enrique, with his majesty and power tempered by gentleness.

And Platz fell in love.

“I didn’t want to want him,” she said. “He was too far away. It was a huge trip. He was way too big. But what the heck. When you have the opportunity to have something extraordinary come into your life, it’s almost ungrateful to not to take it and say thank you.”

So the 9-year-old Lusitano stallion began a weeklong international odyssey using trucks, trailers and a plane to travel more than 6,000 miles from Portugal to Miami.

Platz, 66, a retired equine veterinarian and dressage champion, lives in Poland, Maine, but is staying in Florida for several months while her other horse, Fynn, recovers from a leg injury he received while they were there for dressage competitions. While Enrique will have to be quarantined in Florida for 45 days, he’ll be close enough that Platz can visit him until he’s released.

Eventually, the three of them will make their way to Maine.

Although Platz has not seen personally Enrique since she bought him in early July, she has been getting a steady stream of photos, videos and text updates from the handlers guiding her horse through multiple countries and over an ocean.

“Any question — ‘How’s he doing?’ — they had an answer,” she said. “It was really moving. They all were really rooting for him.”

Enrique started his journey at the Portugal home of Olympic rider Daniel Pinto and his wife, Aude. Enrique had been Aude’s horse, but a skiing accident prevented her from riding, at least for a while, so the couple decided to sell him.

Platz was not looking to buy. And even if she had been, Enrique was all wrong for her. On paper. 

“Horses are like boyfriends: You don’t know why you like one or the other, but you do,” she said.

She fell in love with his sweet and gentle spirit, his friendliness, the power he exuded so effortlessly.

“This horse has this quality of really tuning into the rider and really responding moment to moment to moment to what you’re asking him,” Platz said. “The combination of that with that tremendous soft power, that’s rare.”

His looks did not hurt, either.

“He’s not cute. He’s not pretty. He’s beautiful,” she said.  

But how to get a horse from southern Europe to America?

“For someone like me, a kid from Maine, that’s kind of like, oh my goodness,” Platz said.

A veterinarian friend had started a business transporting horses and he offered to help Platz get Enrique home. Within days, the horse was on the road to Amsterdam by way of Spain, France and Germany, with nightly stops at horse stables booked ahead like hotel rooms.

“Everybody that’s put a hand on him on the trip confirms he’s very gracious, not anxious,” Platz said. “He’s not nervous. He’s just taking it all — no pun intended — he’s taking it all in stride.”

Photos of the trip show Enrique happily munching on hay, getting checked out by a veterinarian and being escorted in and out of his trailer. Then there is the nanny cam in the trailer itself, where Platz could see how he handled the bumps and jolts of the road. 

On Platz’s Facebook page, Enrique’s photos and videos had garnered hundreds of reactions and comments before he even reached the airport last Thursday.

“He is handsome. So happy for you both. He is a lucky equine,” wrote one person.

“What a journey!” said another.

 After a few days in Germany, Enrique was loaded onto a cargo plane, where he got his own stall next to other horses making a long trip of their own. Because horses have to be able to keep their balance, he was not sedated for the eight hour flight. A handler rode with the horses to help keep them calm. 

Enrique landed in Miami on Thursday, where video shows him walking serenely to the quarantine area, seemingly unfazed by his recent plane ride. 

Enrique will spend 45 days in quarantine, during which Platz will be able to visit him. After that, he will move to the same Florida stable where Fynn is receiving care.

Fynn, a 14-year-old rescue, has been Platz’s dressage horse for years. She calls him a “miracle.”

“I’ll never forget when he got hurt and I got to the farm and I saw how badly he was hurt,” she said.

“I thank God that I had enough gratitude that I never put my leg over that horse’s back to get on him without remembering to be grateful for the opportunity, because he’s that special.”

Platz has been staying in Florida to be close to Fynn, returning home to Maine for short periods. Because Fynn likely will not be able to travel for a while, the trio will remain in Florida through the dressage season this winter. Platz hopes the three of them can return to Maine after that.

Fynn and Platz have competed together at some of the highest levels of the sport, and have won championships. Fynn might be able to compete again after he recovers, but Platz did not want him to have to.

“I don’t want my ambitions to hurt my horse,” she said. “Five years of the Grand Prix, he owes me nothing. And he doesn’t care if he goes in the Grand Prix ring. He’s just as happy to go for a trail ride.”

Enrique will take up the slack. Now that he is here.

“I think Enrique will be special in a different way,” Platz said.

Have an idea for Animal Tales? Call Lindsay Tice at 689-2854 or email her at [email protected].

One of Enrique’s glamour shots for Lusitano Horsefinders, a business that connects horse buyers and sellers. (Photo by Bruno Barata) 

Candace Platz with Enrique shortly after meeting him.

“I didn’t want to want him,” she said. “He was too far away. It was a huge trip. He was way too big. But what the heck. When you have the opportunity to have something extraordinary come into your life, it’s almost ungrateful to not to take it and say thank you.”

(Photo courtesy Candace Platz)

Enrique looks out the window after arriving at quarantine in Miami last week. (Photo courtesy Candace Platz)

Candace Platz gazes at Enrique shortly after meeting him in Portugal. (Photo courtesy Candace Platz)

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