With Laura “on the Road”

by Elena Carfagna

We’re at the beginning of spring, but the weather still refuses to bloom. On a cold and windy afternoon, I make my way up the winding roads that lead to Laura’s equestrian center, “Horse on the Road,” a name that perfectly foreshadows the place I’m heading to.

Born and raised in Torcigliano, in the province of Lucca, Laura is married with two children. Since she was a child, she has had a passion for horses. At the age of ten, she started horseback riding, and at sixteen, she received her first mare as a gift. She lived with her for 31 years. After working tirelessly in various stables to gain the opportunity to ride, she finally opened her first equestrian center in 2006. Meanwhile, she pursued her studies to acquire her professional qualifications. Then, in 2011, thanks to her father’s support, she was able to fulfill her dream of opening her own business in the place she loved so much—the place where she was born and raised. Laura is an english and trail riding instructor, holding certifications in flatwork and being an equestrian environmental guide.

About two years ago, she had the opportunity to meet equine ethologist and behaviorist Elena Bajona, and their collaboration began from there. Up until that point, Laura followed the principles of traditional training, emphasizing just a little the importance of the relationship between horse and rider. However, her sensitivity told her that she could do better, and she started asking herself a series of questions for which she couldn’t find satisfactory answers.

Through social media, she came into contact with and practiced various well-known methods in the equestrian world, but none of them provided what she was searching for. Until one fine day (Laura tells me with a big smile), a mutual friend introduced her to Elena. It was a crucial encounter that brought new awareness and a fresh perspective into her life and work. Since then, nothing has been the same, says Laura. Her questions finally started receiving answers, and with great pleasure, she found her path, gradually dissipating doubts and uncertainties. Together, they embarked on a journey that involves seeking and achieving a new balance in the relationship between humans and horses, benefiting both parties significantly. It may be a longer path than others, but that’s what makes it more exciting and fulfilling. It means putting oneself on the line and working, working, working until it’s the horse that gives you the answer you were seeking, and the joy that cannot be described. The efforts and dedication put into work lead to new small but significant victories every day, which are the most rewarding of rewards.

Working alongside Elena, Laura discovered that by listening and observing how horses naturally interact with each other in a herd, it is possible to have a real partnership with them, where they are on the same wavelength and start speaking the same language. Communication between humans and horses is fundamental; it is the foundation of any well-established work that aims to be fruitful for both parties. It involves a continuous process of sensing, observing, and meeting each other halfway to establish a lasting and unbreakable bond built on trust.

Before her partnership with Elena, Laura struggled to interpret and manage certain behaviors exhibited by horses, causing discomfort for both herself and the horses. Laura explains that each horse is like a book with pages already written, telling their story. It’s all there in black and white, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to read. In fact, some pages or entire chapters may seem impossible to understand. Now, together with Elena, Laura learns to read that book, to decode it, and reach its conclusion. She manages to find the unique interpretation for each horse, giving voice to her innate predisposition and sensitivity, allowing the horse to take on the role of the protagonist rather than being a mere servant to humans, just as Elena has taught her. Together, I am able to identify the discomfort of individual problematic horses, analyze and process it, and find solutions, which brings them great fulfillment.

Laura is very proud of these successes that she considered unimaginable just two years ago. She believes that this “magic” could only happen thanks to Elena, who brought serenity, balance, firmness, and passioneverything Laura had been searching for.

Listening, waiting, patience, and time are all essential virtues for achieving desired results, and it is the horses themselves who teach us these virtues. Horses also teach us to observe ourselves, to see ourselves from the outside, to reassess and reorganize our behavior.

If we let ourselves be guided by them, we learn that body language is the primary form of communication to connect with these magnificent animals. Often, we are the ones  who create discomfort for the horse by approaching him in the wrong way, using inappropriate tools that interfere with their nature and make them feel misunderstood. We must approach the horse gently, with the kindness and respect that they deserve as creatures with extraordinary sensitivity. Only then can we achieve the highest level of interaction between the horse and the trainer, becoming one entity without any degree of separation.

The true turning point in working with horses, Laura explains, occurred when she attended a course with Elena in Livorno. She experienced great satisfaction while working with horses she had never met before. Upon returning home, the ongoing transformation received a decisive push. Laura began approaching her horses with the new vision she had learned, experimenting with new knowledge and discovering new nuances and facets that made her proud of what she had learned. She was finally experiencing the dream she had pursued for years: to see and be seen by her horses with new eyes. Laura also witnessed the effects of this transformation through her students. Her way of teaching changed, and her students now communicate correctly with the horses. It was very gratifying for her, Laura adds, to feel like the protagonist of that change, transitioning from being a spectator to an active participant in the transformation. She felt at the center of a shared project, guided by the skilled and discreet hands of an excellent mentor like Elena, who goes along with her step by step with naturalness, professionalism, and dedication.

Thanks to Elena, Laura completely changed her way of interacting with horses and teaching her students. She feels more confident in managing the herds and their interactions. She noticed that by working in a simpler and more natural way, significant improvements are achieved in both the behavior of the students and the horses.

Working with Elena, the students understood that they can engage in equestrian sports and competition in an ethological way. During competitions, Laura recounts, the students notice that other equestrian centers use whips, spurs, and bits to enforce obedience, and they greatly appreciate the ability to communicate with the horse while respecting its nature. Establishing a deep and equal relationship with the horse, where trust and mutual respect reign, allows both the rider and the horse to enjoy being together and have fun, despite the challenges they may face.

Together with Elena, Laura, and the students, they also had the opportunity to observe wild horses in their natural habitat, which was an instructive, formative, and engaging experience in every aspect. There, they could see that developing empathy with horses, as Elena does, is the result of passionate, patient, and consistent work, built on years of experience and absolute dedication.

Since having Elena by her side, Laura says she feels relieved of many worries she had in the past because she knows that together with Elena, any difficulty can be faced and resolved. Elena’s professionalism and reliability are guarantees that Laura can no longer do without.

The availability and sensitivity of each person, dedicated to serving others, have turned “Horse on the Road” into a hospitable and welcoming place where everyone can express themselves to the fullest while respecting the uniqueness of each individual, both humans and horses. Being aware that they are on the right path allows them to work together harmoniously, happy to walk alongside each other on a journey that, day by day, proves to be exactly what Laura needed and makes her proud of every small and great success.

Working with Elena, Laura concludes, is an exciting challenge that is always open to new goals, opening the door to new knowledge and acquisitions, all in the name of the well-being of the horse and everyone involved in their world. For this, Laura can only be immensely grateful to Elena.

July 2023

Elena Carfagna – Passionate reader and writer, her stories tell her deep love for life. To fathom the beauty of the human soul and to pay tribute to it is her mission.