Manolo Mendez's Background & History
Manolo grew up on a farm in Andalucía, Spain. From six years old, he had a simple introduction to the reality of working with farm animals. His family had donkeys for the transportation of goods, mules for the agricultural side, and horses for cattle and sheep farming. But it was his affinity with the horses that drove him to want to learn more on their training. He knew at this age he wanted to learn from Alvaro Domecq Snr., who was known to be a master horseman, training the best horses in Spain. Domecq wasn’t so much a classical trainer but understood horses very well and had a reputation that extended across Spain.
After being accepted as protege to Domecq Snr, Manolo began his training career in earnest. He learned the art of Doma a La Vaquero, Rejonero, and Acoso y Derriba. Under the guidance of their trainer horses were required to learn half pass, canter pirouette, flying changes every stride and, to have the grace to perform these movements with straightness, agility and acknowledgment of the slightest aid.
From these beginnings, the Royal School of Equestrian Art was founded in Jerez, Spain. Manolo is one of six founding members and during his time there, reached the position of head rider under the Principle, Romero Domecq Jnr.
In the early days, the riders performed a small show in a tent with six ‘dancing’ horses. However, these shows grew in size and popularity, gaining a reputation to equal the Spanish Riding School of Vienna. In 1980 the original performances by the school received the royal patronage of King Juan Carlos and became ‘The Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art” ensuring the future of the Spanish Equestrian tradition. Today the school is internationally renowned for showcasing Spanish horses, their training, and the horses’ role in Spanish history and sits alongside the Spanish riding schools in Vienna, France, and Portugal.
In the mid 70s Perth resident, Ray Williams, traveled to Jerez with the mission of purchasing Andalusian Horses to start the first Australian breeding program of Andalusians. He requested that Manolo come over to oversee the training of these horses and so, in 1978, Manolo’s life in Australia began. After working with the horses for 18 months, Ray and Manolo decided to present a show similar to the one performed by the riding school. This proved so popular in Perth that they decided to open a further show in NSW and the popular “El Caballo Blanco” attraction in Sydney was born.
Manolo had always believed that the training of horses should be done with empathy for their emotions and concern for their mind and body. Throughout the 80’s and 90’s, he began presenting lessons and clinics, which showed riders how much better this kind of training was for both. Manolo is not only proud of the knowledge and skill attained during his time with the Royal School in Jerez and his time with El Caballo in Australia, but also the subsequent decades he has been working to help horses and riders develop the special relationship that brings so much joy to the hearts of both.