Elia and Vicente have one horse on their farm, a beautiful yet slightly overweight mare that they ironically named Furia for her tranquil nature. Furia grazes in a large grass field where she moves too little and eats too much. She is well trained for riding, but with all the demands of the farm they rarely find time to ride her on the long walks she needs to keep in shape. To help, we are riding Furia almost every day, under the expert guidance of Hanna, a WWOOFer from Germany who is experienced with horses. Vanessa has limited experience with horses, and I have even less–none to be exact–and without a saddle, we are forced to mount Furia bareback. Luckily, Furia is extremely tame, and because she is out of shape she has little desire to go faster than a poking walk. This is probably for the best, since bareback isn’t the easiest way to learn to ride a horse. Slowly though I feel more comfortable, and I can see how people bond with these powerful and intelligent animals.
Riding, however, isn’t the only exposure we’ve had to horses recently. We have also been eating them. Vicente likes to have a little meat from time to time in his otherwise vegetable and seafood-based diet, and horse tends to be his meat of choice. Horse lovers may be outraged, but Vicente defends eating horse, saying that it is one of the most ecological meats available. The horses he eats were wild in the mountains of Galicia and Asturias, and therefore don’t have the same negative ecological impact as farm-raised animals. Their lives are also significantly better than that of the average cow or pig. The horses that are killed for meat are usually young, because their meat is more tender.
Vicente slices his horse meat into cutlets, seasons them with salt, pepper, and minced garlic, then dips them in beaten eggs followed by bread crumbs. He fries them in olive oil until golden. The meat is extremely tender, cooked to about medium, with a subtle liver flavor. To some, like Hanna, it is unthinkable to eat a horse, just as most of us wouldn’t eat a pet dog or a cat. Riding Furia, I can understand that. But for now it doesn’t bother me enough to refuse the treat.