Photo by Monique Schoenfeld, Town Crier
Town Crier Correspondent
Walk in Cavalo da Peninsula at 205 State St. and you immediately recognize it's the place for people who ride horses. It's a one-of-a-kind dressage store.
Few tack stores specialize in dressage. Most accommodate the hunter-jumper or western style of riding. Cavalo da Peninsula caters to riders who chase the endless pursuit of perfection by blending the sport with art.
Co-owned by Victoria Haslam and her husband Jerry, a Coldwell Banker real estate broker, Cavalo da Peninsula held its grand opening last Friday.
Victoria is a physiotherapist for horses with an equi-touch certification. She has been working with horses for the last nine years and now combines an educational center with retail merchandise. Classes and seminars in classical horsemanship are starting immediately.
"Classical riding centers around the gymnastic training of a horse, to help the horse adjust under the added weight of a rider, in a way in which riding does not prematurely injure the horse's body," Victoria said.
"However, in order to be 'Classical,' the training must be done in such a manner that it preserves the horse's good nature," she said.
"When talented horses and riders compete, you see a kind of beauty and poise. You realize this has become an art. It is like a ballet," Jerry said. "The sport of dressage is one of the three Olympic equestrian disciplines."
Victoria has practiced her specialty in barn after barn on the Peninsula. She understands what horse people's needs are. Those needs are organized into retail items available in the store.
"Everything in the store comes from Europe," said Jerry. "La Espuela leather goods from Spain, Steffen Peters riding clothes from Germany, Sergio Brasso boots from Italy and whips, blankets and brushes from Ireland.
"A lot of the items people buy from catalogs in Europe and through the Internet will be available in the store." Victoria said.
Inside, the store resembles a Portuguese barn. A replica of a dressage arena dominates the center. At the rear is an enlarged photograph of Apollo found on a recent trip to Paris. A show tent, used for changing at horse shows, is constructed in the left corner.
Window boxes with flowers are on the walls; a Lady Godiva painting overlooks the stone fireplace. A colored tapestry with an interesting horse scene is on the opposite wall.
Cavalo's additional staff includes people with comparable experience in equine needs. Maggie De Jesus, a relative with a background in Portuguese horses, will help customers in the store.
Horse trainer Gil Merrick, an accountant by profession, helped develop the business plan for the store. A Grand Prix rider, Merrick has studied dressage through the United States and Europe for 25 years. He will conduct two-hour lectures on Tuesday evenings.
Merrick's current course, "Mastery in the Art of Equitation," is a development program for students at all levels of training. The course meets 7 to 9 p.m., Tuesday and May 15, 22 and 29, in the Cavalo da Peninsula store. Merrick said the course will inquire into the nature of mastery, and clearly distinguish between the levels of competence, expertise, artistry and mastery. For more information on the course, contact Merrick at 753-1865.
The Haslams live in Los Altos Hills with a three-stall barn and paddock on their property, but ride their horses at nearby Westwind Barn.
Cavalo da Peninsula is located at 205 State St. in the location vacated by Heintzelman's Bookstore. For more information, call 917-8149.