“A Lusitano horse is like a very fine wine. When you have it, you really appreciate it” van Borst says. “Lusitano horses are bred for finesse, form and functionality. Fashion has been thrown out of the window because it has no longevity. The Lusitano horse has evolved significantly in recent times and there has been a dedicated effort on behalf breeders to produce a horse for both the modern and competitive worlds without sacrificing traditional values.” Peter is a renowned broker of the Lusitano horse and has been responsible for orchestrating some of the leading Lusitano breeding operations in the United States.
Who is Peter van Borst?
The cities in South Carolina and Florida that Peter van Borst calls home are a far cry from the majesty of 16th century royal families and the pomp and circumstance that surrounded them. But Tryon N.C and West Palm Beach, Fla., where horses come close to outnumbering humans, are perfect places to perpetuate and promote the Lusitano, a breed that has carried that heritage into modern times. A transplant to America himself, van Borst is responsible for bringing Lusitano horses to this part of the world and he’s made it his mission to share them.
Since his arrival to the states, Peter has engaged in a quiet but steady mission to educate serious horse lovers about the Lusitano.
Florida in winter becomes an epicenter of the equestrian world. Horses there number more than a half million, and human appreciation for the industry is demonstrated by the herd of folks who pack the winter equestrian centers of Wellington and Ocala, to watch and compete in Olympic-caliber competitions and world-class driving events for which the Lusitano is well-suited.
Peter grew up in Ireland and competed in eventing, jumping and dressage. Peter, whose father was an international man and whose mother was a woman of incredible variety, has spent most of his life on the back of a Lusitano, so long in fact, that he proves that horse and rider truly do seem to become one.
In that other world, he soon discovered he had a talent for horse training. At 17, Peter was a rider in a jousting show north of Wales, where he lived in a castle. About the same time, he began working in the film industry, joining the behind-the-scenes horse operation and carrying out on-set stunts in the movie, “The Lion in Winter.” He went on to work on a string of British-period dramas including “Charge of the Light Brigade,” “Mary Queen of Scots” and “Alfred the Great”.
Peter first came to America with the traveling road show “A Company of Knights,” a medieval-themed stunt spin-off from the film industry. For many years, he commuted to Las Vegas, where he trained a horse that performed nightly in the world-renowned magic show of illusionists Siegfried and Roy. Now he is focused on promoting the Lusitano horse in the United States as well as consulting to help individuals in the equestrian world achieve their goals.
The Horse of Kings
Why the Lusitano? If you tie your life to a horse, it makes sense to choose one that hasn’t lost its luster in thousands of years. The Lusitano holds today the same admiration it knew in the age of ancient Greece and Rome when it was considered one of the best saddle horses in the world.
You don’t have to know the history of horses to appreciate them, but it does heighten admiration of creatures like the Lusitano to realize how closely their history has intertwined with that of mankind. Horses have played a major role in the history of humanity, and few animals — if any — have been as highly praised through the passage of time. In some eras, owning a horse not only raised the social standing of its rider but also often helped to make him a legend, remembered in tandem with his mount. For more than 5,000 years that horse has carried man down the road of history.
For Peter van Borst, these magnificent horses are a mainstay of his life, one of the few things that make it complete for a man who grew up loving the creatures and never stopped. They are, he says, unlike many things in his life that have come and gone, a foundation that will last forever.
Van Borst, of course, has other loves in life, including his children and the chairman of the board of van Borst enterprises. That would be Toby van Borst, the Jack Russell terrier who lingers near while his master enjoys a Padilla cigar — the kind often preferred by Lusitano aficionados — and a cup of English tea sweetened with milk and sugar the way Toby likes it, and he licks the bottom of the cup when it’s empty, another bond between animal and man. Van Borst also likes dinner parties with friends. He keeps closets full of finery for times it is essential, but prefers faded jeans with boots, and he rolls up the sleeves of his button-down shirts. It is a lifestyle that fits with van Borst’s decision to affiliate with the Interagro breeders and also reflects the traits of the horse that makes it happen for him.