To know the history of the Club Escola Menorquina, we must travel back to 1940, when JOAN PONS MARTÍ (president and founder of the Club Escola Menorquina) was born on a Minorcan farm. The inevitable contact with the horses used to work the land made him discover what would be his great affection in life: horses.
Joan Pons Martí’s life with horses can be split into several stages which mark a great dedication and subsequent evolution in the world of horses.
1. THE BEGINNING:
The fact that he lived and worked in the Minorcan countryside until thirty-seven years of age suggests a permanent contact between Joan Pons Martí and horses. For all Minorcan country dwellers (who were the majority of the population at the time), working the land required animals, since there was no sort of technical innovation in the agricultural field (motor-powered machinery did not arrive until the 1960s).
From this stage there is the first photo: Joan Pons Martí riding a horse in the courtyard at Sant Joan (the property where he lived) in 1958, when he was just 18. It is worth looking at the riding style of the time, and also the absence of any specialist clothing (jodhpurs, boots, etc.). This underlines the huge difference between horse-riding as a hobby and as a tradition.
2. TAKING PART IN MINORCA’S TRADITIONAL FESTIVALS:
In 1959 Joan Pons Martí began to take part in Minorca’s traditional festivals; for example, Sant Bartomeu de Ferreries 23rd-24th August, Sant Joan de Ciutadella 23rd-24th June, Sant Llorenç d’Alaior the weekend following 10th August, Mare de Déu de Gràcia de Maó 7th and 8th September, amongst others.
Traditionally, horses were led out at the festivals with minimal preparation, since their main task was to work the land. There were even cases of youngsters asking a farm for a horse and then leading it out without even giving the animal any kind of trial, since the horse had worked in the fields until the day of the festival. This led to the behaviour of some animals being virtually wild.
On Minorca, there was the idea that if the horses bucked, they could not be properly broken-in nor completely subjected to the rider’s wishes because, by its nature, the horse bucks for reasons of self-defence. Despite this, some riders preferred that the horse bucked since then it would be more reliable when it came to working.
It was at this time that Joan Pons Martí showed that by working with the horses they could buck, yet still do everything the rider wanted in a controlled way. That was the fruit of spending a large amount of his time with the horses on the farm where he lived.
The public’s admiration grew because the horses could do both things: buck and be controlled by the rider, as well as being led out at the festivals with visibly more discipline than before.
Years later, in 1970, he gave help and support to his fiancée, Consuelo Marquès Melià, so that she could take part in the Sant Bartomeu festivals. No woman had ever led a horse out in Minorca’s festivals, but Joan Pons Martí thought, and still thinks, that the festivals belong to everyone who lives in the towns and villages. Everyone loves their home town’s festival and thinks it the best, and so the best way to keep the festivals alive through the years is to include everyone, indiscriminate of social standing or sex.
From this time we can see the second photo: Consuelo Marquès Melià at the festival of Sant Bartomeu de Ferreries in 1970. You must be aware of the great expectation that this aroused.
3. WORK BECOMES A HOBBY:
From the sixties onwards, motor traction replaced animal power throughout the countryside, so many properties were left without horses. Joan Pons Martí, however, kept a horse at Na Marcona (the family’s property) because of his love for the animals. At Na Marcona he developed a piece of land to work with horses in the best conditions.
Joan Pons Martí and Consuelo Marquès Melià were married at the church of Sant Bartomeu de Ferreries on 2nd August 1971, and from that moment began their inseparable journey in the world of horses.
Their enthusiasm grew and grew, and through travels, reading books and meeting other enthusiasts, they saw other styles, disciplines and fashions.
Seeing horses with a high school discipline, they began to apply airs of this high level to Minorcan horses, even when they had already been broken-in according to the style of the festivals. Some of these airs are the passage, the piaf, and others. Furthermore, they were able to perfect airs that had always been present in Minorca. Everyone had always made the horse gallop, but nobody ever looked to see if the horse galloped with one hoof or another, and took even less notice of how to tell the horse with which hoof to begin galloping.
Observing other disciplines, they were able to introduce many improvements to the Minorcan discipline, whether it was the gallop, sideways or diagonal steps, pirouettes, or others.
They realised that many disciplines considered to be international in fact had their origins in ancient traditions. For example, the Cowboy discipline originates in work on Andalusian estates, where the herder controlled the herd with horses and cattle prods.
Despite having introduced high-school airs to the Minorcan discipline, Joan Pons Martí and Consuelo Marquès Melià have never mixed festival and high school elements, since at a festival the horse’s behaviour has to be controlled but spontaneous. Artificial appearances are not for festivals.
4. THE WORK WINS OVER THE PUBLIC:
Joan Pons Martí, Consuelo Marquès Melià and a friend, Antoni Marquès Taltavull, brought together three horses disciplined in the Minorcan style with some important airs from other disciplines and began to do pieces and acts together.
The resultant carousels were shown to the public and were very well received, and consequentially people asked for them more and more whenever there was a celebration or a mass event.
As with everything at the beginning, there were people who dismissed the work of Joan Pons Martí and his friends, but these were the same people who afterwards tried to do the same with their own horses.
At that time there was a change in Joan Pons Martí’s life; he stopped working in the country, which brought a new job and allowed him to dedicate more time to his affection. What is more, the improved grounds for breaking-in horses at Na Marcona gave way to new grounds created specifically for this purpose. That was just the beginning of the current Club Escola Menorquina.
5. HE MUST TEACH ALL HE KNOWS:
It was 1980 that saw the change in Joan Pons Martí’s life: he passed the requirements of the Spanish government and gained a new job with a more intensive working day. This change not only meant better installations but also more time to develop his horse-related activities.
At this stage, a number of horse lovers became interested in learning the discipline that Joan Pons Martí and his colleagues had brought into practice.
Given the demand, they began to give short three-month courses, of three hours each week. The first course began 1st September 1979.
Since that day, a total of 333 pupils have passed through the Club Escola Menorquina, a total of 174 men and 159 women. These have taken part in a total of 96 courses, of four to five people in each course. This number does not include the students who only wanted to prepare for the festivals, nor the courses aimed at schools and organised by the Consell Insular de Menorca, the island’s local government.
Some of these pupils bought horses and took them to Joan Pons Martí’s stables, which allowed the performance of larger, more spectacular carousels.
People from all over the island attended the courses at “Can Joan Marcona” (Joan Marcona being Joan Pons Martí’s nickname), which propagated the appearance of groups of horse lovers throughout Minorca.
With this rise in the number of people who dedicated heir free time to horses, Joan Pons Martí began to organise excursions, some for longer than a day, gymkhanas (where the rider’s skill in overcoming certain trials is tested), and more.
These gymkhanas were not only held in Ferreries, although this was the first place; following their success they were held in Ciutadella, Maó, Alaior and elsewhere. Furthermore, it gave way to the rise in horse jumping in Minorca, although Joan Pons Martí did not lean towards that branch of equestrianism.
One of the objectives of holding the gymkhanas and other activities was because of the general belief in Minorca that the Minorcan thoroughbred was only apt for working in the fields and fearlessly taking part in the festivals. Joan Pons Martí knew that this was not the case, since the Minorcan horse can take part in many disciplines. So, the path was open for the Minorcan thoroughbred to take part in disciplines of a high level.
The fourth photograph shows Joan Pons Martí receiving a trophy at one of the gymkhanas in which he participated. To be precise it is at Maó, in 1982, with the horse Jess.
6. THE CLUB ESCOLA MENORQUINA IS FOUNDED:
Groups of enthusiasts from around the island carried on meeting and organising different events until they eventually considered the need to make their situation official.
Joan Pons Martí was always amongst this group, and was one of its principal spurs.
The first club to gain official status was the Club Hípic Ciutadella, founded in 1984. Even though Joan Pons Martí is not from Ciutadella, he and all his family became members to give support to this positive initiative, principally driven by Joan Marquès Coll.
The following year the Club Hípic Ferreries was founded, again with the support of Joan Pons Martí and even more so with that of his wife, Consuelo Marquès Melià. She signed up as a founder member alongside Josep Martí Barber and Gabriel Martí Barber (the Mayor of Ferreries for many years), amongst others.
In 1986 Joan Pons Martí made his own installation official, naming it the Club Escola Menorquina de Ferreries, of which he has always been president.
With time, the majority of Minorca’s towns have set up their own clubs; Grup de Cavallers de Maó, Club Hípic Alaior, Club Hípic Ses Ramones (at Mercadel) and the recent additions of the Club Hípic Sa Creueta (at Migjorn) and the Escola Eqüestre Bini Sebani (at Ciutadella).
7. THE STYLE OF THE FESTIVALS BECOMES THE MINORCAN DISCIPLINE:
In 1986 an old idea stirred within Joan Pons Martí, which consisted of formalising the riding style which had been used since time immemorial at Minorca’s festivals, following the model of other styles and disciplines with similar beginnings.
Minorca’s many clubs joined forces to bring this project to a head. After a lot of hard work and effort, the first official test of the new Minorcan discipline was carried out in 1989. This trial took place at the Club Escola Menorquina and was performed by Consuelo Marquès Melià with the horse Mendrugo. It was done to display the project to representatives of the Federació Hípica Territorial Balear (Balearic Equestrian Federation), which supported the enterprise.
Minorcan discipline saw its first official competition in 1990. The judges were from the Classical discipline, but had previously agreed to judge the special aspects of the former.
The first Minorcan discipline championship took place in 1991. This was made up of four separate trials (at different clubs on the island). The competition has taken place every year since and has continued to grow.
As well as this, there have been many more competitions on the fringe of the championship, such as the competition at the Fira del Cavall de Raça Menorquina (Minorcan Thoroughbred Horse Fair) at Mercadel in 1999 and the year 2000, or at the Trofeu Federació de Doma Menorquina (Federation for Minorcan Discipline Trophy) in 2000, and more.
These past few years have seen a lot of horse-related activity on the island, which is reinforced by a glance at the official calendar of events published by the Federation: there have been championships of Minorcan and Classical discipline, horse jumping championships, and competitions for other disciplines.
The fifth photograph shows Consuelo Marquès Melià taking part in one of the Minorcan discipline championships in 1994.
8. THE SHOW: ESPECTACLE EQÜESTRE REALITATS DE MENORCA:
Alongside all these activities, the Club Escola Menorquina has carried on organising carousels and public shows whenever there has been an event that demanded it.
On top of this, in 1983 and 1984 the task arose of entertaining a large room of people, in a show offered to tourists twice a week. So, they had two horses in the aisle between the tables (and so very close to the public) and one on stage, spotlit and imposing due to the platform. These acts were very well received by tourists, who knew that festivals with horses existed on the island, but only saw the animals if their trip coincided with the date of one of the festivals.
When the contract expired, Joan Pons Martí and Consuelo Marquès Melià decided to take the risk of setting up their own horse show at their facilities, aimed at tourists.
The Espectacle Eqüestre Realitats de Menorca began in 1987, and shows how the horses are prepared for traditional festivals, there is a carousel of Minorcan Thoroughbreds, a display of long reign work, a colt being broken in, a display of different animal-drawn carriages and wagons that used to be employed on Minorca and a carousel of Spanish horses broken in according to the Minorcan discipline.
The show has reached its thirteenth birthday in very good health, thanks to the great reception on behalf of both tourists and locals. People are now trying to imitate this success: foreign investment has arrived to set up another show with similar characteristics.