07/20/1957 - 03/10/2014

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Jesús Piris, Greatly Missed and Never Forgotten

07/20/1957 - 03/10/2014


Jesús Joaquín Vicente Piris Fraile was born in Ceuta, a Spanish territory on the north coast of Africa, and grew up in the Western Sahara until the age of eleven when his family moved to Sevilla, Spain.  He is survived by his wife Rebeca Córdova, as well as his son Jesús Jr., mother Natividad Fraile Medina and four siblings, all living in Spain.

At the age of fifteen he began his chosen life’s journey, to work, live and breathe alongside the beautiful animals that so inspired him, his beloved horses.  He was accepted into the Royal Spanish Riding School, La Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre, where he trained and rode the school’s horses in all the difficult and challenging “airs above the ground” and became an instructor in the school. 

Jesús left the school to explore many other equestrian pursuits, including training show jumpers, running Andalusian horse breeding farms where he exercised his uncanny ability to select breeding animals to quickly improve the quality of a herd, training dressage horses all over Europe, working on fighting bull breeding farms and becoming a talented rejoneador (mounted bullfighter) for ten years in Spain and Portugal before a near-fatal car accident ended his career.  It was especially fascinating to hear Jesús’ stories about these bulls and their behavior, and it was evident that he had become an expert in that arena as well. 

Later in life, as Jesús matured, he became sensitive to the point that he literally could not kill a fly or even ants, much less a bull, and he playfully called his wife Rebeca “asesina” whenever she did so. 

Jesús had an incredible ability not only as a rider, and on horseback he was breathtaking to behold, but also as a trainer.  In Andalucía he was known as “El Brujo” (the sorcerer) for his seemingly magical ability to transform horses that were either severely limited in their natural abilities or ruined from previous faulty training, and turning them into willing, obedient mounts. 

In spite of the fact that he is known to have been one of the best master horsemen of our time, Jesús was always modest and unpretentious.  Making money and a name for himself was always secondary to his passion for horses.  Horses were a lifelong love and much, much more than a business to him—they were his partners and friends and he loved every one of the hundreds of horses that he worked with in his lifetime.

Jesús had an exceptionally interesting life, packing a lot of adventure into the 56 years he was given on this earth.  He lived his life on his own terms, as he wanted, and immersed in what he loved--his horses. An interesting highlight of his career was starring in the well-known Spanish Director Miguel Távora’s flamenco version of the opera Carmen, riding a beautiful white Andalusian horse which he selected and trained to piaffe, pirouette and canter in place while he danced with a flamenco-dancing Carmen.  He toured with the opera two years, playing in major theaters and palaces all over Europe, including the Royal Palace of Paris and Real Maestranza of Sevilla.

In the year 2000 he was recruited by the dinner theater chain Medieval Times, and brought to the U.S. to serve as Horse Master and run equine operations at their Anaheim castle.  After two years he struck out on his own with his training business, and eventually moved to San Diego to live with Rebeca Córdova, whom he married on April 14, 2012, and with whom he shared an extraordinarily loving and special relationship. 

Jesús was kind, generous, charismatic, and well-loved by all who had the privilege to know him.  The horse world has lost a great man, and horses the world over have lost a true friend.  Jesús will be greatly missed, but never forgotten.


Please scroll down for more pictures and an article about his fascinating life (También en español) 

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Jesus Piris' Webpage

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Jesús, Siroco, and Quinta Córdova's own comical prankster, the young stallion Novelero

Jesús and his Dutch Warmblood Lumiere    




***See Article on Jesús Below*** 

(Desplace hacia abajo para leer un artículo sobre Jesús, traducido al español)


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 by Rebeca Córdova, (written in 2009)



Jesús Piris was born in Ceuta, a Spanish territory on the northern coast of Africa near Morocco. He grew up in the Western Sahara where his father was stationed, and at the age of eleven moved with his parents to Sevilla, Spain.


Jesús was born with a passion for horses, first admiring the ruggedness of the Barb horses of Northern Africa, and occasionally riding those horses the Spanish military kept for the enjoyment of its officers. Later he spent every moment he could in the police stables of the major Spanish city of Sevilla where his father, appointed Chief of Police, was responsible for the city’s 150 police horses.


At the tender age of fifteen Jesús wrote an impassioned letter to the legendary rejoneador (mounted bullfighter) and hero of Spain, Álvaro Domecq. “Alvarito,” as he is affectionately known in his country, founded the Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre (the Royal Andalusian Riding School of Jerez, Spain). In his letter to Alvarito the young Jesús spoke of his love for the horse and his burning desire to spend the rest of his life with these charismatic creatures. Lo and behold he received not only a response, but a personal invitation from Alvarito himself to interview with him at the school!


Jesús speaks through the eyes of an incredulous teenager as he describes the spectacle he witnessed when he and his parents entered the school. Those great white stallions, the grace and majesty of the riders who danced with them, the finery and splendor of the facility—all of it took his breath away. He was at once frozen with fear yet elated, as he was asked to ride one of those magnificent stallions so that he could be appraised by Alvarito and the beautiful Mercedes González Cort, the great rider who would later become a mentor.


The rest is history! Jesús was admitted to the school where he was assigned the responsibility of grooming seven horses and preparing his instructor’s horses for riding. His principal professor was Francisco Cancela de Abreau, whom he considers one of the best riders in the world. Abreau was a student of Guillermo Borba, himself a direct student of the great Portuguese master Nuno Oliveira. Every day the young Jesús was given a lesson on the longe and another off the longe, and after only two years he attained the title of Jinete (Rider) and Instructor. When the author visited the school in 2003 she was greeted personally by the Director, José María Sánchez, who himself had been a student of Jesús’ at the school.


In retrospect, Jesús considers himself to have been still a green rider, even after a total of five years at the school. In Spain the term Jinete ("Rider") is not bestowed lightly and means far more than it does here in the U.S.  Jesús acknowledges that he had excellent instruction at the school—the kind most riders only dream of. However, though he had attained the title of Jinete, upon leaving the school he was by no means a seasoned one.


It was a Frenchman by the name of Enrique Vidón whom Jesús credits with teaching him much of what it means to be a masterful rider. For some reason, Jesús identified intuitively with Vidón’s complicated riding technique. From this man he learned that it was not just the written theory that he had he’d read by the great masters such as François Robichon de la Gueriniere (1688-1751) that was important, but also what the horses themselves could teach—the feel for what each particular horse might require at any given moment.


Jesús toiled hard, holding several jobs at a time including teaching at riding stables, schooling young horses over jumps of up to two meters, and bullfighting on horseback. For two years he worked for the rejoneador Javier Buendía on his bull breeding ranch, learning about the country’s famously aggressive toros bravos (brave bulls), before spending ten years training and competing in the art of mounted bullfighting in Spain and Portugal.


Eventually he left the sport to run breeding farms in Spain. Then dressage training opportunities arose in Italy, France, Belgium and Germany, where he rode a wide range of horses, many of them native warmblood breeds such as Hamburg's Holsteiners.


Back in Spain, Jesús was recruited by the well-known theater director Salvador Távora  to play the mounted role of the rejoneador José, the heroine’s lover in the opera Carmen. Before spending two years touring across Europe in that role, he was tasked with selecting the Spanish stallion he would ride in the production, and given just six months to train him to do a “buen galope” (good canter) and the upper level movements such as piaffe, passage and pirouettes necessary for him to dance with the leading ballerina on stage.


Jesús laughs when he remembers the horse he chose, a grey Spanish stallion of pure Terry breeding named Ilustrado XIII (nicknamed “Bohorquez”), who at first “bit like a dog”. Besides the challenging dressage movements, he also had to teach Bohorquez to take in stride the lights, the crowds, the melee, and the often harrowingly dangerous footing of the stage environment. Between acts he would have him stand backstage on a felt blanket, untied and unattended. Until he asked, the stallion never moved from the spot.


There were many venues where the route to the stage was questionable, at best, from a safety standpoint. At times he had to ride Bohorquez in darkness down a maze of slippery ramps to the stage. He had the stallion fitted with special shoes so that he would not slip on stage, because he was required to canter just a hair's breadth away from the edge. One misstep could have sent them crashing six feet down into the first row of spectators.


Fortunately for horse and rider there were breaks in that grueling schedule. During these times he would have Bohorquez' shoes removed and take him home to relaxing, barefoot rides in the countryside of Sevilla.


Jesús recalls with nostalgia many of the splendorous venues that became such an iconic part of his life during his two-year tour with the opera company, from the sumptuous Royal Palace of Paris, France to the theater in Lérida where the only route to the stage was via an ancient, clanking freight elevator which had no walls or railings! To give Bohorquez a sense of security, Jesús had posts installed in the elevator car and they hung curtains around it to simulate walls.


During the breathtakingly terrifying moments it took to ride that elevator, minutes which felt eternal, Jesús would stand in that tiny space with his chest pressed against Bohorquez' forehead, keeping him still, knowing that one false move would send them plunging to their deaths. When the author asked him how he had found such a calm horse for this dangerous role, he replied in a puzzled tone that Bohorquez was not calm, he was just "domado” (trained).


As with our words for “Rider,” there is a distinct difference between the Spanish word “domado” and its English equivalent, “trained”. In Spain a horse that is domado is completely obedient under all circumstances, scary or not, following its rider’s guidance unquestioningly and with total trust. This is the level of education to which Jesús aspires with every horse in his charge, and if given adequate time he achieves it.


His fondest memories of those times were of performances in the Real Maestranza de Sevilla and in the Feria de Jerez (Jerez fair.) As in many venues, the ladies cried before the spectacle of that shining white stallion suddenly appearing before a backdrop of darkness, entering in a tierra a tierra (canter in place), then pirouetting, piaffing and passaging to the rhythm of the music. As he approached a group of seated ballerinas, the horse himself would choose his partner by placing his extended hoof to Carmen's breast. Walking backwards, he would lead her to where they began their passionate pas de deux. Jesús and Carmen each held a corner of her handkerchief as Bohorquez encircled her in a canter pirouette, then danced piaffe and passage in perfect union with her, to the mesmerizing rhythm of the music.


One can still see the grateful wonder in his expression as Jesús recalls his first performance. He later learned that Alvarito himself was standing alone in the hallway at the closing of the curtain, applauding, tears streaming down his face, and exclaiming "Olé! Olé! Olé!" For the next performance Alvarito brought the entire Royal Andalusian Riding School with him to experience the spectacle, something which leaves Jesús visibly touched to this day.


Perhaps Jesús' proudest memory is that of his performance in the Spanish city of Ronda. It was an outdoor venue where he fought a bull on horseback just before ascending to the stage. That would be the last bull of his lifetime, he knew, and as he took the stage to dance with Carmen the crowd went wild. Never in his life had he felt himself such a true jinete, artista and Español than at that moment.


After this thrilling but exhausting stint in the limelight, and after equestrian positions across Europe, Jesús was recruited by headhunters from a U.S. chain of dinner theaters known as Medieval Times. At the Medieval Times castles visitors dine to the feats of skilled knights mounted on Pure Spanish and crossbred horses.


Jesús moved to Southern California where he was assigned as the director of equine operations for the Anaheim Castle, training and managing the castle’s horses and riders. This assignment included traveling to Medieval Times’ breeding farm in Texas where he was responsible for the selection of qualified broodmares.


After two years at Medieval Times, Jesús established his own training business in Riverside County, California. Now, after eight years in Riverside, he has moved his business to San Diego.


Many lucky San Diegans are now discovering this talented, charismatic man with his great sense of humor, extraordinary work ethic and sterling principles.


Horses are drawn to Jesús. He has an uncanny ability to communicate with them in a manner that is crisp, clear, and leaves no room for confusion or misunderstanding. This and his strength of leadership provide a great sense of security for the animals. He is well known for taking aggressive or severely withdrawn horses and turning them into willing, gentle, personable and obedient mounts.


What’s more, his love for the horse is readily apparent in the great joy he finds in the personality of each and every equine he encounters—from the finely bred, blue-blooded athlete to the most humble backyard trail horse.


Jesús’ passion for his work is boundless, and we are infinitely fortunate to have him here!


Click here for more information and pictures of Jesús Jesus Piris Dressage







Por Rebeca Córdova (escrito en el 2009)


Una Odisea Ecuestre

Jesús Piris nació en Ceuta, un territorio español en la costa norte de Africa cerca de Marruecos. Creció el el Sáhara Occidental donde estaba estacionado su padre, y a los once años fue a vivir a Sevilla con sus padres.


Jesús nació con una pasión por los caballos, primero admirando el vigor de los caballos bereberes del norte de Africa y de vez en cuando montando los caballos que los militares españoles mantenían para el deporte de sus oficiales. Más adelante pasaba cada momento que podía en los establos de policía de Sevilla, donde su padre fue nombrado Jefe de Policía con 150 caballos bajo su jurisdicción.


A la tierna edad de quince años, Jesús escribió una carta apasionada al legendario rejoneador y héroe de España, Álvaro Domecq. “Alvarito,” como le dicen cariñosamente en su país, fundó la Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre en Jerez. En su carta al gran Alvarito el joven Jesús habló de su amor por el caballo y su fervoroso deseo de pasar el resto de su vida con estos animals carismáticos. Asombrosamente, no sólo recibió una respuesta, ¡sino también, una invitación personal del mismo Alvarito para entrevistarse con él en la escuela!


Jesús habla a través de los ojos de un joven incrédulo cuando describe el espectáculo que vio al entrar a la escuela con sus padres. Esos grandes caballos tordos, la gracia y majestad de sus jinetes que bailaban con ellos, la belleza y el esplendor de las instalaciones—todo le quitó el aliento. Estaba a la vez temblando de temor y eufórico cuando le pidieron que montara uno de esos sementales majestuosos para que Alvarito y la bella Mercedes González Cort, la gran jineta que luego sería una mentora de Jesús, lo pudieran evaluar.


¡Lo demás es una historia fantástica! Jesús fue admitido a la escuela donde fue asignado la responsabilidad de cuidar a siete caballos y preparar los caballos de su instructor para montar.  Su profesor principal fue Francisco Cancela de Abreau, quien Jesús considera uno de los mejores jinetes del mundo.  Abreau había sido estudiante de Guillermo Borba, quien fue estudiante directo del gran maestro portugués Nuno Oliveira.


Cada día el joven Jesús tomaba una lección a la cuerda y una sin cuerda.  Después de solamente dos años le otorgaron el título de Jinete e Instructor.  Cuando la autora de este artículo visitó la escuela en 2003, fue recibida personalmente por el Director José María Sánchez, quien había sido estudiante de Jesús en la Real Escuela Andaluza.


Recordándolo, Jesús considera que todavía era un jinete verde después de cinco años en la Real Escuela. En España el título “jinete” no se otorga ligeramente y tiene mucho más sentido de lo que tiene la misma palabra “rider” en los EE.UU., donde cualquier persona que monta a caballo se considera “rider”.  Jesús admite que tuvo instrucción excelente en la Escuela—con la cual casi todos los jinetes solo sueñan, pero sin embargo, aunque tenía el título de Jinete, de ninguna manera había logrado ser un jinete experto.


Fue un francés de nombre Enrique Vidón a quien Jesús acredita con haberle enseñado mucho de lo que es el ser un jinete maestro.  Por alguna razón, Jesús se identificaba intuitivamente con la complicada técnica de equitación de Vidón. De este hombre aprendió que no solo era importante la teoría escrita que había leído en libros por los grandes maestros antiguos como François Robichon de la Gueriniere (1688-1751), sino también lo que los caballos mismos podían enseñarle—el sentido de la ayuda que cada caballo necesite en cualquier momento.


Jesús se empeñó muchísimo, trabajando en varios cargos a la vez, dando clases en escuelas de equitación, entrenando potros en el salto a alturas hasta de dos metros, y rejoneando toros a caballo. Por dos años trabajó por el rejoneador Javier Buendía en su rancho de cría, aprendiendo mucho sobre los famosos toros bravos de España, antes de pasar diez años rejoneando en España y Portugal.


Con el tiempo dejó el deporte par manejar yeguadas de caballos españoles. Luego se le presentaron oportunidades como entrenador de la doma en Italia, Francia, Bélgica y Alemania, donde montó una variedad de razas de caballos, muchas de ellas nativas como los Holsteiners de Hamburgo.


Un Tablado Extraordinario

De regreso a España, Jesús fue reclutado por el famoso director de teatro Salvador Távora para que hiciera el papel montado del rejoneador José, amante de la heroína en la ópera Carmen. Antes de pasar dos años recorriendo Europa en ese papel, se le dio la responsabilidad de seleccionar el caballo español que montaría en la producción, con solo seis meses para entrenarlo a hacer un buen galope y los movimientos avanzados de la doma como el piafer, passage y piruetas necesarios para que bailara con la primera bailarina en la obra.


Jesús se ríe cuando recuerda el caballo que seleccionó, un garañón tordo de linaje puro Terry llamado Ilustrado XIII, que al principio “mordía como perro”.  Además de los movimientos difíciles de doma, también tuvo que enseñarle a “Bohorquez,” como le puso cariñosamente, a mantener la calma ante las luces, las mutitudes, el tumulto y el suelo frecuentemente resbaloso y peligrosísimo del tablado.  Entre actos lo ponía en una cobija de fieltro en una esquina, sin amarrarlo ni vigilarlo.  Hasta que se lo pidiera el caballo no se movía del sitio.


Hubo muchos teatros donde la ruta a la escena era questionable desde el punto de vista de la seguridad. A veces tenía que montar a Bohorquez en la obscuridad por una serie de rampas resbalosas hasta llegar a la escena. Mandó a ponerle herraduras especiales de goma al caballo porque tenía que galopar a pocos centímetros de la orilla del tablado. Un paso falso los podría haber arrojado dos metros abajo a la primera fila de espectadores.


Afortunadamente para jinete y caballo hubieron períodos de descanso en ese horario tan penoso. Durante estos tiempos le mandaba a quitar las herraduras a Bohorquez y compartían largos y relajantes paseos por el campo de Sevilla.


Jesús recuerda con nostalgia muchos de los sitios esplendorosos que se hicieron una parte tan icónico de su vida durante los dos años que pasó con la compañía de teatro, desde el suntuoso Palacio Real de París, a Lérida donde la única ruta al escenario era por medio de un antiguo, ruidoso elevador ¡sin paredes ni barandillas! Para darle a Bohorquez un sentido de seguridad, Jesús mandó a que le instalaran postes al elevador y le colgaron cortinas alrededor para simular muros.


Durante los momentos aterrorizantes que pasaban subiendo en ese elevador, minutos que parecían una eternidad, Jesús ponía su pecho contra la frente de Bohorquez, manteniéndolo inmóvil, sabiendo que un paso en falso los arrojaría a la muerte. Cuando la Autora le preguntó cómo había encontrado un caballo tan calmado para este papel tan peligroso, Jesús replicó en tono perplejo que el caballo no era calmado, sino domado.


Como las diferencias entre nuestras palabras “jinete” y “rider,” hay una diferencia muy grande entre la palabra española “domado” y su equivalente inglés, “trained”. En España un caballo domado es completamente obediente bajo todas circunstancias, alarmantes o no, siguiendo la dirección de su jinete sin cuestionar, confiando en él o ella completamente. Este es el nivel de educación a la cual Jesús aspira con cada caballo bajo su cargo, y dado el tiempo adecuado lo logra.


Sus memorias más cariñosas de esos tiempos son las de sus funciones en la Real Maestranza de Sevilla y en la Feria de Jerez. Como en muchos teatros, las damas lloraban ante el espectáculo de aquel brilloso semental blanco, apareciendo de repente ante un telón de foro negro, entrando en tierra a tierra (galope en sitio), luego haciendo piruetas, piafer y passage al ritmo de la música.


Al acercarse a una fila de bailarinas sentadas, el caballo mismo elegía a su pareja de baile, extendiendo la mano hacia el pecho de Carmen.  Caminando hacia atrás, él la guiaba hasta donde empezarían su apasionado paso de dos.  Ambos Jesús y Carmen tomaban una esquina de su pañuelo mientras que Bohorquez la rodeaba en una pirueta al galope, luego danzando piafer y passage en perfecta unión con ella, al ritmo hipnótico de la música.


Todavía se le nota el agradecido asombro cuando Jesús recuerda el  primer desempeño de su papel.  Se enteró después que al cerrarse el telón, el mismo Alvarito se encontraba sólo en el pasillo, con lágrimas en sus mejillas, aplaudiendo y exclamando "Olé! Olé! Olé!" Para la siguiente función Alvarito volvió con la Real Escuela Andaluza entera para que todos pudieran ver ese espectáculo, algo que hasta el día deja a Jesús visiblemente conmovido.


Quizás lo que Jesús' recuerda con mayor orgullo es cuando se presentó la obra en el pueblo de Ronda.  Fue en este sitio donde toreó a caballo justo antes de subir al tablado.  Sabía que ese toro sería el último de su vida, y después del rejoneo, al subir a la escena para bailar con Carmen, los espectadores se enloquecieron de emoción.  Nunca en su vida se había sentido  tan artista, tan español y tan jinete como en ese momento.


Un Capítulo en América

Después de estos emocionantes y a la vez exhaustivos momentos bajo las luces, y después de cargos ecuestres por toda Europa, Jesús fue reclutado por la cadena de teatros de los EE.UU. Medieval Times. En los castillos de Medieval Times los visitantes cenan ante la proeza de caballeros diestros montados en caballos españoles puros y cruzados.


Jesús se mudó al sur de California, EE.UU., donde le otorgaron el puesto de Director de Operaciones Equinas del Castillo de Anaheim, entrenando y dirigiendo a todos sus jinetes y caballos. También viajó a Texas donde tuvo la responsabilidad de seleccionar yeguas madres calificadas para la yeguada de Medieval Times.


Después de dos años en Medieval Times, Jesús estableció su propia empresa de entrenamiento equino en el Condado de Riverside, California.  Ahora, después de ocho años en Riverside, ha transferido su cuadra de entrenamiento a San Diego.


Ahora muchos San Dieguinos están descubriendo a este hombre talentoso, gracioso y carismático con una ética de trabajo extraordinaria y muy buenos principios.


Todos los caballos son atraídos a Jesús.  Tiene una habilidad casi misteriosa de comunicarse con ellos de una manera concisa, clara, y que no deja nada a confusión.  Esto y su gran fuerza de dirección provée a los animales con una gran seguridad. Tiene fama de tomar caballos agresivos o severamente introvertidos, convirtiéndolos en caballos de monta complacientes, apacibles y obedientes.


Es más, su amor por el caballo es aparente en el encanto que descubre en la personalidad de cada equino que conoce—del atleta de sangre azul más fino, al más humilde caballo de paseo.  La pasión que Jesús tiene por su trabajo no tiene límite, ¡y nosotros nos sentimos infinitamente afortunados de tenerlo aquí!

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