26/04/2019 - Portraits
Originally an equine osteopath, Aurélien Mateo quickly turned to blacksmithing which allows him to offer real continuity in his work. A new beginning for this blacksmith guided by a passion he likes to share.
"I'm incredibly grateful to horses", Aurélien Mateo tells us straight away. We're certainly in the presence of a true enthusiast here. "I can never be thankful enough for what horses have done for me: they helped me to grow up and meet wonderful people".
After training as an equine osteopath in Switzerland and England for five years, Aurélien Mateo quickly became acquainted with the specificities of the horse, as he explains: "A horse's feet can be considered as its four foundations. Four small foundations that are static but also dynamic in the case of a horse. And if these foundations aren't perfect, however much you manipulate the back, you will never achieve an optimum result. It's the same for a building: if the foundations aren't right, you'll never get rid of the cracks." Having understood this, Aurélien Mateo noticed that he sometimes managed to sort out back problems by only working on the feet. This is what encouraged him to opt for a career as a blacksmith. "And because I wanted to do things well, I started by working with Nelson Pessoa's blacksmith, someone who is recognised and experienced. That's how I ended up in Belgium." A flat land he hasn't left since.
For Aurélien Mateo, a blacksmith must meet several requirements: "He must be truly passionate about his job, a horse person. He must be able to understand horses on an individual basis. For instance, you can get annoyed with some of them but not others because they have a wilder side. Every horse must be treated differently." This way of working gives very concrete results. "After I've worked on a horse, I can see that it feels better", explains the blacksmith. "Vets also confirm that the horse is less sensitive and the scans show that there are fewer tumorigenic cells. A perfectly adapted horseshoe can really provide objective and measurable results. If a human being has ill-fitting shoes, they'll get rid of them after two minutes. However, a horse can't do that so it compensates thanks to its great ability to adapt. A horse's needs are very specific and it's up to us to adapt and understand them."
Aurélien Mateo is a real enthusiast who lives and breathes horses all day long, seven days a week. Besides his professional activity, he also rides horses and owns several. Hence, it's an animal he knows and senses perfectly. "You can converse with horses", he reveals. "They speak to us a lot. Through gestures, by our approach and intention towards them. This reminds me of my training as an osteopath, when I was told 'only the intention counts'. Thanks to that, the horses are often calmer with me."
Has his motivation waned over the years? Certainly not: "When I shoe a new horse / when I re-shoe a horse and my customer comes to see me and tells me with stars in his eyes, 'Thank you, Aurélien. Thanks to you, my horse really flew', that's all it takes to make me happy. That's why I get up every morning." Ultimately, his career is composed of stories of encounters between him and his horses, but also between him and his customers and the people with whom he continues to learn his trade. "I regularly go on trips. I take the plane to meet professionals and question what I do so that I can continue to improve", he concludes.
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