The first time I met Vittorio Garrone we were at a dinner at the Italian Embassy in Warsaw, Poland. A smiling person in elegant but sporty dress who did not like to be noticed too much.
We were introduced because we had interest in renewable energy in common but they did not know that we actually shared much more: a passion for horses. We should have talked about kilowatts but the discussion never moved from horses and the emotions you feel when you connect with these animals.
I do not know why the passion for horses arises in people, but when it arrives it grabs you totally and stays with you for your whole life. In Vittorio it was born in 1989 yet his family had no background in this field so he shared his passions and studies with his wife Simona. Together they bought an estate in Arquata Scrivia, in an area where Piedmont and Liguria meet and mingle. They restored a farmhouse, where they lived for many years, and set up their breeding stud, ‘Basini’. Today they also have a farm in Normandy, an area with more suitable pastures for young foals.
“Basini was the name of the area, but also in the local dialect means ‘little kisses’ and this double meaning attracted me because it underlined the passion and love that everyone has to put into what he does. And it is love that prevents the passion from becoming a craze that could overcome the boundaries of ethics.”
Ethics, the right relationship between man and nature, between man and horse, has been the leitmotif of his life and, in the Basini breeding stud, attention to the horse’s serenity has always gone hand in hand with the search for gentle methods to help the animals grow up.
Vittorio aims to breed equestrian horses according to the basic principles of ethology, the science of animal behavior, in order to guarantee to amateurs and professionals horses that are healthy and prepared in body and mind. To this should improve interaction between man and horse, according to the principle of listening. It is to make equestrian world aware of an approach based on dialogue.
“Our result is not to get the horse to do a certain thing, but that the horse decides he wants to do it. At some point I realized that the mathematical rules of square meters for the box or the paddock were not enough, I realized that I had to concentrate on men before returning to the animals, and I began to choose the people with whom to surround myself.”
Vittorio founded a team of riders and began to support young people with promising equitation skills. The team has a great name, that you cannot forget and that is ‘very theatrical’ when it is announced in competitions. The team is called WOW. Such an original choice probably comes from the marketing experience of Vittorio within both the family company (ERG) and the football team of Sampdoria, where for years he was dedicated to marketing of his father’s passion.
“At first, when the family decided that I would be in charge of marketing for the football, team I felt a bit pressed into an environment that was not mine. Then my father left me free to apply to football the same philosophy that I applied in my horse breeding and I lived through exciting experiences and spent some unforgettable moments.
Even in football, the first thing was the care of the ‘nursery’, just as in rearing a horse, the attention and care for the children who come to the sport by having been kicking a ball, and then discover talent in themselves. But talent without discipline, love and fun is not enough to become a champion. And many still remember the dispute between Vittorio’s father Riccardo and the talented but undisciplined player Cassano.
Then he started making sports ‘twinning’ between schools of children in various parts of the world. This led him to travel and learn about realities of life very different from Italian and European.
“We had reached an important agreement with a Chinese for an exchange of children of the football school and to let them live in other countries having sports experiences. The first time I went on Chinese television, with a Sampdoria scarf around my neck, I asked about the audience data and I was surprised. Twenty million people had followed my interview and asked for information on what we were doing. Dizzying numbers.”
After his adventure with football, Vittorio returned to fully concentrate on horses and the WOW team. He entrusts the team to Luca Moneta, a rider who made the gentle method of taming his philosophy of life. Men and horses begin their relationship soon after the birth of the foals and this relationship is based on the pleasure of overcoming challenges together and winning. For Luca the most important thing is the dialogue, even when for the needs of the sport you are used to having to say more and to listen only a little. Instead a good ethologist listens a lot and after listening, starts by finding a communication.
Horses can sense all our feelings, they have a special relationship with man and this makes them ideal to help people who have physical or mental handicaps. The empathy between horse and rider is so strong that a person can change after contact with these animals and horse therapy is now recognized internationally.
“The strength of Team WOW is mainly determined by the will and the awareness whereby each of us can make a major contribution to what we strive for, it can be considered a real revolution in the equestrian world. Our horses are giving us enormous satisfaction, we try to reciprocate with daily affection, attention and relaxation, and we work every day with enthusiasm, to repay their great generosity.”
For his professionalism, for the ethical approach in Basini breeding and Team WOW, Vittorio was awarded the “Premio Flambo. Ethics, Culture, Science and Sport” under the patronage of CONI, the Italian Paralympic Committee, FISE and the Institution for Sports Promotion AICS, ASI, and the Italian Ministry of Health.