The Brazilian Horse Whisperer Volnei Rodrigues, originally from rio Grande do Sul, and his wife Wal, did what many Brazilians do, and came to florida with their two children for a vacation. Volnei and his family, in particular Wal, fell in love with the area and so like many brazilians, they started looking into how they could make the move and live in central florida permanently.
Making the decision to leave you home country is a difficult and risky one, Volnei was hesitant but for the good of his family and with the gentle persuasion of his wife, he decided to take the risk; at least give it a shot for 2 years; “it’s better to regret something you did than getting old and regretting something you didn’t do”, he says.
Well 10 years later, it seems that there should be no regrets! As a renowned horse trainer who grew a thriving training business in Webster, florida, Volnei began bringing Creoule horses from Brazil and developed his own style of training that eventually led to his current position overseeing the training of Disney’s horses. “ i brought a different technique to the Disney team, which is a mix of what i learned in south brazil and what i learned from my studies”.
It was a long journey to reach this point and when asked whether it was an easy road for the veterinary physician, “not so easy” he says. Many immigrants struggle to adjust to a new culture, language and way of life, but it is just part of the course. For Volnei though, he also missed working with his passion, horses. As a small child, the now 56 year old, fell in love with horses. coming from 5 generations of horse lovers in South Brazil, his passion for horses is simply “in his DNA”. searching for that piece of home, Volnei used to drive to Downtown Orlando just to see carriages. However, this did not fill the void and Volnei also sought out the local riding stables.
This was the turning point for Vonei and his future in Florida. Whilst at the stables he noticed that a lady was having problems mounting her horse. In broken American, with a heavy Brazilian accent, which can be very difficult for many to understand, he approached the lady to see if she needed help. The lady refused his help. undeterred, on his next visit he saw the same lady struggling to get on the same horse. Again he offered his help and this time the lady accepted.
The lady turned out to be the owner of the stables and had been having trouble with this particular horse for some time. To her surprise, Volnei, after a few minutes, had tamed the horse. This ultimately led to the start of Volnei’s training center; people came to him to train their horses and his business thrived. He remembers when the owner first suggested he start charging for his service. As he had no idea at what level to set his prices in the us, he asked for her estimate. When she suggested five times what Volnei was earning, he had to try hard to keep his composure and simply answered “yes” with a smile!
Volnei is now famous for his own training technique, developed over time through his hands on experience in Brazil and his studies in America.
Understanding the horse’s body language is his secret. People often ask him what language he speaks to horses in, and although he has joked with clients about this in past, especially when they return to find a troublesome horse tame, Volnei admits that actually, it is the energy and that body language that matters. In addition, dominance is important; “There are two kinds of animals in nature, those that are dominant and those that are dominated. The horse seeks the alpha. He admires him, follows him and feels protected”.
According to Volnei, his secret to success is not just the passion in his DNA; reputation really makes the difference: “Here in the United States, when you do a good job, your best ally is word of mouth marketing”. Volnei also keeps his ties to Brazil very strong, he loves his home country and visits frequently although he spends most weekends these days either in his hometown of Orlando or taking his family for walks around historic St Augustine.
Volnei believes the US is a country of solidarity, which treats its visitors well and receives immigrants with open arms. For a man who likes to keep life simple and real, “Loving what you do and the place you live” is the motto that he lives by and Orlando is happy to have him!