Horse people are a breed apart. Bring together two of us anywhere in the world and lack of a common language is no barrier. Within a few minutes some sort of magic takes place and we are exchanging in-depth information about equine diet, training, hoof care, and all sorts of other topics, strictly through sign language and creative gestures. When we travelled to Cuba last year, I found myself in the above scenario with a carriage driver in Havana. I quickly discovered his horseís name, age, upbringing, and home farm location. It was clear that the owner was doing his best with very limited resources and I vowed this year to take as much horse equipment and supplies with me as luggage room would allow. Our destination was the UNESCO-listed city of Trinidad de Cuba and a quick search turned up the name of Julio Munoz, who has launched a one-man effort to improve the lot of Cuban horses. Called Project Diana, it is named after his beloved mare who died under tragic circumstances. Julio is a strong proponent of humane horse training methods and equipment, something that is an anomaly in a country where fear, dominance, and pain are the still the norm in shaping a horseís behaviour. ìThis approach made so much sense to me. Why wouldnít you want a partner who trusts, rather than fears, human interaction?î says Munoz. We walk through his magnificent Spanish Colonial home to reach the cobblestone yard where the one box stall holds a handsome three-and-a-half-year-old Criollo stallion named Apache. ìHeís fresh off the farm and hasnít been handled much,î says Munoz. The remarkable Apache calmly walks out of his stall and is tied to the wall for grooming. His relaxed air belies his lack of experience. Munoz proceeds to lead him through the house, posing him next to the couch for photos and then out into the bustling, noisy street where he regards his surroundings with laid-back interest. As if on cue to provide a suitable contrast, a passing wagon, laden with building materials, rattles past and the driver gives the lathered horse a series of sharp cuts with the whip for no apparent reason. Nothing bothers Apache. He watches Munoz attentively throughout and then ambles back through the house, down two stairs and over a metal grate to his stall. As we chat, Munoz shows me the equipment he has to work with. Much of it is well-used and has been patched and reworked many times. He considers himself lucky to have things that can only be brought in through fellow horse people, but it is clear that he and other Cuban horse owners are in dire need of virtually everything. I have brought four cob-size halters, brushes, various snaps and clips and some Velcro straps, as well as a book on horse breeds. Munoz is utterly thrilled and puts one of the halters on Apache. The rest will be distributed throughout the horse community. When asked what they need, he smiles and spreads his arms. ìEverything, really. Insect cream ñ our horses suffer terribly from ticks [some horses have ëspaniel earsí because the ticks cause so much pain the cartilage breaks from frantic rubbing]. Cinches or string so we can rework broken cinches. Mild bits ñ I give those to anyone who shows an interest in more humane methods. And mild curb straps if people want to stick with their curb bits. Reins, saddle pads … oh, and grooming tools. We donít have access to brushes and curries and so on. Ointment for saddle galls is really useful for us, too, because the hot weather and humidity make sores hard to heal. And those clips you brought. I can already think of so many uses for those.î I promise Julio I will spread the word back home and by happy coincidence not a week later see an ad on a local horse site posted by someone who is also collecting supplies to take to Cuba. Kelli OíConnell, a fellow Canadian and horse owner, has amassed a substantial pile of new and used items to take with her this spring. I put her in touch with Julio and a plan is born. We dub her family members ìthe tack Sherpas,î as they have also been pressed into service for their valuable luggage space. No one is spared ñ even the toddler is packing a halter or two! Cuban horses need supplies and thanks to the efforts of many Canadians, those supplies are beginning to flow. Even a few small items tossed into your carry-on makes a big difference in a country where tack shops are unknown. We escape winter and the lives of hard-working horses improve ñ a win-win situation. Update: Kelli OíConnell delighted a number of horse people in Cayo Guillermo this year when she showed up to do a tack exchange. ìI wish I had a video of this one fellow when I pulled out a box of shoe nails. He practically did flips! They couldnít believe what I kept pulling out of the bags. I asked everyone I could find about things for next year and have a much better idea of what this particular group could really use. I was quite delighted that they were interested in the snaffles that I brought.î