Homage to my Father Carlos Rosa Santos

Homage to my Father Carlos Rosa Santos

Carlos Rosa Santos was a unique and special person. Anyone who knew him well would not be able to describe him without mentioning his life-long passion for horses. Nothing moved him, made him as happy or even sad sometimes, as being near horses. A passion that led him to take up horse riding as a sport with a special interest in show jumping; study veterinary medicine; dedicate a life to studying the ailments and treatments for horses, traditional and homeopathic, and insist on teaching his wife; daughters and granddaughters to horse ride.

My Father was born in Lourenço Marques, now Maputo in Mozambique. I remember that my Father was happy in many places, but I know that the land he loved the most was Mozambique. Here he learnt to ride at age 5 and I remember hearing endless stories about his early years in this country. Dad then went to Colegio Militar, Military College, in Lisbon from age 8 to 18 as a boarder. He did not talk much about this time as I know it was difficult for him being so far away from his family, who were in Mozambique. But we also know that he made lifelong friends here. It is here that his real passion for horses began where he rode competitively. After school he returned to Lourenço Marques to study veterinary medicine but as a result of the War of Independence, had to complete his degree at the Veterinary Medicine Faculty of Lisbon.

After his degree my Father and mother decided to move to South Africa. Dad gained invaluable experience in several veterinary clinics in Johannesburg situated in Highlands North, Rosettenville, Bedfordview and Kensington. He also practised at renowned equine veterinary hospitals such as Wendywood; Edenvale and New-Market where we all lived, as Dad was the resident racetrack vet for horse racing.

From several publications; numerous interviews Dad gave over the decades as well as newspaper reports I was able to piece together many facts about my Father’s life and career.

In April 1982, the Minister of Agriculture, nominated my Father as the Director of Veterinary Services for the Republic of Transkei, a state in the south eastern region of South Africa. Its capital was Umtata where my sister was born and the land of Nelson Mandela.

Dad as Director of Veterinary Services, a public service office, was responsible for supervising the work of 1,500 employees of which 25 were vets as well as overseeing the health control of all the existing herds of the Transkei including 2.3 million sheep; 1.5 million cattle; 1.2 million goats; 100 000 horses and 80 000 pigs.

He was also personally responsible for the control of infectious diseases amongst animals including programmes directed at eradicating Tuberculosis and Brucellosis in cattle; Sarcoptic Mange in a sheep flock; African Horse Sickness and Dourine in horses. The government Veterinary Services Department which Dad supervised housed a laboratory for testing samples taken from dead animals to identify diseases; a pathology unit to process specimens and they also produced their own vaccines. In 1979 and 1980 he supervised the planning and control of inoculation campaigns that prevented the spread of rabies in the Transkei.

Dad helped set up several nature and game reserves along the Wild Coast in South Africa which still exist today such as Mkambati; Hluleka and Dwesa Nature Reserves. This involved populating these new game reserves with wildlife transported from other parts of South Africa. He supervised the whole process of relocating the wildlife including the adaptation and wellbeing of all animals in their new habitats.

My Father was also a member of the Bilateral Agriculture Liaison Committee of South Africa and the Republic of the Transkei, as well as a member of the Transkei delegation of the Customs Union of which the following countries also formed part at the time: Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, South Africa, Venda and Bophuthatswana. His department initiated quality and sanitary inspections for the import and export of meat products between these countries as well as raising awareness of farmers to these issues. He also represented the Transkei at International conferences of veterinary medicine, animal breeding and marketing between 1977 – 1982.

When we moved to Portugal in 1986, he continued to follow his vocation for treating and caring for horses. He opened a veterinary practice in the Lisbon area and what I most remember of those years is that almost everyone in Portugal with a horse needed Dad’s help. in some way or another. So, Dad was in his element, doing what he loved. Apart from being studious and having second to none veterinary experience, which no other vet in Portugal had at that time, he made time and had unlimited patience for riders and their horses. I think if you are aiming to be the best equine vet you can, it helps to be a rider, which Dad was. I remember emergency call outs in the middle of the night for colics, mares giving birth; dad flying off on a monthly basis to Porto and the Azores to treat horses as being a very ordinary occurrence, which it was not in those days (80/90s).

Dad built his own makeshift surgical facilities at Quinta da Marinha and carried out successful surgeries at a time no one else did, even today most equine surgeries in Portugal are carried out by foreign vets. My father was the vet of many Olympic show jumpers at different times in their careers such as Jorge Matias; Miguel Faria Leal; António Vozone; Francisco Caldeira; Vasco Ramires e Manuel Malta da Costa. He attended the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games as the official equine team vet.

My father loved his family. We are a small family and so he is an enormous loss to us all. Our mother, Margarida Ferreira Neves, was his biggest supporter in all his accomplishments. Mum and Dad divorced but remained lifelong friends until the very end. The publication I am writing in, managed by my Mum, is not a coincidence. Mum knew nothing about horses until she met Dad. She learnt to love the horse world, there was no other option with such a legacy. My sister, Michelle Rosa Santos, became my father’s pride because she, like him, has a passion for horses. I remember the family feud when she gave up her law degree to follow absolutely anything, as long as there was a horse involved, with Dad’s full support. As so it was: show jumper; riding instructor; national dressage judge and my sister now manages a Lusitano horse breeding; sales and marketing operation. I am afraid I was the one that chose the not so exciting avenue of law but can confirm the imprint left by Dad of the love of all animals and, of course, horses. Then there are his granddaughters, Filipa Santos Cruz and Francisca Santos Madeira, both riders and both very dear to their grandfather. Dad was very proud of his granddaughters. My father was, as I said at the start, a unique and special person. He will be missed and remembered by us all.


On Friday, 1 May 2020, Carlos António Durães Rosa Santos, son of Orlando Rosa Santos and Maria Ricardina Durães, passed away at the age of 70.

Dad liked to say:

“Undo the knots that separate you and build the bonds that unite you”

Carlos Rosa Santos
29.10.1949 – 01.05.2020

Due to the current pandemic and state of calamity we are not able to honour Carlos Rosa Santos as we would like. A small ceremony for his close relatives will be held on Monday, 4 May 2020, in Cascais. I hope that this homage to my Father shares a small part of him, there is so much more I could write, with those who were close and dear to him, and there were many.

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