Portugal, home of the Lusitano horse and his excellent dressage skills. As I am always eager to learn more about the art of classical horsemanship and as I am a big fan of baroque horses, Portugal was the perfect place to spend my holiday.
In collaboration with Belgian based travel agency Trailfinders, I went to Portugal for an exciting dressage bootcamp and lots of sun. Trailfinders is a travel agency who is pioneer in offering riding holidays around the world for over 25 years. With their professional knowledge of travelling and lots of experience in horseriding, they are the perfect sparring partner if you want to experience an unforgettable riding holiday.
Let me take you on my journey to Portugal. We flew to Lisbon where our driver Henrique picked us up at the airport. A 30 minute drive later, we arrived at a lovely small village where the riding school was a hidden treasure in the neighbourhood. The dressage riding school has been in operation for over 30 years and is steeped in the classical horsemanship tradition. They offer riders, both novice and experienced, the opportunity to experience the renowned Portuguese pure-bred Lusitano horse and classical equitation in the spirit of the grand masters, in their original environment. The riding school hosts around 30 horses, mostly stallions and geldings, but they also have some mares for a breeding program.
Set on a hill-side, the riding school was originally built as traditional “Quinta”, a Portuguese country estate, complete with stables, indoor and outdoor arena, as well as an antique bull-fighting arena which is nowadays used mainly as a turnout for the horses.
The horses are stabled around the facility and the guest rooms are almost door-to-door with the horses, enabling the guests to spend as much time as they please around the animals. Every rider is hosted in the family run Quinta and can train up to twice a day with the expert and multilingual dressage instructors Georges, Paulo and Renato. Morning rides in a big outdoor arena are the best, especially when you have a view like this.
Meet Basilico: one of my favorite horses at the riding school. Before every training, we lunge the horses so they can have some playtime and buck all the energy off! As crazy as the horses are on the lunge line, as gentle as they are under the saddle. Basilico and I had some communication issues on the first training, because I wasn’t really used to the Portuguese riding style and he only wanted to do piaffe, go backwards and buck :). Lucky me, there was Georges Malleroni, my trainer of the week and the technical director of the riding school. Georges originally stems from France and took the path of Classical Equitation via Spain before coming to Portugal. He trained with Portuguese great master Nuno Oliveira, as well as with Jose Athayde, the founder and master of the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art and Chief Ecuyer of the Alter-Real stud.
Georges was a great help in riding Basilico and handeling his character. A challenge as he was, he even became my favorite horse to train!
In part 2 of this Portuguese adventure, I’ll take you to the Royal Riding School in Belém and give you more insights in the Portuguese way of dressage training. And off course, I’ll show you some more pictures of the beautiful horses!
If you are interested in a dressage bootcamp with high schooled Lusitano horses, check out Trailfinders for more info and bookings.