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Jody's Blog

Portugal continued...

Author: SuperUser Account/Friday, August 19, 2011/Categories: Blog

Portugal continued...

Our time in Portugal was certainly well spent. Not content with just finding the perfect horse, we wanted to keep looking for something better, and also have a back-up. Unfortunately the disease Piroplasmosis is endemic in Spain and Portugal and is not allowed into New Zealand. It is estimated that up to 80% of horses in Spain have the disease and perhaps 50% of horses in Spain do. It is spread by ticks and can make horses quite sick. However this type of tick doesn't exist in New Zealand, but none the less horses that test positive are not allowed in. The cant spread the disease, but even so, testing positive to the dreaded "Piro" makes importation to NZ, USA, and Australia impossible. So while we sent off Xangai's bloods we continued tripping thru Portugal to find a back-up and to increase our knowledge of this wonderful breed.

Michelle and I enjoyed a double-decker bus tour of Lisbon - very touristy but a great way to see a new city. Lisbon is in no way as extravagant as Madrid - people seem to wear "normal" clothes and the food is certainly more rustic. Some of the city is in a bit of disrepair - but there's plenty of history in Lisbon and it's simply a fabulous part of the world.

After our bus tour we got picked up by another one of Portugal's top riders with a horse to show us - Ricardo Almeida. Ricardo was late to pick us up - maybe he has a puncture - or is stuck teaching a tricky horse. NO! It turns out that Ricardo was out surfing - he picks us up with the surfboard and his fox terrier in the jeep. I loved that! Both him and Daniel Pinto are mad keen surfers and enjoy it as fitness and a way to distress from the intensity of the dressage arena.

Ricardo's stud farm was nothing short of amazing - matched only by how amazing his horse Uivador was. Uivador is a 10 year old stallion - not very tall, possibly 16.1hh and a gorgeous bay. He moved like a flash warmblood, and to sit on... it's hard to find the words. Hot and responsive, flexible and powerful. I could have stayed on his back forever - it was heaven! I loved the 20X40 indoor surrounded by mirrors on all sides. But even more I loved the whole farm. It was thousands of acres. There was a security hut, fabulous stables, ornate tie ups and best of all - it had its own private church - check out the photos!The next day we went with another broker to some other parts of Portugal. This day was important because we visited the famous horsie town of Golega and we got to go to the "Holy Grail" of Lusitano breeding - the Veiga studfarm.

The town of Golega is famous for The Feira do Cavalos - a week long celebration of the Lusitano horse held for a whole week every November. The festival overtakes the town of Golegã, which is home to some of the most famous studs in Portugal.

The centre of the town is turned into a parade and exhibition ring and is surrounded by stalls, temporary, luxury stabling and the town centre studs open their gates to the public .The narrow, cobbled streets throughout the town become a maze of stalls and temporary shops selling all manner of things relating to horses and riding. The majority of horsemen and women whom flock to the event are adorned in traditional dress and there is a romantic air to the event. The festival culminates in a large party on the last Saturday, normally with fireworks and music and plenty of revelry. Apparently you can ride your horse into the bars at night for a beer - I've been invited back for this year's celebrations - will be great fun!

The Stud farm of the Veiga family is located just outside the town. When I first heard of the Veiga horse I was intrigued - was it a breed? A bloodline? Or some set of attributes possessed by only the top Lusitano horses? I certainly had heard many a person say that every good Lusitano needs "at least 50% Veiga blood". Well imagine my excitement when I was told we were visiting the Da Broa stud home of Manuel Veiga Snr and Jnr. I felt like I was being let into Portugal's Holy Grail...

From the moment we entered the stud farm gates I got goosebumps. This family is the most famous of all breeders - they have been breeding their own specific line of Lusitanos for hundreds of years. We got to see a breathtaking buckskin stallion which was to die for and another Grand Prix trained stallion - Manuel Veiga Jnr showed off not only doing onetime changes on a 20m circle one handed Portuguese style with his whip in the air, but also got back on him bareback in a halter and showed off a few more skills! We got to look through the family's private museum - a collection of over a hundred years of carriages, side-saddles, trophies and the like - incredible and awe-inspiring.

Another absolute treat was when Nicole Giger took us in the back door to look thru the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art - or the Escola Portuguese de Arte Equestre. It's the Portuguese equivalent of the Spanish School in Vienna. We got to spend hours in the grounds of the Royal Palace watching the fabulous bay Lusitanos of the Alter Real (Royal) stud performing piaffe, passage, levade and capriole. The riders here were so friendly to us, we got to be right beside the arena and chat with them all. A day not to forget. Now I'm starting to think a Veiga stallion or a bay from the Alter Real stud might be jetting to New Zealand....

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