Greeted by waiters serving champagne and canapés they enjoyed the afternoon on the house terrace and taking tours around the farm on tractor and trailer or 4 by 4’s. They were shown by Nadja and her team the farms’ agricultural projects, the mares and foals while soaking up timeless glory of the Ribatejo landscape with it’s cork oak trees, pine trees, meadows and wildlife.
The equine entertainment was without a doubt a major ‘wow’ factor. How could it not be with the stylish pair of grey Lusitanos and handsome driver in the beautiful carriage to give them rides around the farm, followed by a ‘Private’ show from one of the four most famous classical equestrian schools in the world – The Portuguese School of Equestrian Art. Guests lined the arena as the riders in wine velvet coats and ribbon braided bay Alter horses filled their glaze with a pas de deux, caprioles, levade, pirouettes and a stunning carousel. The elegance and grandeur of the school not lost being performed away from their home in Belem (Lisbon).
After the show dinner was served in a beautiful open sided marquee overlooking the old house and gardens. It was a Portuguese style barbecue interspersed with Danish style speeches and toasts. At dessert the Fado singers appeared accompanied with two guitarists to perform their laments of love, Lisbon, the sea and life of the poor. It’s a mournful sound with a sense of longing that cannot help but touch the soul but this handsome Fado group have a lightness to their songs and they perform them in true showmen style – everyone’s captivated. Even the riders on their horses waiting to perform the working equitation display join us to form a respectful line along the front of the marquee creating quite an atmosphere of old Portugal.
At the last note of their soulful songs the guests follow the riders to the arena where they performed their jaw dropping show culminating in the fire performance. It’s an energising spectacle that puts everyone perfectly in the mood to dance the night away to a talented Danish Band, flown over especially to entertain them.
The next day, to our surprise guests wasted no time in being up and ready for the next round of activities. The day planned was as filled with museum and mini zoo visits, wine tasting at a manor house and Lusitano stud farm called Quinta da Lagoalva. The party goers were treated to a performance by a traditional Ribatejo group of singers and dancers. We were expecting about 8-10 performers so were delighted and astonished when 30 adults and children tumbled out of the cars and proceeded to give a charming, fun show even managing to encourage Niels and guests to join in the dancing.
Everyone returned to Denmark feeling satisfied with few days they will never forget. I believe all of us love to know that some of the World’s traditions are very much alive and still giving us all so much pleasure. What’s more there is no doubt that we are destined to see more equestrian entertainments in our events. Our equine partners bring that extra special something into our lives in so many ways. Long may they continue to enthral us and put a little skip in our hearts – after all, two hearts are better than one.
My thanks to Niels and Lisbeth for allowing me to give a glimpse into their fabulous weekend at Quinta da Varzea.
Text by Teresa Burton Lusitano Horse Finder
Photography by Lena Saugen Photography