Shinning Bright Under the Alentejo Skies – Portuguese Dressage Riders make history for Tokyo 2020
In 2019 four riders with their ‘Chef d’Equipe’ Daniel Pinto took Portugal to the next level in International Dressage. They won a team place in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Although it is not the first time Portugal has competed, with great riders such as Miguel Ralão, Daniel Pinto and Carlos Pinto competing as individuals (a composed team) in Beijing 2008, Gonçalo Carvalho as a single entry in London 2012 and previously in London 1948 three riders won the bronze medal. This is the first time a full team qualification has been achieved. The four riders have only been competing Internationally for a short time and none have ever been to the Olympics, what’s more they are all on Portuguese Lusitano horses. All the horses were bred in the Southern Region of Portugal called the Alentejo.
All are pure bred stallions demonstrating the remarkable evolution of an ancient breed in a short period of time.
Very Recent Evolution of the Lusitano
In fact it’s only in the last 15-20 years Lusitano breeders have turned their expertise to producing horses for dressage competition. Previously they were bred for bullfighting, classical dressage and working equitation. It’s a very big step into International dressage sport where the warmbloods have dominated for so long. Breeders have managed, even with a closed stud book to produce high quality horses that are bigger, stronger, with more sportive gaits and yet still retaining the overall integrity of the breed. Admittedly, they may not have the huge extended movements of the warmbloods, but they bring other qualities to the party. A natural ability to collect, fantastic temperament, work ethic and rideAbility. Lusitanos are now ranked 7th in the WBFSH FEI stud of horse breeds for dressage competition. They are one of the oldest breeds of horse in the world and there is still a relativity low number of them registered globally.
´A New Record !! two of the qualifying Lusitanos have been bred at the same stud farm from the same stallion Rubi AR – this is the first time in the history of Olympic dressage that a stud farm anywhere in the world has attained this´.
Carlos Lopes (the Portugal Team Selector)
told me it is not just the evolution of the Lusitanos that has achieved this result, but also the investors in the horses and their support for the internationalisation of the riders. These investors have shown huge faith in the breed and commitment to International advancement. With this support there is greater access to more training and therefore better performance in the horses and riders.
The qualifying riders Maria Caetano Couceiro, Rodrigo Moura Torres, João Torrão and Duarte Nogueira are all true ambassadors for Portuguese equestrian heritage in modern day equitation. I talked with each of them to find out more.
For Dressage Rankings check FEI
João Torrão riding Lusitano Stallion Equador –
bred by Coudelaria do Monte Velho
At Monte Velho a stunning stud farm and luxury riding holiday centre in the Alentejo you will find João Torrão on Equador MVL. Just 25 years old João is the youngest rider to qualify the team his horse Equador is only 10 years.
João began working at Monte Velho when he was 15 years old he was there to complete a summer internship programme. João fitted in so well he was invited to join the team. Together with Equador they have shared a journey from knowing very little to competing on the International stage, really impressive for two so young.
João started Equador and trained with him from the beginning. He simply glows when talking about Equador telling me he is a very fun horse to ride, always with some surprises especially when he was around 5 and 6 years discovering his stallion side. Happily in work Equador is focussed and intelligent.
Making the Commitment to International Competition
About 4 years ago the manager of Monte Velho, Diogo Lima Mayer observed their potential made the decision to bring on board a trainer that could work with the pair 3 times a week. This was the game changer. The new trainer Coralie Baldrey a graduate of the famed Cadre Noir in Saumur France, brought her talent for working collaboratively with both horse and rider providing the next steps needed to accelerate them to the International stage. Watching the team work together it is easy to see what an excellent decision this was. She is a calm and attentive trainer, valuing the importance of combined training – hacking regularly focus on basics and never over train.
With Coralie ́s guidance the partnership developed enormously which resulted in the opportunity to train with Carl Hester in the UK. João told me this has been an amazing experience, he learnt so much from one of his greatest inspirations. Since then he is enthusiastically introducing new ideas to his training programme and daily activities for Equador – a stallion paddock was being constructed. He told me he is very motivated by Carl ́s amazing unrelenting positive attitude and how he finds the best in every horse.
In an interview with Carl Hester on João Torrão and Equador
“I find Lusitanos are so kind and willing to work, Equador transforms from looking like a cuddly pony in the stable to a real showman in the arena. The pair have achieved so much so young they have the potential to achieve a place in the top 10 world rankings”.
Carl when onto comment that the work Coralie had done with the pair meant their basics were so well established it made it easy to train the more advanced exercises during their stay.
A flexible and Varied Training Programme Makes a Happy Horse
Equador ́s weekly training programme is 2 days out hacking in countryside 4 days in the arena working mostly on the basics and maybe one or two exercises each session. She also works with João on confidence and focus for the competition. A intricate part to becoming an international competitor is our mental capacity and determination, numerous sport legends tell you that mental strength, visualisation and focus are vital keys to success.
Like Maria Caetano, João has horses to develop and he prefers to do everything himself from grooming, to grazing, hacking and training. He wants to develop a strong bond with each horse, there is no doubt that he has achieved this.
He is currently ranked 46th in the FEI dressage rankings.
He has several young horses bred at the stud farm he is bringing on for dressage competition. One in particular is a very promising young horse Maestro MVL standing 175cms he is demonstrating a temperament and talent for high level competition.
Joao riding Maestro MVL
Monte Velho – Lusitano Breeding Programme
Monte Velho have a very specific breeding strategy preferring to have just 5 mares. Each year they carefully select Lusitano stallions that most compliment each mare and potential for dressage competition. This is working out really well for them, to date they have produced some excellent horses that have been sold Internationally for dressage. The mares and foals live in a wide open landscape with many hectares of gentle hills to roam, cork oak trees for shade and a lake for water and bathing. Not sure you could image a better start for young horses.
The farm also offers high quality riding holidays with beautifully designed accommodation, restaurant, spa area and endless outdoor space. 20 riders per week can enjoy riding schoolmaster Lusitanos in their beautiful arenas surrounded by Alentejo beauty. There is also plenty of other leisure activities available such as biking, hacking, boating and walking.
I think we will be seeing a lot in the future from this charming pair – honestly cannot wait!
Text Teresa Burton Images Bruno Barata
Looking for a Lusitano for Dressage we always have a slecetion of high quality Lusitanos for sale check out whats on offer
Keep up to date with teh World Dressage Rankings at FEI
Image – Nuno Bernardes
First Farrier in Portugal with the European Certified EuroFarrier Qualification
This qualificated is issued by the European Federation of Farriers Association.
There is an old saying among horsemen, “No foot, No horse.” Despite their size and strength, horses are notoriously fragile animals. Four slender legs and small hooves must bear the horse’s full weight of 400 to 650 kilos.
Therefore hoof care is a vitally important issue for all horse owners. It is true that a horse may be able to sustain injury or illness in many parts of its body, the hoof bears weight and so adds hundreds of kilos of stress to any ailment. Maintaining a healthy hoof is the best way to give your horses a good chance to have a long, healthy lives. And that is only possible by having the best, and better educated, professionals at your service.
Developing a Passion for Hoof Care
After many years as an Equine Veterinarian, Nuno Bernardes found one area of equine medicine that shortly became his passion and his medical focus: Podiatry. One of the gaps he also found in his education was precisely hoof care and hoof therapeutics. And not only he decided to put his focus on improving his theoretical background on hoof and its conditions, but he also found the need to put his hands directly at the trade. Not having a true education reference in any institution in Portugal, he decided to engage in an Emergency Farrier Course in Spain that allowed him to get the basic skills to add to his already strong theoretical knowledge.
Following the premise that more qualification comes through education, in February this year Nuno Bernardes achieved a mile stone for Portuguese farriers by receiving the EFFA -Certified Eurofarrier Qualification. He has become the first farrier in Portugal to achieve this level of expertise. This certification recognizes the knowledge and skills to be able to perform legally the farrier trade in almost every country in Europe. Judge by recognized specialists through a very demanding and detailed examination, Nuno was able to pass this exam and get his recognition.
EFFA -The European Federation of Farriers Associations develops a common basic standard of competence in farriery. The Mission of the European Federation of Farriers Associations is to improve the welfare of the horse by encouraging the highest standards of trimming and shoeing.
Nuno has been our farrier for a number of years and I have always been struck by how much knowledge and active interest he has in the subject . He is continuously committed to advancing his learning by regularly travelling to other countries for clinics and courses. With Nuno we have the added advantage that he is also a practising vet so he brings his veterinary knowledge to his work. His efforts have paid off and I think this will encourage many more farriers aim for the same level of excellence.
Sharing Knowledge to Bring the Standards in Portugal
Being very found of sharing his knowledge with veterinary students that he tutors, and other farriers, he is always available to lecture at the universities and in farrier meetings. One of his goals his to increase the level of the farrier trade in Portugal through a formal education program for starting farriers but also organizing Continuous Professional Development courses for already stablished farriers. Following this objective, Nuno also had a very important role in promoting the constitution of the Portuguese Farriers Association, from which he is also a board member.
The Art of a Good Farrier
Thoroughout his daily work he deals with a lot of therapeutical cases, working in strong connection with some veterinarians and hospitals, but he also shoes horses that don’t have any particular problem but that do have owners that demand for a very knowledgeable professional.
Our Experience with Nuno´s Work
Having owned horse most my life and now been in Portugal many years owning and selling horses I have seen the results of a huge amount of pre purchase examinations. I think it gives me small position to comment on the importance of good hoof care. I can honestly say that I have witnessed an improvement in the quality of farrier work but it has saddened many times when a lovely horse has been failed due to neglect in this area. I cannot stress enough how important it is to be rigorous when you own horses about hoof care and shoeing.
So how do we maintain a healthy hoof?
Just like our own health it is better to commit to overall wellbeing as a health benchmark. Not waiting for problems to take action. If the diet is right, the hooves are regularly checked even for breeding stock and good shoeing you are well on the way. Horses in work should have their hooves picked out daily before and after work. The aim of picking out the hooves is to keep out rocks, clean out damp bedding and mud to avoid thrush. Just like our fingernails, horse’s hooves grow continuously and need to be trimmed every five to six weeks to keep them in proper shape.
A Trained Farrier should do the Trimming.
Inexperienced horse owners can easily trim the hoof unproperly, leading to infection or discomfort. The hooves must also be balanced to the horse’s natural way this is done by seeing the horse moving and the wear of the shoe and hoof. If this is not done correctly the horse can end up uneven in their gait or worse physically disabled. Not every horse will require shoeing, but if your horses are doing a lot of hard work or working on hard surfaces, they will probably need to be shod. And if he is unbalanced or in need of therapeutic shoeing it will most certainly do.
Dangers of Not Maining Good Hoof Care Practise
There are a number of other problems that can occur If a hoof is not maintained well, problems such as thrush, canker, bruised sole, abscesses, and cracks in the hoof wall. Thrush is a sign of infection. You will recognise this by the malodourous discharge from the frog of the horse. To avoid this keep your horse out of constant wet, and dirty conditions. Bruised soles often occur after a poor shoeing job or if shoes are left on too long. Abscesses can be a horse’s nightmare. If an abscess develops, more than likely your horse will suddenly be impaired on one foot. They are caused by puncture wounds, or by bruising, but long and neglected hooves suffer the most. To solve this, you will need to see a veterinarian, have the abscess drained, poultice and assure that he has his tetanus vaccination updated. Cracks are important to avoid because they can also lead to infection and severe lameness. The easiest way to avoid cracks is to have a professional trim the hoof. Usually cracks develop from unbalanced hooves and wrong weight bearing distribution. Those pressures can affect the coronary band, where the hoof grows from, leading to the deep cracks that are quite hard and time consuming to manage.
Other conditions to be aware of are
There are other conditions too such as white line disease. The white line is the area (that looks whitish but more often is yellow) between the outside hoof wall and where it meets the sole. When this becomes damaged, it allows fungus and/or bacteria to invade and separate the layers of the hoof wall. If this happens, the infection can spread around the hoof and up the inside of the wall to gradually “eat away” at the hoof. It usually don’t cause lameness but its progression can go as high as the coronary band. At this stage it can compromise severely the suspension of the third phalanx within the hoof, leading to severe signs pretty similar to those of a laminitis.
A quality balanced diet is paramount for healthy hooves.
A quality balanced diet is paramount for healthy hooves. Horses that are obese or severely malnourished will eventually develop problems in the hooves. Horses’ hooves are made up of protein and keratin (the same stuff that makes up hair). Like a horse’s hair coat, hooves will grow faster when days are longer. And while hooves may be slower than your horse’s hair coat to tell you that your horse’s overall health is suffering, sooner or later you’ll see poor nutrition reflected in cracks, chips or uneven hoof growth. It may be a subtle (and slow-moving) nutrition report, but your horse’s hooves are doing their best to say “pay attention!” And never forget water!!!
Check the articles on feeding Lusitanos – knowing their history and early lifestyle helps hugely in understanding the right diet for them.
An obese horse may be at risk for laminitis due to a metabolic condition known as Equine Metabolic Syndrome. Laminitis occurs when the delicate folds of tissue in the hoof (laminae) that produce the hard substance of the hoof wall and keep the hoof wall attached to the underlying bone, become inflamed or damaged. Left unattended, laminitis can lead to founder,a chronic condition in which a horse’s coffin bone rotates or sinks. Learn to be aware of the nutritional aspects of the feeds you choose especially the levels of sugar which is not suitable for horses in large amounts. In our management we prefer to keep sugar entirely out of our horses´ diet.
The benefits of plenty of movement is vital and when possible horses are better in overall well being when they can live some of their time outside in paddocks. Movement stimulates the blood flow to the hoof keeping them flexible and energised.
These are just tips about horse care and a few problems that could occur if you do not understand the importance of a healthy hoof. Just remember the old saying –
`No foot, no horse.’ A horse is only as strong as the feet it stands on.
A big thank you to Nuno for his outstanding work and well deserved achievements it is another step for Portuguese Equestrian Culture and providing high quality service.
Text – Teresa Burton
Images Carolina Duarte Photography
I am so excited about the up and coming launch of Equilife World.
It is a modern and stylish magazine aimed at horse lovers, riders around the globe. I think this magazine, inspired by Therese Alhaug is offering a new dynamic approach to the equestrian world. Packed with inspiring articles – riders, breeders, equine artists, writers and new ideas. The magazine is stunningly set out and full of beautiful photography.
A publication that brings fresh views of equestrian activity around the globe new insights and great opportunities.
Talented Swedish Artist – featured in first addition
Being part of this venture is a real delight for me. I will be regularly writing articles on Portugal and Lusitanos. I will also be expending to Spain. My intention is to introduce new things, maybe things you didn’t know, unusual equine activites, special people , greater insights in the World of Lusitanos and those involved in it. So great for Lusitanos and Portugal to be considered important enough to have a regular place!!
If you would like to know more sign up to the magazine I firmly recommend you Like their facebook page for info and release date. LIKE EQUILIFE WORLD
The first addition will be packed with Portugal/Lusitano Articles!! Stay posted.
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