Articles and reviews about Equestrian holiday locations and lessons, quality of services and accommodation.

Equestrian Haven in Algarve

Algarve, is the southernmost province of Portugal, famous for it’s breathtaking mediterranean coastline, hot summers and mild, short winters, its friendly, laid back people, top golf courses, delicious traditional cuisine and stunning scenery.

We have discovered in the heart of this exotic area there is a equestrian escape where you can enjoy beautiful, well trained Lusitano horses and have a great riding experience.

The WOW Factor

The riding establishment called Centro Equestre Lusitanus is owned by the charming couple, João Pedro and Iris Miranda. To find out more  we arranged to meet João and Iris one very early morning at a fabulous beach where a wide river meets the ocean. When we arrived João and Iris were already waiting for us with two handsome, braided Lusitanos – a stallion and a mare and what’s more our hosts were dressed up in 18th century costumes. So all we could say was ‘Wow’, what a first encounter!

Joao Pedro and Iris Miranda Riding on the Beach in AlgarveNeedless to say, it all made for a wonderful photographic opportunity, we had so much fun. Once finished we followed them back to their riding centre Quinta das Cinco Ferraduras – The Five Horseshoe Farm.

It is clear that João Pedro and Iris’ are both passionate about everything equestrian, both have been riding since they were very young and decided very early in life that they wanted to have professional equestrian careers. João Pedro is from Vila Franca de Xíra close to Lisbon, where he was fortunate to have several years of training with grand classical master, Luís Valença, he performed regularly in the famous Valença shows. Later on João expanded his knowledge within the German doctrine and developed the competition side of his riding with the army in Mafra. Here João Pedro obtained his riding instructor status, in fact he was ranked first in his course 2002. João Pedro stayed with the military school as a riding instructor for some years and also had the opportunity to take part in their shows and compete in several disciplines. Iris is from Algarve but at the age of 15 she moved to Vila Franca to attend the Equine Management course, which then led her to be a riding instructor by the Portuguese Equestrian Federation. Iris has also for many years competed successfully in dressage at national level.

Four years ago, having worked with Lusitano breeders and at a variety of different riding centres, João Pedro’s and Iris’ lives took a whole new direction. They came together with business partner Ana Afonso Mateus to take on the riding school where Iris rode as a child, Quinta das Cinco Ferraduras. Grabbing the opportunity they began to build the foundations for their own classical riding centre.

Joao Pedro Miranda piaffe on Lusitano Mare in Algarve

I could not help but feel inspired by this lovely couple and all they have achieved. In fact even while we were chatting there was a hive of activity in the stables, six horses, three dark and three grey, was being prepared. It turned out João Pedro and Iris had planned to give us a classical display together with four of their students. We were led down to the spacious outdoor arena where we could sit back and enjoy a show seated on beautiful old stone seats under the shade of lovely trees. It was great, we were made to feel really special.

After the show we visited the closest town, Loulé, for a very pleasant lunch at a vegetarian restaurant with a wide range of freshly pressed fruit drinks. The afternoon plan was to see Iris and João Pedro give some of their students dressage lessons as well as learn more of the competition side of their riding. They showed us well trained horses of various ages and educational levels.

classical dressage performance

The day ended with yet another surprise, an in-hand display in the indoor arena, a horse was elegantly shown in piaffe, spanish walk, levade and pesade by João Pedro together with a student. When it was time to leave we were feeling really satisfied with all we had experienced – João Pedro and Iris really managed to show their diversity, we can’t wait to visit them again.

Both João Pedro and Iris are qualified riding instructors in the Portuguese Equestrian Federation, national dressage judges, competition riders as well as directors and riders of their superb classical shows. All the horses at Centro Equestre Lusitanus compete in dressage, many at a high level.

Centro Equestre Lusitanus even has their own dressage team made up of riders at all ages who are competing successfully in the regional championship. Alongside this the students and all horses regularly take part in the classical shows and displays.

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The riding and training philosophy at Centro Equestre Lusitanus -is a fusion of classical and competitive dressage principles, as João Pedro says:

“Our riding philosophy respects the very best of what each riding discipline offers in competition dressage and classical dressage. In applying methods and techniques from each style our goal is always that the horses are calm, forward going, straight with impulsion, flexibility and execute the exercises correctly”.

João Pedro explains that they devote much of their time to training of horses and students, their aim is to promote the practice of good horsemanship and to promote the qualities of the extraordinary Lusitano horse which by many is considered the world’s best saddle horse.

Today João Pedro and Iris have 27 horses in their care out of which almost all are Lusitanos ranging from youngsters to horses established at Grand Prix level. Many of the horses are also to trained to perform movements not executed in the competition arena such as spanish walk, levade, bows and more.

The equestrian holidays offered at Centre Equestre Lusitanus place the needs and wishes of the clients at the front. With João Pedro and Iris it is all about flexibility so their holiday riding programs are all carefully tailored, each riding package is designed based on the wishes of client. During your stay you can have –

  • Classical dressage lessons
    Long reins work in hand lessons
    Specifically dedicated dressage lessons with corrective exercises
    Competition tips and exercises

There is also the possibility to hack out in the beautiful surroundings and even beach rides when the season allows it. All of this can also be combined in whatever way you may wish for. Riders at all levels are welcome to stay for however long they want and to have as many lessons per day as they wish.

LevadeCentro Equestre Lusitanus is situated at Quinta das Cinco Ferraduras,  in Loulé in the centre of what is often referred to as Algarve’s Golden Triangle.

The Golden Triangle is made up by the towns – Vilamoura, Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo – known for having some of the best beaches in the world, great golf courses, and fabulous cuisine with fresh fish available at more or less every restaurant. You can go surfing or visiting Vilamoura Marina – it’s regarded as one of Europe’s best – or why not take a trip to one of the many small, old, villages with narrow cobbled streets and visit the local market or find a small hidden restaurant where sardines are grilled out on the street.

Centro Equestre lusitanus is situated only 15 minutes away from Faro airport and the accommodation for your stay is too flexible. Algarve is not short of hotels and golf resorts, João Pedro and Iris have good collaboration with a vide range of places to stay, all from local accommodation in Loulé a few kilometres away from the beaches, to four and five star hotels and resorts, you choose what suits you best. They help with airport transfer, car rental, and if needed, and within distance, they can take you to and from the riding centre during your stay.

We hope to see you soon riding in Portugal’s southernmost region.

BOOK YOUR HOLIDAY WITH US

To find out and book your holiday email us with your requirements

  • Length of stay
  • Type of lessons and how many
  • Type of accommodation

Editorial by Hanna Larsson and Photography by Bruno Barata  first published 2015

Monte Velho Eco Riding Resort

Monte Velho Equo Resort is one of the most stylish riding holiday destinations I have ever seen.  It opened two years ago and has never looked back, successfully  growing at a fantastic rate.

Monte Velho is a family owned business with a number of activities and at the fore front is their Lusitano Horse Breeding. They have a breeding philosophy a little different from most breeders and it’s proving to be a huge success producing  top horses.  Their aim is to breed a small amount of  ‘Sport Lusitanos’ each year – learn more about their stud in our breeders section.

Monte Velho means ‘Old Estate on a Hill” and there are remains of an ancient Roman Settlement at Monte Velho Resort.

Diogo Lima MayorThe resort is situated 7 km from Arraiolos at their stud farm (coudelaria). The property is in the heart of typical, almost prehistoric looking landscape of the Alentejo. Vast grey boulders, ancient cork old trees, holn trees, vine yards and long grasses. In the spring it’s an array of bright flowers which eventually turns to shades of greens and greys giving an almost modern Architectual feel. There’s a spiritual quality of times past and lingering thoughts what may have wandered the lands then.  The views are wide open landscape with an expansive sky. At night the sky is a bed of bright stars made brighter for the absence of excessive light pollution.

We arrived along a dirt track between the impressive boulders through an arched entrance. The white and blue farm buildings are a blend of a traditional Alentejo farm and modern design. The main house and Equo resort architecture  is designed by Arq. Diogo de Lima Mayer, the owner, and the interior design by Margarida de Lima Mayer, his wife. It all flows together organically blending perfectly with the surrounding countryside.

Diogo de Lima Mayer greets us in the courtyard. He a good looking man with a big friendly smile and sparkling eyes.  He whisks us off for a coffee and chat on the patio before a tour around the farm. Coffee and tea is served  in very trendy colourful china. However Lena can barely sit to drink hers, inspired she is immediately busy with her camera with so much to capture she’s off. Despite being a dull day, the grey clouds actually added to cool chic image and drama to the landscape colours.

On the their website it’s described as a boutique hotel but I would describe it as something a bit more than that.  For me the word ’boutique’ suggests something very bedroomsmall, chic and limited to a certain area but here you feel you have the boutique-ness of modern styling and individual space but you also have a feeling of so much more space available to you and there is. I loved the bedroom suites which are very modern in design with comfort and ease to move around.  They have super bathrooms with glass dividing walls and excellent showers.

Best of all each room has a private balcony looking out the landscape and a lake. I was delighted to see the balconies even have outside showers and comfortable furnishings. The perfect place to relax after riding with a glass of lightly sparkling vinho verde.

The more public areas are also well designed consisting of  a bar, restaurant, plenty of outside seating and a really cool rooftop swimming pool. Which is surrounded by the boulders so you have the blend of the grey of the stones and fresh aqua of the pool, you can swim while enjoying stunning panoramic views. The sun sets from here are spectacular.

MV11

After our hotel tour we were itching to see the horses and the riding facilities.  To get to the stables we crossed the sloping courtyard with peacocks and exotic planting.  The stables are a good size in barn stabling, a spacious tack room with modern and Portuguese traditional tack clean and well displayed….. Another example of traditional and modern blending perfectly. The horses were in their stables all calmly munching their hay. Diogo proudly took us into each stable to introduce them.  Most were from their breeding with a couple of other lesson horses. They all looked happy and well. Diogo is sensitive to ensuring the horses are happy so they have paddocks for relaxation time. We saw Diogo’s favourite, now retired stallion in the paddock enjoying life.

retirementFor the riding lessons there are two arenas available.  The indoor arena is a good size with a super viewing gallery. Then there is the outside Carriere which has Olympic dimensions (60mx30m) an excellent surface and a seating area for viewing.

In addition to dressage lessons covering all from basics right up to advanced movements on a choice of 14 school  horses you can go riding out in the countryside. Monte Velho has 250 hectares with all the surrounding area being National Ecological Reserve you will not have to ride on any roads but enjoy lakes, dams, soft tracks and 100% nature. Maybe even a picnic ride. You can choice to ride in normal tack or traditional Portuguese for comfort and style.

When we arrived at the Carriere we had the pleasure of watching João Torrão riding Equador MVL. What a spectacular young horse he is and with João onboard they make a perfect team. Now they are proving themselves in dressage competition.  João is a talented young rider being trained by Paulo Caetano and is showing real potential as an international competition rider. Later Doigo treated us to some fun photographing Equador in liberty. Equador proved to be a natural born star and certainly likes to demonstrate this.

House PatioWe were invited to enjoy lunch with Diogo and his wife Margarida  at the main house on their patio. What a patio! What an amazing stone table!  Both Lena and I were marveled at just the simple logistics of how they managed to install such a huge stone table top…. Diogo of course is a man that can :-).  The lunch was delicious healthy fresh and imaginative.  The conversation equally delightful. These are people that make a difference and know what makes others happy.  They have style, an eye for detail and a true understanding of customer care.  All in all I think to come for a riding holiday at Monte Velho will be a fabulous experience from your room, food, happy feelings and quality riding. For those that go I am certain will return again and again.

Even if you are not a rider you can enjoy nature, have a bike, take a boat on the lake or visit the city of Évora, considered World Heritage by UNESCO. Which is only 30 km from the Monte Velho Equo Resort.

Thank you Diogo and Margarida for such a super visit.

For further details go to Monte Velho  Getting there fly to Lisbon or Faro and I recommend a hire car. It is certainly worth getting out during your stay  to visit Evora buy some of the wonderful local produce typical to the Alentejo region – such as cheeses, wines, smoked hams and sausages.

CREDITS – Editorial – Teresa Burton    Photography  – Lena Saugen Photography

Written May 2015.