Interviews with Lusitano breeders, dressage and working equitation riders, teachers and people deeply involved in teh world of Lusitanos and the heritage.
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
Rodrigo on Fogoso
Rodrigo Moura Torres has been riding all his life on his family farm in the Alentejo. He began his riding career working the farm cattle and competing in working equitation. This took him to performing shows at equestrian events even riding without reins. A short search on YouTube and you will find wonderful videos of Rodrigo riding one time change with a garrocha in one hand and a hat in the other.
I was amused to notice on the wall in their viewing gallery there is a poster of Rodrigo performing in 2003 at a show in Hickstead,UK without reins! In 2019 he was photographed again at Hickstead winning the Nation’s Cup – with reins this time!
Rodrigo told me that one of his early masters was Mestre Joao Lopes Aleixo the most important tips he learnt from him was the importance of the seat to have balance and control to give impulsion from behind. Create harmony with invisible aids, still today he is working on this.
Their beautiful farm has been in the family for over 200 years. In 1978 Marcos Torres Vaz Freire and his son Carlos founded the stud – Coudelaria Torres Vaz Freire.
Starting the Stud Farm
They began with horses from Rio Frio and João Moura’s brand with two key foundation mares – a mother and daughter Garça and Negaça. Today if you trace all their horses you will see they all come from these mares. The first horses were bred for bull fighting and then working equitation but in last 10 years they turned their eye to producing dressage horses. The Farm currently has 45 mares and about 20 breeding every year. They enjoy blissful lives out in large fields dotted with cork oak trees and gentle hills, there are lakes for water and in spring it is a mass of vibrant colours with a full covering of wild flowers. Very magical especially at the sunrise and sunset.
Carlos, Rodrigo and Maria out with some of the mares
Carlos is the backbone of the farm, it is clear how much he loves the horses and is totally dedicated to producing amazing animals. As Rodrigo´s wife Maria told me the whole farm depends on him, he knows everything going on, plans daily and he fixes everything. Carlos wholeheartedly supports his son Rodrigo´s career, whenever possible he is at the competitions filming the tests. While we were visiting Carlos took us to the fields to see the mares and foals. I couldn’t help a private smile to see how Carlos hugs his horses he clearly loves them very much.
Currently 69th Place in the FEI World Dressage Rankings
Fogoso TVF is now the farm’s shinning star.
At only 10 years old and 172cms he is a very tall Lusitano, his powerful limbs and body demonstrate very well the dressage evolution in their breeding strategy. Approved as a breed stallion, this year he will be sire to 30 or 40 foals many on the farm. A stallion with star quality Fogoso is a horse that loves competitions rising to challenges confidently he has steadily improved taking them to an impressive 69th position in FEI´s world dressage rankings.
A very important part of Rodrigo´s success is the loving family team around him, particularly his wife Maria Amaral and his father Carlos Torres.
Maria has been a big influence in Rodrigo dressage career, they make a great team. A successful GP rider in her own right, they ride together and train each other. She told me she admired Fogoso´s star quality right from the moment she saw him as a colt. At that time she was only dating Rodrigo, however it didn’t stop her from persuading him and Carlos to sell her a half ownership in him.
Fogoso clearly still has this natural star quality and since he is also a breeding stallion he is very proud, when being led without a saddle he thinks it is breeding time so can get really playful. At the competitions he truly shines loving the limelight.
Rodrigo and Maria have a fantastic supportive relationship that has enabled them to launch into an International level which is very exciting for them and the future of their horses. They are a strategic couple, after every competition they review the test videos assessing each part, the scores to decide where and how they can improve. The aim now is to increase the scores to consistently over 73%.
I sincerely look forward to seeing them progress. The stud farm is Coudelaria Torre Vaz Freire Monte de Vila Formosa – Chança. Alter do Chão Portugal.
It is possible to visit and stay right on the farm in their farm holiday cottages.
Text Teresa Burton Lusitano Horse Finder Images Bruno Barata
Keep up to date with the World Dressage Rankings at FEI
Lusitanos -They truly are Modern Horses with Timeless Quality!
Duarte Nogueira riding Lusitano stallion Beirão AR bred and owned by the Coudelaria de Alter
Duarte has been working in the Alter Organisation for 35 years beginning his career at their other farm Companhia de Lezirias. His daily life is backing and training young horses and the riders working in his team. Although he loves dressage and to compete he does not come across as hugely competitive.
Duarte working a promising young Alter Stallion
He told me he never imagined he would become an International Dressage Rider and be one of the ones to qualify Portugal for the Japan.
Being an incredibility modest man he is very committed to his daily routine. I had the impression he was slightly in awe at the possibility of actually going to Japan next year.
Duarte on Beirão indoor arena at Alter
Duarte´s main competition horse is Beirão
a huge extremely grand stallion that has such a noble presence when I stood beside him in the grooming area I was struck by his ´zen´energy. What a great shoulder and neck he has. There is a strong sense of the history of the ancient breed about him a war horse, the gentle giant. He appears that nothing would ever faze him, in fact Duarte confirmed this by telling me he what a brave and willing horse he is never says no to anything. He said he feels Beirao understands everything like he has lived many lives. They do make a lovely team.
Most of Beirão daily care is done by Duarte from grooming, washing and training. Duarte was the one to originally to back him for riding. For such a big horse he is very elastic and light when he is moving.
Beirão has an impressive family behind him, like Coroado AR he is the son of Rubi AR the highest scoring Lusitano ever in the Olympics. In fact the Alter Stud has an outstanding track record with their horses. With a majority of the Lusitanos arriving at the Olympics having AR bloodlines – 3 out of the 4 horse that qualified for Japan share AR bloodlines. Rubi AR owned by Christine Jacoberger is the highest scoring Lusitano and Guizo AR owned by Yeguada la Lira y la W won team silver for Spain in the 2006 Athens Olympics. Guizo´s son Zingaro de lyw was in the Brazilian team in the Rio Olympics 2016. Beirão is approved for breeding and is already the father of many young horses.
About the Alter Stud Farm
The Alter Royal stud farm dedicated to the nobility of the Lusitanian horse was founded by King D. João V in 1748 with the aim to prepare horses for the royal riding school. The Portuguese School of Equestrian Art located in Lisbon
“May this breed be kept forever pure”, the kingdom was commanded in 1812.
Since it was created there have been many setbacks over the years with wars and political cues threatening the stud but with foresight and determination it was preserved. Now in modern day the farm has been revitalised, and is still successfully producing horses.
Image Francisco Beja, Duarte Nogueira & Beirão AR
The farm Director Francisco Beja manages the day to day running of the stud especially the breeding programmes. Together with João Pedro Rodrigues of the Portuguese school of Equestrian Art they carefully select the stallions for breeding to produce horses for the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art, dressage and various other equestrian disciplines. Francisco is also the driving force behind the competition programme for the Alter horses, it is a tribute to his ambition for their success that has seen these fabulous horses, the owners and sponsors to make such significant strides in the evolution of the breed.
Alter Mares in the famous mare and foal stables at Coudelaria de Alter
The farm is more than 800 hectares of stunning Alentejo countryside close to the Spanish Border. A landscape of gentle hills, ancient olive and cork trees, scattered with huge grey boulders that seem to have been there for ever. In the springtime wild flowers carpet the land and it is utterly stunning especially seeing the herds of mares and their foals grazing amongst the vibrant colours. Visitors are welcome at the farm they receive regular tours and there are sometimes events going on. As you go round the stud, you will find out about its history from the pictures on display in the entrance and in the museum. In the stables, admire the haughtiness of the Alter Real breed of Lusitanian horse, and learn how they become top stallions and how they are selected for the advanced riding school.
Just this year a Vila Gale hotel has opened on the farm so you can stay there to enjoy the area and the horses.
The Future is Shinning
The future is looking very bright for the young riders in Portugal with quality horses, better training, greater support and greater global interest giving them more opportunities to become serious International players. The Lusitano horse has in last few years sky rocketed in World interest attracting equestrian visitors to try and buy the horses therefore adding to the strengthening of the Portuguese economy.
Lusitanos -They truly are Modern Horses with Timeless Quality!
Text By Teresa Burton www.lusitanohorsefinder.com
images by Bruno Barata Photography Portugal
Management consultant Margit Dellian in Germany explained to me why the noble, sensitive, beautiful and highly intelligent horses from Portugal are particularly well suited as executive coaches. She created and founded http://www.equi-com.de/ management seminars with horses. Margit works almost exclusively with Iberian horses, including three handsome stallions.
I’ve been excited to do this interview with Margit for quite some time as I find it an extremely interesting topic. For 20 years I had my own company in Corporate team building, communication and management development in UK and around Europe. I was very fortunate to work with leading Global corporations at high level management. I found the most effective, long lasting results came from activities where course participants were interactive both physically and mentally. We used games, challenges physical and mental, outdoor activities and theatre skills in our courses.
My work experience led me to firmly believe good communication is about ‘valuing our differences’ . To be good leaders we need to understand how we communicate both in the words we use but even more importantly how we portray ourselves through our physical presence and actions. The person or animal we are communicating with receives the signals we project from – our eye contact, our breath, our movements, our body stance, our energy – These subtle ways of giving out messages have much more impact than what we actually say. So if our subtle messages are apposing our verbal communication we are are giving a confusing impression.
Effective leadership requires quality dynamic communication. In order to be effective we must learn to become more aware of the person we are communicating with. We need to look to find the right ways to communicate with others – as they would prefer and not as we would prefer. It is amazing to think our equine friends can assist in finding better ways to communicate and lead others.
I met Margit in Portugal some years ago, she had a young Iberian horse in training at the same yard as I had mine. Margit was looking for a new member of her management team – preferably a dun Lusitano Stallion. The mission was set.
So one weekend a short while later Nuno Andrade (dressage rider and trainer) and I went horse shopping! The result was a stunning dark chesnut sport Lusitano for Nuno and the beautiful Atila for Margit.
ATILA is a purebred Lusitano stallion with the considerable height of 168 meters. He comes from the famous bull fighting lines at Manuel Tavares Veiga and was in his youth actually trained by a Portuguese bullfighter. When Margit saw him in the videos and photos she was completely smitten, he was immediately purchased. After some further training in Portugal with Nuno, Atila was transferred to Germany and has became a vital part of Margit Dellian’s equi-com® team. Instead of fighting bulls, he now works with German business leaders, helping them to become better bosses. With his golden fur, the compact, muscular body and characterful head he looks very impressive and makes a lasting impression on the seminar participants. At the same time he is gentle, sensitive and kind to his two-legged training partners. That makes him even as stallion suitable for this innovative form of leadership development.
Just Iberian horses fascinate people like no other breed . They are the epitome of nobility , elegance and beauty.
It is not without reason that these horses were the first choice for kings, generals and nobles in ancient times .
Image : Dellian consulting /
Christiane Slawik reproduced free of charge
Tell me why are Iberian horses your first choice for working with top managers?
Margit Dellian: Even in ancient times , the noble horses from Portugal and Spain were considered as the first choice for the former “manager”, ie for Kings, Generals and Emperors. One can still see this through many of equestrian monuments today. I find them to be fine partners to work with as today they continue offer my course participants the same qualities they gave in the past.
So what do you think are the qualities that make these horses so popular?
Horses are always a great way to show leadership behaviour and to give the training partner an honest reflection of his body language, his appearance and his authenticity. Especially in the millennia breed of Iberian horses the attention was less on the large-framed movements – such as today in the sport horse breeding – but on characteristics such as character, human-relatedness, courage, intelligence and sensitivity, which are important for the cooperation between man and horse – otherwise many generals and bullfighters would not have not survived.
These qualities, which are often referred to as the “pious fire,” make these impressive animals to perfect training partners. In addition to two geldings and three mares, we work with three stallions of pure Iberian breed – which is unique in Germany – and we have thus far had only positive experiences.
Eye of a Lusitano
stallion Vasco da Gama ( original name Studbook Veterano ) :
How did you come up with the idea of organising leadership seminars with horses?
In August 2009, on the road between my office in Heilbronn and my office in Frankfurt the idea flashed before me: to train managers with horses! I came from a family business which is now run by my brother and I’ve worked self employed for over 20 years for mostly privately owned companies. I was almost obsessed with the idea to find a practical way to teach the mostly technically excellent Chiefs these simple but hard to mentally understand “soft skills”, like respect, trust, mindfulness, motivation, appreciation or presence – the true keys to successful leadership.
“soft skills”, like respect, trust, mindfulness, motivation, appreciation or presence – the true keys to successful leadership.
I had at that time already three horses -Two Iberian stallions and one Andalusian gelding.
In sort of self-experimentation I have had some enlightening experiences. When I showed up to see my four-legged partners after a stressful day at work distracted, stressed, tense and with my mind on the last meeting. I was not really present for my horses, they could not take me and my unclear instructions seriously. Threats, pressure, carrots and sticks also did not bring me any success. Surprisingly a calm, specific, clear appearance, a concrete and understandable objective with recognition in the form of praise and petting – without incentives, such as carrots , made these 600 kg muscle packages – including two self-confident stallions happy to participate and easy to handle. For an impulsive and quite dominant person like me, it took awhile for me to come to the realisation that my Iberian partners are a reflection of my own personality, my own leadership behaviour. At first it was uncomfortable to accept – it’s so much easier to project a bad result on one’s opponent! But the innocent, non-judgmental nature of horses leads us to self-reflection and only the honest confrontation with our own personality brings true personal understanding.
Who are your customers and how do they respond to your seminars ?
Our customers come from various sectors but mainly we work with managers from the automobile industry. Although these senior engineers are usually skeptical at first, when they have understood the connection between leadership and horses. Come to feel how the horses help them to a so called soft skills experience, they are usually enthusiastic. The CEO of a major automobile development company that works for almost all German premium brands (Audi, Porsche, BMW, Mercedes Benz) recently reported to me that a year after visiting our workshops three seminar participants out of four said that the equi-com® training with the horses was the best and most sustainable management training they had ever experienced. This is quite an achievement as they have had lots of management seminars before!
Horses accurately reflect the human body language and make their training partners realize how important their own appearance and their function as a model is. They motivate the seminar participants to self -reflection without judging or criticizing them – this is hardly succeed with any other training method .
Here Lusitano stallion Vasco da Gama ( original name Veterano ) working with a seminar participant. Image : Dellian consulting /Reprint free
That must have made you very proud Margit. Tell me About the equi-com manager seminars with horses, what goes on?
“What does the Company Leader or Manager learn from the Ross (German for “horse”)”? For the last five years, this is the question the participants of the equi-com® management seminars with horses have to answer. During the 1- to 2 day workshops entrepreneurs, executives and junior executives and mangers can experience with our horses, what skills a Boss must have in order to be happily and voluntarily accepted by their employees in practical work. Of all animals horses are probably the closest to humans in their social behaviour.
The horses mirror exactly the behaviour of their counterparts, therefore they are very useful as a manager trainer because they are acting as our reflection. The course participants experience one to one encounters with the horses in different ways for a first hand feeling. They also are able watch the interaction with fellow participants and the horses. We have developed different creative ways to enable individuals to have a positive, reflective 2 days and providing them with solid results to take back to the workplace. Thus support them in their future communications with their staff and customers.
I have found that the advantage for companies and organisations : During one workshop with horses is that the participants understand, what really matters for good and successful leadership and how it feels without role-plays and psycho-discussion. It was not without reason the name of common sense in English is also known as “horse sense”
I understand you also have horse master Florian Mueller working with equi-com.
Yes Florian is world renowned as a horse expert and specialist in Iberian horses. He also has had 30 years of running his own leading engineering company. I feel very fortunate to have Florian on our team, he adds a lot of value to the work. Coupled with my experience we make a great, creative team.
Forian Mueller – here with Lusitano stallion Atila – is an expert in Iberian horses and has brought the first Iberian horses to Germany more than 30 years ago. The successful entrepreneur and renowned show rider trains the horse for the equi – com® seminars and conducts the practical seminar exercises. picture : Dellian consulting / Christiane
reproduced free of charge
It’s always a real pleasure to learn more about innovative people making new waves in the world. None more so than when our beloved Iberian friends are involved. It’s been very insightful to learn a little more about what you do. I have no doubts about the huge success you are experiencing and will continue to do so. I look forward to welcoming you again in Portugal.
Thank you so much and I wish you continued success in your venture.
Equi-com was inspired and founded by Margit Dellian, who has a degree in business administration. She has been running for 20 years a consulting company which offers communication and business management programmes.
To find out more contact: www.equi-com.de and www.finca-vera-isabel.de
Images: dellian consulting / Christiane Slawik reproduced free of charge
Looking for a Lusitano for your business check out the Lusitano we have to offer
About 4 years ago (2010) I met Dylan Jones, joint owner of Dolbadarn Film Horses. He had approached me to find a Lusitano for his film business. In fact, I found him two beautiful black half brother Alter Real colts. From then on our friendship has developed. It’s been very interesting to watch the progress of the colts and to learn more about the horses in film and television. I thought it would make fun reading for you to find out more about “Lusitanos in Film’
Dolbadarn Film Horses is located in North Wales, UK and works in the film and television Industry.
Dylan as I understand, Dolbadarn Film Horses is a family business, how and why did it begin? and how long has it been running?
Yes, the Dolbadarn Film horses is a family company, formed in the early 70’s. My parents had a horse trekking business. They would to take regular trips to Ireland to buy horses from their friend, Austin Gaskin. Austin also supplied horses and carriages for TV and film. He was based in Bray close to Ardmore Studios.
On one visit, Austin picked them up from the ferry port and drove them straight to Bray to look at the selected horses. Austin had picked 5 lovely Irish cobs. However the horses couldn’t leave straight away, as he was using them in a new Sean Connery movie, in which he was the Horse Master, Zardoz. To my father’s delight he was asked to assist Austin on the job, my mother got to be the double for the main actress on horseback…..and so it began.
The business quickly grew and my parents supplied horses to many television and film jobs. They worked on top films such as Michael Mann’s WW2 Horror, The Keep, The Far pavilions, with Ben Cross – where we doubled up the horses filmed in the Ogwen valley. And more famously, we supplied a hundred horses on location in Dinorwic quarry for George Lucas’ fantasy movie – Willow.
I was only 10 years old when I started to regularly assist my Mother, on location. Amongst the hustle and bustle of horses being tacked up in period tack and trappings – riders in full costume mounting up and riding off to the set, two by two – I knew then this was something I’d love to do in my life.
Having fallen in love with the business I went to college to study Performing Arts and did a degree in Theatre Studies. While there, my agent called to ask if I would like to work as a rider on a new Merlin movie. I jumped at the chance.
On that film I rode along side some of the best stunt/action riders in the industry, I am still friends with them today. Doing this work confirmed my decision, to learn to run Dolbadarn Film horses!
In the early days I trained with one of the stunt riders I had met on the 97’ Merlin, Ian. He had his own equine stunt team, called the horsemen of the Apocalypse. With Ian, I gained new skills as a trick rider and as a result, I went on to perform in live shows for a number of years. Also around the same time, I began to research different training styles and passionately looked back at the old Medieval style of riding, which took me through Europe to Portugal. In Portugal I found a few very good trainers and excellent horses. Since then, for about 16 years I’veve been regularly visiting Portugal. I feel I’ve developed quite a bond with the country, the people and the Lusitanos.
Wow Dylan it’s lovely to hear that you enjoy Portugal so much, tell me what is about the Portuguese Equitation particularly attracted you?
I am fascinated with the high standard of riding I’ve seen. I especially like the subtle body weight aids and the sharp versatility of the horses. This inspired me to learn more. In particular ‘the working equitation’ in Portugal as there are a lot of similarities between working equitation and the film riding we do. Particularly the period medieval riding. The medieval style takes us back to classical principles.
I am very curious about your business it seems very fun and exciting, although I am certain behind scenes is a lot of training and hard work. Can you give us a bit more of an insight into your daily work and your horse’s jobs?
We train and supply horses to the entertainment industry. Our specialty is preparing the equines for the screen as well as live shows. For this we have develop two types of horses – an “Actor” trained horse which has to be an intelligent horse. One that understands and respects the riding level of its rider novice or experienced. He has to be constant in the action whatever the rider is doing on his back. We train these horses to go from “A” to ”B” however many times it takes to get the perfect shots.
It is very vital this training is done in a calm and safe way. The horse must be consistently calm at all times. We must always keep in the front of our minds that there is a precious artist in the saddle, trusting that the horse will look after them.
The other type is the action / stunt horse, These animals have to be courageous, brave, very trainable and even more athletic. They are fully trained rider’s horses. The action horse will run through a wall of fire. Rear up on command, fall over at a canter time and time again without being at all fazed. These horses must have an attitude, and most importantly enjoy performing!
A really good film horse can achieve up to 5 or 6 skills such as – trick riding, carriage driving, mounted combat, fire work, rearing, stunt falling over etc. But I find most horses settle with 2 or 3 skills.
These horses must be amazing, you’ve been training them now since childhood do you think the way you train the horses changed much from when you started?
We usually keep to our tried and tested methods although I have gained much inspiration from Portuguese equitation. In general Hollywood Productions bring the Period Blockbusters over to UK and Europe to film because there’s a reputation for the highest quality amongst the horse trainers here. In the UK there are some of the biggest horse teams, most of them are based near the film studios just outside London. We are only in small business by comparison so I am proud that we get to work along side some of the best horse masters and stunt riders in the industry.
Yes , all my horses and team train at out farm .We have an outdoor school and an indoor arena nearby. We are very lucky in that we have a natural training ground to prepare the horses.
We have mountains, lakes, beaches, farms and the ocean, busy roads and heavy traffic.
Our horses are introduced to everything so they become fearless and as we term ‘bombproof’. Or at least as close to bombproof as possible.
Naturally the burning question on my lips is about your Lusitanos – I know you do have several of them, please tell us how you find them to train and work with?
I love Lusitano’s! Some of my best horses are this breed. I find them fun, sometimes a challenge, very intelligent and honest horses. I have Actor trained Lusitanos and also action / stunt trained Lusitano’s so they are very versatile. In my opinion they are not an easy horse to ride or understand they don’t suit everyone.
This is because they can be quirky, sharp and sensitive ridden . But if you have the knowledge to understand them, I think they are, one of the best breeds around.
What are the most popular breeds used in film? How do the Lusitanos compare?
All the different film teams in the industry will have their own breed preferences. Some like the Spanish horse, Some like the Portuguese horse. Some might have both breeds for different skills and jobs.
In my experience, the Portuguese horse is sharper than his Spanish Brother but at the same time has more courage. The Spanish horse tends to be chosen because it is less sensitive in general than the Portuguese horse – but that’s generally speaking.
I find although the Portuguese horse is often hotter (depending on bloodlines), however you can send a Lusitano into a full energy battle scene, get the horse really hot mentally. As soon as the Director say cut, you willl see the same horse stand still and be a cool straight away. It is very good to see this, they have a working mentality.
I love it the Lusitanos are so cool !!!
Dylan, how do you choose your horses? and what age do you prefer?
I’ve grown up around horses . I was riding before I could walk. So I guess I’ve picked up the energy from the horses. For some reason, if I see a horse I’ll know very fast if he or she will be good for me. and more importantly if we’ll get on. Generally, the younger the horse the better.
Sometimes though, horses pick me this is how I came to have Valmorim from Jan Pendlebury – who has a Classical Centre near me. A few years ago she invited me to see her new Lusitano foals – which naturally I was delighted to do. When we arrive at the field, as with most very young foals they were shyly hiding close to their mothers. Then a little black foal came out of nowhere and stopped in front of me. I knelt down and slowly put my hand out, the foal reacted by licking my palm. He was so brave and bold I knew he was going to have a life with me.
13 Years later that black colt, now grey is one of my very special horses. He is unique, he can read my mind, and I his. We’ve grown up together. Valmorim and Diablo (my greatest horse a Welsh stallion), are two horses I am certain chose me!
I am extremely curious and interested in the Lusitanos that I found for you as 3 year olds, two half brother black Alter colts. I know one has turned out to be an ideal film horse and the other is stunning looking with the magical flowing mane and tail and he has been in photo shoots galloping along beaches. Can you talk a bit about them how they are to work with.
Yes although half brothers they are totally different in nature . Choque now called Beauty because of his extraordinary long mane is a fairy tale horse. Apart from Valmorim he is the most sensitive horse I’ve ever ridden. He’s not really a film horse, more of a one to one for liberty work and modelling potential – he does have incredible good looks! He’s already worked on an advert for Clogau Welsh gold. cantering along the beach with Amie, one of my fully trained riders. Once he has matured he’s going to be worth his weight in Gold. He is a fantasy black stallion with a stunning mane the perfect model. I believe he’ll be one to look out for in the future.
Casquito, his half brother. is a totally different horse. He actually reminds me of Diablo. He has a very strong and quirky character. I get on really well with this stallion. He has already worked on the final series of Merlin, the first series of Atlantis and was my mount down in Pinewood studios while we were filming Exodus, the new Ridley Scott film.
The first training day he freaked out at chariots charging towards him in the rehearsal field. He reared vertical, I came off! I climbed back on and carried on with the rehearsals, after that incident he didn’t put a foot wrong. I don’t know if he scared himself and thought it was best stick with Dylan or he just worked it all out. I think he worked out that this was his job, he is an intelligent horse. When it came to the shoot days he was perfect all the way through. There was 150 horses and chariots charging through into set. It was the first ever time for him to be on a job that big. Top horse.
What type of films and television companies do you work with?
Over the Years I’ve worked with various Welsh television companies , BBC , A lot of US Movie companies come over to Wales to film to work with us. We’ve worked for Steve Dent and the Devils horsemen, both big companies near London. I’ve supplied horses and riders for them on their bigger productions like Robin Hood, War Horse, Snow White and the Huntsman. Ridley Scott’s new Feature, Exodus and we’ve just recently finished filming a new adaptation of the famous novel , Lady Chatterley’s lover which is due to air as a television movie on BBC later this year.
Well apart from mine ! that has to be the bay Lusitano stallion owned by George Bowman in the Brave Heart movie ridden by Mel Gibson.
What do you enjoy doing the most in the business and with the horses?
I enjoy working my horses and traveling to new places. I’m not a good business man to be honest. I just love what I do and am very passionate about producing top quality equine performers. I started off acting and grew up with horses so it was natural for me to go down the road I’m on now. Better than working in an office!
What has been your favorite film and greatest most proud moment?
Has to be Robin Hood. I had as much fun on that movie, great experience and amazing team. There were 150 horses and riders and by the end of it we all knew each other very well. I am still friends with many of them today. The best television job has to be the BBC’s Merlin series. It was just a great show to be part of.
I’m proud most of the time just watching my horses do what they do, well when they behave, that is …. Ha, ha!
Dylan thank you so much I have loved hearing about all you, your team – horses and humans do, we will all be looking out for you in the up and coming films.
I firmly believe that the Lusitanos, Portugal, the equitation masters, you and your company’s equitation talents and experience have a great deal to offer film companies here in Portugal. I am so delighted to now be developing this opportunity with you through our events business.
Yes I agree, I think it is natural to join forces and make to most of Portugal’ s scenery, landscapes and medieval buildings and put them to good use. We’ve been talking about this for a while now and personally, I think that Portugal has great potential. So watch this space !!
See more about Dolbadarn Film Horses
CREDITS – Editorial Interview- Teresa Burton speaking with Dylan Jones
Photography – Supplied by Dolbadarn Film Horses
Published in 2014
In 2011 Dylan Jones owner of Dolbadarn Film Horses came to us looking for Lusitanos suitable for ridden and carriage work in films.
The brief – to find Dylan beautiful, calm, bold horses with a great working ethic already ridden preferred.
After a search we came up with two stunning black half brothers from the Alter Stud Farm. Casquito AR and Choque AR. They were already lightly ridden and had been briefly introduced to carriage work. Now 8 years later it is great to report on how they are doing so we asked Dylan to give us an update.
Casquito is a very reliable horse, intelliegent and talented in film work so much so he has been in training to take over from my top horse Diablo and become to be my own steed on film work. As of late , we have worked together on the BBC’s Merlin , BBC’s Atlantis …. Ridley Scott’s Exodus…Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur, The Crown …. Game of Thrones ” Battle of the Bastards” and was a double horse for the up and coming HBO’s Watchmen series , coming out later this Year.
Games of Thrones
We were first called up a few Years ago when asked to supply horses for the big battle scene called ” The Battle of the Bastards” . We were subcontracted by the Devils horsemen who are the main horse suppliers for the show. There were over 80 horses in total we took 4 with Casquito being was one of them – I rode him into battle!
Since then I’ve gone on to work in the last 3 GOT seasons located in Ireland and Spain as an actor double , Carriage groom and ground safety crew.
It was an Amazing opportunity to be involved in such a globally successful film series. Also to work with such an experienced team as The Devils Horsemen and the action/stunt riders from all over Europe is a memory I will cherish always.
Image Dylan and Casquito behind the scenes on the GOT film set
Choque on the other hand is a totally different story. a great beauty and natural dressage horse, he is super sensitive and responsive. Thus he has been slower to develop, over the last couple of years has started to excel in liberty work. He has worked in many photo shoots, performing at liberty and ridden. Also he has starred in a commercial advert for Clogau Gold ( Welsh Gold) and more recently performed at liberty as a rearing horse for an art gallery promotion film down in Levesden Studios.
Maria Caetano – interview 2014
Maria is petite, pretty, intelligent and an extremely capable she rides Grand Prix dressage internationally and is not afraid to gallop across rolling hills rounding cattle. She is highly focussed and professional in her career never missing a day with the horses. I was really interested to learn how she developed her equine passion.
Maria you are doing just great in dressage competing Internationally and you were in the World Equestrian Games this year. We would love to know more about your life, your dreams and what it is like being trained by your famous dad. What age did you start riding?
I don’t remember the first time I sat on a horse. Since my first year I had been on a horse’s back with my dad. But I do remember that the first time I rode a horse by myself in the Golegã fair was at the age of 5.
I started competing when I was 13 in small dressage competitions and the Portuguese traditional equitation competitions. But it was in the Working Equitation that I started the serous competition, I was 14 years old.
Do you have any funny stories of your early days riding? Did you and your brother get on or did you compete with each other?
I always had a big passion for bullfighting and riding out in the fields with cows. So, since I was very young (10 or 11) I used to bullfight small cows with my brother in the fields. I always did it and still do it just for fun. In 1999 when I was 13 years old I did perform 2 real public bullfights. However, despite my public presentation, it was never in my mind to be a professional bullfighter. I always wanted to follow a sport career.
You did very well in your younger years but you then competed on a warmblood how was that for you? Would you like to ride warmbloods now?
I started in the serious dressage competition as Junior. It was when I was in the young riders level that I started my steps into International competition. I chose to compete on warm bloods at that level because, at the time, they were more competitive in movements required for Prix St Georges. So, I competed as YR on White Cedar, a Hannoverian, and we achieved 2 gold medals in the National Championships and we competed 3 times in the European Championships. Then I needed a schoolmaster to help me to get in the Grand Prix and we bought Diamant, a big warmblood from Kasselman stables. He was a great schoolmaster for GP and gave me a gold medal in the Senior National Championships on 2008 and a place on the national team for the European Championships in Windsor 2009.
For me the good horses are the good ones, whatever their breed. However it’s a greater pleasure for me to represent my country on the back of a Lusitano.
What makes the lusitanos special for you?
What makes the Lusitanos special is the willingness to work and to please the rider. A Lusitano is always trying to understand and help their rider, giving all of him or even more if he can.
You and your father have quite a dynamic relationship how do you like working together?
It’s a big pleasure, a lucky situation, to have my father as a trainer. We work every day together, which is a big advantage. Our relationship is spectacular. He can be strict, but we know that at the end of the day we are father and daughter! I’m so lucky to have a master like him at home!
Is all your training with Paulo or do you have others trainers also? Attend clinics etc?
I have had the opportunity to learn from great masters. I spent some of my summer and Christmas holidays in Germany, training with Lisa Wilcox and then with Dolf Keller. I also use to attend to clinics with Kyra Kyrklund and her husband Richard White, Jan Bemelmans and Francisco Cancela de Abreu.
I have seen you and Paulo ride the same horse and I notice differences as would be with any two riders of course but i feel to get on a horse after Paulo has been riding must be quite a feel as he rides very much more classically and has the bull fighting roots. The horses seem very positively dynamic after him I would like to hear you thoughts and comments on the differences for you.
In fact we have the habit of sharing the horses’ daily work with each other. I find that it is very positive that we both ride the same horse since we can share feelings and opinions and then, we can direct the work in a best way. Of course my father has much more experience than me in training horses up to GP. So, he uses his skills, focus and his method in teaching the horses new exercises and I usually focus my method and skills on preparing them for the competitions.
Maria on Xiripiti
Your riding has come from classical principles too how do you find the cross over into modern competition what are the key differences for you if any?
The classical equitation is, for me, the right basis for the sport. Also I always have present in my mind the FEI training scale, I think these are the main tool structure for the horse and the rider combined with classical principles they can bring you and your horse to competition. Nowadays Dressage has developed a lot and the marks increased exponentially, in my opinion we are beginning a golden times of good equitation and I think that riders are coming more and more to the classical principles.
It was a big pleasure for me to represent my country with a Lusitano at the WEG! I had been before in 3 European Championships as Senior, but in the previous WEG (2010), my horse Util died 5 days before the competition, so I really wanted to be there this year. Unfortunately, Xiripiti was not totally fit, due to an injury he had after the National Championships, he lost some weeks of training before the WEG. Anyway, he did a very clear test, no mistakes, but without his usual strength in the extensions and half passes.
Maria, I guess your next goal is the Olympics and we would truly love to see you competing in them tell us a little about your ambitions we are very interested to know.
I prefer to be focused on the short term, since with horses you have to live day by day, developing your methods and your horse in the daily work and then the results in competition will appear. Anyway, of course that I have some goals in my sportive life, and one of them is the Olympics. Next year I will be focused on the European Championships that will take place in Aachen. A place for a long time now I’ve been dreaming to compete there. Then we will try to be in the Olympics. It’s a tough job to get a place in the Olympics as individual rider, so the first goal will be that the Portuguese team get placed into the 6 first team in the Europeans 2015 and consequently get the qualification, as a team, to the Olympics. I think that it is possible since we have a great group of horses and riders to compete next year in GP level. If it doesn’t happen, then I have to try to get a place as individual.
You told me that you are now very much involved in the horse breeding aspect of your farm how are you making your breeding decisions these days as I believe you are still producing Lusitanos for bull fighting and for dressage competition. How many mares do you have and do you use your own stallions?
We have 15 Lusitano mares we breed for dressage and for bullfight for a long time. I use to say, “when a horse is good is good for everything”. Of course it is not strictly like this but, we always try to find horses with strong backs and legs, with flexibility and “self-carry” and good mind, being always willing to work with the rider. These are essential characteristics for bullfighting and for dressage. Then, we try to use stallions with curriculum in dressage and in bullfighting.
Foals 6 months old
You are not just a dressage rider but a very fun adventurous rider that is not afraid to have some real fun galloping across the Alentejo hills rounding up cattle, and taking part in many Portuguese traditions wearing traditional clothing it is lovely to see this make you very cool in our eyes tell us a little about this side of your life.
I always loved to ride out in the countryside and to work with the cattle. I like to participate, as a hobby, in Acoso y Derribo competitions with my husband. It is a Spanish tradition where two riders have to lead a cow and catch it in the open field. It is really fun and it gives you a lot of adrenaline. We have to have very well trained horses to do it. I can’t imagine having a hobby without horses.
Maria and her ex husband in the fields
I want to thank you Paulo and Maria for your openness in revealing parts of your world, I think you have achieved remarkable things and are a truly inspirational family to know. Many top riders in Portugal are from classical schools of equitation such as The Portuguese School of Arte but very few have bull fighting as their training. What ever ones opinion is about bull fighting – it is an art of great precision and an outstanding horse/rider relationship it is also amazing to hear how a horse can compete PSG one day and bull fight the next. I very much look forward to following your future developments.
Thank you both x
Click here to read Part one with Paulo Caetano
Text by Teresa Burton and Images by Lena Saugen Photography excluding vintages images.
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