Golegã National Horse Fair
This is a must see spectacular Lusitano Festival –
quite literally a unique experience that no one can forget. It is at Golegã Town known as the ‘Capital of Horses’ located at the top of the Ribatejo and home to many of the famous Lusitano Breeders.
The Fair dates back to the 18th century and was originally called “Feira de São Martinho”.
It was established as an agricultural fair to promote local products. Since there were also many well know Lusitano breeders in the area they were encouraged to show their horses also. Quickly the Lusitano horse became the main attraction and the name was changed to “Feira Nacional do Cavalo”.
The fair is always in November, over a 10 day period and must include the most important date of the 11th November, which is the The Feast of Saint Martin or Saint Martin’s Day, on this day the people eat roasted chestnuts and drink new wine. Being the most important day of the festival everyone dresses in the traditional Portuguese Riding attire, (although most dress up throughout the Festival, you usually see the finest clothing this day).
At this time the whole town of Golegã, transforms from it usual sleepy state to a frenzy of horses, carriages, food stalls, the air filled with the smoke from the roasting chestnuts and BBQ’s. It is a party enjoyed by local people and foreign visitors alike. From late afternoon the streets are packed until the early hours. There’s a wide array of traditional food stalls, restaurants, bars and cafes, discos that stay open most the night. In addition it’s a shopping extravaganza of wonderful stalls everything from traditional tack and clothing to quirky battery powered horses for children, traditional drinks and foods, artworks and even antiques.
You can see the Lusitano showing classes in hand and ridden, dressage competition, working equitation and there are usually other competitions taking place, such as endurance and even eventing. Later in the evening in the centre’s main arena (The Manga) you can enjoy beautiful classical shows, fast action games of horse ball and prize giving parades.
Situated around the Manga are the breeder’s ‘Casettas’, here you have the opportunity to meet the breeders. The ‘Casettas’ are small wooden houses designed to greet guests offer wines and olives along side each Casetta some examples of their horses are presented in stalls.
Some important things to remember
A word of warning – getting accommodation at Golegã can be difficult, we recommend that you plan and book well in advance.
It can be very cold in the evenings be sure to have suitable clothing it can also be raining.
The town is noisy all night so if you like quiet when you go to bed we recommend seeking out accommodation further out of the centre although the traffic is very bad and driving to and from Golega at the busiest is slow. Recommend that you avoid attempting to park right in the town.
USEFUL WEBSITE with lots of good information http://feiradagolega.com/en/
SEE FABULOUS IMAGES BY LENA SAUGEN and CHRISTOPHE TANIERE