Manuel Borba Veiga – Classical Dressage Rider

Manuel Borba Veiga is a cool stylist who actively participates in social media platforms. He posts his spectacular videos of riding without a bridle or saddle, sitting backwards and with multiple horses. Elegantly performing tempi changes in the foreground of his family manor. Or simply in the fields with the breeding mares as his audience. In fact he can be considered quite the artist, the showman.

His skills have taken him to the acclaimed Olympia Show in London, where piaffe pirouettes bridleless thrilled the audience. He has represented Portugal on several occasions in International dressage, riding his beautiful homebred stallion BenHur.

But how much do you know about this extraordinary rider?

Whom outside of these fabulous video images, is a quiet serious family man with a sense of deep modesty in his work. A man that is at the forefront of his huge family lineage and equestrian heritage dating back 200 years.

A recent visit to him was a meaningful experience that had us leaving filled with tranquility and thoughtfulness.

Quinta da Brôa – 200 Years of Family Heritage

Just a short distance from the Lusitano capital Golegã is the charming  little village of Azinhaga. This is the home of Quinta da Brôa, a spectacular estate founded by Rafael José da Cunha in 1817.  He was an ambitious and visionary farmer, considered the ´prince of Portuguese Farmers.

He chose the rich rural Ribatejo region to realise his dream – rearing cattle, horses, and growing cereals. This region has always been heralded as one of the richest agricultural areas since the XVIII right to the present day.

Furthermore, the Brôa Estate now has part of its pasture inserted in the UNESCO biosphere Reserve. Paul do Boquilobo which spans all the way to Golegã. There is a special magic there.

An Inspiring Visit

Arriving at the entrance of this centenary palace you find yourself in front of a gate with 2 huge pillars. Each has a modest tile block: on the right, the name of the estate “Quinta da Broa”, on the left, the emblematic Veiga brand.

The gates are welcomingly open, offering up to the huge courtyard filled with ancient trees, gardens and beautiful heritage buildings. There is a grand manor house, with a family chapel, a picadeiro, stables, barns, a museum housing equestrian heritage from carriages, saddlery, trophies, cars and even boats!

A colourful box hedge garden forms a link between the picadeiro and stables. In the background are the meadows with huge ancient trees and a river. Here the protected storks have their nests. I could see baby birds peeking out waiting for their parents to return with food. The wing span of these majestic birds is impressive. I watched them gliding gracefully over the grazing horses to land effortlessly alongside them. This is the beginning of the Paúl do Boquilobo Biosphere Reserve.

Great Veiga Horses Stood Here

Standing in front of a modest bead curtain, we have arrived at the stables! Parting the beads reveals a beautiful cool dark area where horses are standing patiently. Manuel humbly greets us then immediately gets on preparing to ride together with his groom. He is brushing horses and wiping tack. There is no sense of hierarchy, they work together in harmonious familiarity.

Meanwhile, we tiptoed around taking video clips and images. There were just so many features and moments we were eager to capture.

Manuel´s dog is utterly attentive to his masters every move and enjoys providing Lena with plenty of photo opportunities.

The interior is elegant, cool, softly dark with huge metal pillars and a dark wood ceiling, a cobbled stone floor. Even the water sink is a work of art.

Imagine this is the space where many great Lusitanos such as Lidador, Agareno, Berber, and Sultão, so important to the Veiga horses’ current characteristics, have stood.

It is inside my heart and inside the hearts of the horses we reach together for the expression of this Art.

Manuel Veiga

Veiga Horses

The Veiga line has existed for over 200 years and is one of the four main lineages of the Lusitano breed. They have always been bred on the same farm, still grazing in the same fields as their great ancestors right to this day.

The Origins

Originally the horses were selected and bred for their fine qualities to work on the farm and to create top bull fighting horses. Consequently, they looked for lusitanos that were the epitome of bravery, agility, intelligence and with a willingness to perform with the rider.

Modern Day

To this day the horses have provided and excelled in adding many genetic landmarks for the Lusitano breed:

Quê-Bá, Bailador, Lidador II, Universo, Nilo, Zimbro II, Dardo II and Danubio. All of them have achieved excellent results in breed competitions.

The outstanding Zurito was immortalized by Mestre Nuno Oliveira.

In Spain, Opus 72, ridden by the famous bullfighter Alvaro Domecq, was considered one of the best bullfighting horses of all time. They fought over 500 bulls together!

Even in show jumping there was Novilheiro, who started his career bullfighting and later became an international show jumper. He was ridden by the English Olympic rider John Wittacker.

Veiga´s Bloodline Influence

You will find these names and others in many bloodlines throughout the old and news breeders horses throughout Portugal. Furthermoe, progeny from the bloodlines exhibit many of the best characteristics. Indeed the veiga line has been proven many times over to have a great capacity to pass on their undeniable qualities.


Manuel: We are very conscious of ensuring an evolution in the Veiga horse. Consequently our focus is to look for horses with good morphological traits, according to the breed’s standards, and a good character. They must also have quality gaits to compete in dressage.

I believe this is working well, we are proud we are able to maintain their sensitivity – which must be present, but cannot be excessive.

Our horses need to use their energy to help the rider and must have great temperaments.

The selection process headed by my father Manuel Tarves. He has a special talent to foresee the potential in a horse.

He names the foals at weaning, even at that young age he can already tell which horses have the greatest potential. When he senses a particular foal will become a great horse, he gives them a name of the important horses in the history of our stud farm. Many of those foals have become really outstanding!

I am constantly amazed how he can tell if it is going to be a breeding stallion, a horse for bullfighting or dressage. Time and time again, he gets it right!  For instance, Ben-Hur, he just knew he would be a great horse. Then there´s Altivo, he said he would be competing in dressage, and he was the best horse I ever rode.


Once all is prepared Manuel takes his horse and is off to the arena. He rides a lovely, expressive, playful 4 years old bay for us.

The indoor arena is cool, airy and light with very high ceilings.  There is music playing and the dogs laying around. No one sends them out, they are very much part of everything. Moreover, the horses clearly enjoy their company.

It is clearly evident that when riding Manuel is in a world simply made up of  him and his horse. He forgets we are there.

Riding harmoniously never bothered by the dogs or the other rider; he is only present with his horse. Soaking up this energy alone speaks volumes. It is a pure pleasure to be there.

Manuel Veiga

My goal as a rider is to live in the passion, improve daily. Keep my feet on the ground. I say this because I believe it is imperative to remain fully balanced as a person both mentally and physically. Always move forward with dignity.


We were keen to dig a little deeper into Manuel´s world, learn more about his philosophies in equitation.

He has ridden all his life on the extraordinary Veiga Lusitanos. He has a wealth of experience we can be inspired by and learn from.

Finding Natural Balance & Harmony

Balance and harmony is something Lusitanos have naturally in abundance. Manuel tells us it can all to easily be destroyed if the work with his rider in not approached in a good way. An insensitive strategy in training can quickly transition from a picture of beauty to one of effort and heaviness.

He tells us that the unique level of sensitivity the lusitanos have, is a great quality to be cherished.

To ride in a good way, to be creative and sympathetic to the sensitivity of the horse is to open the door to lightness and harmony.


The aim is to maintain and develop their natural expression, relaxed way of going  while ridden. In fact it is a matter of having personal awareness, to know how to tap into it. To be in the moment. To not block your horse, but to invite full expression of a united performance, a perfectly synchronised dance.

It seems Manuel, too has a real gift and sensitivity like his horses. On being asked about this he is quick to say that he doesn’t have a gift – I am a simple man that loves what I do. It is a true passion.


Others may comment that he is lucky to have such fine horses to ride, indeed he has the pick of crop. But having the access is simply the first step to achieve all that he has achieved so far.

There is so much more –

It is the passion and desire to improve everyday. The dedication to each individual horse to find his absolute best way of going.

He tells us that it is so important to understand how every horse is different. This is a fundamental to understand in training horses – some have a greater ability for certain exercises than others. We need to ride with awareness of their their talents and difficulties. Veiga horses are generally attentive and willing, my goal is to reach the same standard. In order to achieve a certain degree of homogeneity in their response to the rider’s aids.  I want other rider to be able to ride and enjoy them too.

I always hold a vision of a beautiful lesson, with incredible moments. Riding comes from the heart. There is technique but also a lot of feeling and spontaneity involved. My way of riding relies a lot on feeling the horse and on striving to do more and better. Nowadays, knowledge of how to ride is more available – people who want to be riders can easily learn the “how’s” and “why’s”: technique can now be considered a commodity.

What makes a difference from a rider to an artist –

Is in understanding and feeling the horse – just bending a few extra millimeters can be enough to make a difference.

Riding is not only technique, but it also involves some art, full of inexplicable things. I believe horses we breed fit into this ideal:

sometimes we need to put a little magic, art, and sensitivity so that the act of riding assumes a special color

Who inspires you ?

I don´t read many books but I am an avid viewer of videos.  There is always something to learn from others.

“My family are my greatest inspiration and rock. They are the basis for everything in my life”

I am inspired by Carl Hester – Paulo Barreiros Mota, Júlio Borba, Francisco Cancela De Abreu. Also I  have also had the previlage to ride and train with many great trainers like Paulo Caetano, Daniel Pinto, Miguel Ralao, Mariette Withages, Kyra Kyrklund and Jen Bemelmans.

About Paulo Caetano

´I am a simple person. I love what I do and I live to do better and better for the horses.

I ride with feeling, making my decisions moment by moment. Always with the mindset to remain focussed fully on the horse I am riding´.

International Dressage Competition

Manuel has represented Portugal in dressage with Ben Hur on several occasions. Most notable was the WEG in France in 2014.

Since selling Benhur he has concentrated on training and developing the young horses, looking for his next dressage superstar. He believes he has found him in Marvilva da Broa.  He plans to show him at GP in 2024.

Marvilva da Broa is proving to be a magnificent horse oozing potential for the international platform. So exciting times ahead.

Manuel rode him this year at the International Lusitano Festival Cascais 2023

Image by Catarina Pedro Photography

Do you have goals in your work?

Yes I believe it’s important to have goals, they motivate me. Right now, my biggest goal is one with no end. It is my commitment to improving everyday in all that I do.  I want to develop my techniques both as an artist and as a sportsman. Maybe one day I will be in the Olympics, that is another goal.

I believe I am blessed to be able to ride horses daily that are true artists. They inspire me, improve me, challenge me to open up to new ways of seeing.

Each horse is a partner that seeks to dance in the lightest, most effortless way with me. For me this is the ART.

I am a special rider,   in that I look to my own style and my ways to achieve the magical union with the horse. I am always exploring the whole principle of equitation to know more.

Biggest Challenge

The sport is probably the most difficult aspect for me. This requires technique  and style more accepted and expected in the competition environment. My true desire is to transmit to the judges how I do it. How I find my harmony with my horses – our lightness, our dance, our true expression.

I want them to see the magic I feel at home.

There are times when I find myself simply shivering in the purity of the moment. This is being present, so very present. It is what moves me everyday and the feeling I constantly reach for and ride for.

Big thank you to Manuel, Pilar, his wife and his team for taking the time for our visit in showing us the horses and the estate.

Text by Teresa Burton.  Check out other articles

Images by Lena Saugen

Video by Therese Alhaug 

Find Manuel Veiga in facebook

Visits to Quinta Da Broa