We had very little idea what to expect when we approached the farm entrance early in the morning to accompany them for their day’s work. The farm I choose was Companhia das Lezirias, which is located about 30 minutes from Lisbon. The close proximity to Portugal’s capital was hard to imagine as we drove down a dusty dirt track between wide expanses of flat pale yellow dusty land, outlined by rustic fences and containing little sign of life apart from the array of birds dancing in the soft breeze. I felt as though we were in a Western movie, and at any minute would happen upon a wagon trail. Eventually, more signs of life came into view—a smaller fenced area, a couple of long sheds, and some outdoor hay feeders. White Lusitanos stared at us from the paddocks. A bull’s skull swung on the gatepost, and a few old dogs lying around merely raised an eye in response to our appearance.
Here, we meet our Campino team for the day: Fernando, the boss, well over 60 years old but fighting fit, plus 4 others all dressed in shirts, traditional trousers, braces, and brown leather boots. They were busily preparing their Lusitanos in a long, dark shed adorned with bridles, saddles, skins hanging from wooden beams, and various bottles, boxes, hay feeders, and other paraphernalia. Bright sunlight streamed through a small window, giving the place a mystical atmosphere, watching I felt we could have been in any era. One of the Campinos, while swigging from a bottle of chocolate milk, talked with us about their work and how he learned from his father. They were all trained by their fathers. Fernando had been working on the same farm for 35 years; his energy and the healthy twinkle in his eyes suggested a good life.
The Lusitano Mares Ready for Work
They were polite, gentle-mannered men with wide smiles. I sensed there was great camaraderie between them. To be honest, they were hardly bothered that we were there or that they would be featured in a magazine article—it would make no difference in their lives. They put on no special show for us, and I found it refreshing.