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.
It was João that 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.
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.
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.
Monte Velho Equo Resort – Riding holidays
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
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.
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
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 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
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