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.
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.