Party Piaffe –
Birthday Celebrations with the Ultimate Equestrian style
On a starlight velvet night, we fall silent as through the gates charge proud stallions ridden by elegant riders fire torches in their right hands. It is quite a sight as they spill into the arena forming a cantering circle in front of us, you can feel the heat from the torches and the heavy beat of the mu- sic pulsates through our bodies, people shiver with anticipation – the working equitation fire show begins. A thrilling display made even more so by the closeness and knowledge it was just for us.
It’s part of the entertainment at Danish Business man Niels Zibrandtsens 60th birthday party. He is a man that knows how to have fun and celebrate in style, his weekend party was no exception action packed and largely featured equine entertainment combined with Portuguese Culture.
So what prompted a businessman to celebrate his 60th in another country enjoying their culture and traditions?
We are increasingly seeing horses become more and more part of our lifestyle. It’s not a new phenomenon certainly looking back through the centuries the horse has played vital roles supporting us in our day to day requirements. Not only providing our transport, farm help, even our partners on the battle field but as a major part in our ceremonies. In modern times, with so much available to us the status they claimed had been a little lost they became our friends in sport and leisure riding and less in our events.
Now all has turned full circle once again horses are everywhere. In advertising, marketing, fashion shoots, dramatic artwork on our walls and seen almost as a stylish lifestyle ‘must have’ in some form or another. Certainly in our business we are receiving many requests for combined events and weddings in which equines play an important part of the day.
Niels’s is the chairman of Global Connect which he started 18 years ago and he is also the CEO of Zimbra Digital Media Group with offices in Denmark and Germany. Just a few years ago he and his wife Lisbeth took a trip to Portugal to have classical dressage lessons on Lusitanos. They were so captivated by their experience they bought a farm with the intention to develop a business in eco tourism.The initial plan is well underway with Quinta da Varzea taking a fabulous development under the watchful eye of their equestrian manager Nadja Maria who is also Danish.
Niels decided he could not think of anything better than to show his family and friends their project and give everyone an authentic experience of Portuguese equestrian culture. So one sunny day we met him and Lisbeth to make a 3 day party plan. After a mountain of organising and more emails than you can imagine we found ourselves early one Thursday morning greeting 80 guests through the arrival gates at Lisbon airport. They were clutching just a party invitation and a whole host of clothes ready for anything! They clearly knew Niels well.
The three day extravaganza took them on a journey of traditional restaurants, Portuguese wines, music, history, manor houses and of course the Lusitano horses and horsemen.
On the actual party day guests spent the morning discovering the historic, wonderful old town of Santarem finishing up with a light lunch at Ponte de Sol – a restaurant with an expansive view of the surrounding lands. Then back to the hotel to change, hop on the coaches transporting them to Quinta da Varzea to begin the party in ernest.
Greeted by waiters serving champagne and canapés they enjoyed the afternoon taking tours around the farm on tractor and trailer and 4 by 4’s they were shown the farms agricultural projects, the mares and foals and soaked up timeless Ribatejo landscape with it cork oak trees, fruits trees, meadows and wildlife.
The equine entertainment was without a doubt a major ‘WOW’ factor.
How could it not be with the stylish pair of grey Lusitanos and handsome driver in the beautiful carriage to give them rides around the farm, followed by a ‘Private’ show from one of the four most famous classical equestri- an schools in the world – The Portuguese School of Equestrian Art. Guests lined the arena as the riders in wine velvet coats and ribbon branded bay Alter horses filled their glaze with a pas de deux, caprioles, levade, pirouettes and a stunning carousel. The elegance and grandeur of the school not lost being performed away from their home in Belem (Lisbon). The show was 45 min- utes and more or less matched the weekly show they perform in Lisbon.
Afterwards dinner was served in a beautiful open sided marquee over looking the old house and gardens. It was a Portuguese style barbecue interspersed with Danish style speeches and toasts. At dessert the Fado singers arrived to perform their laments of love, Lisbon, the sea and life of the poor. It’s a mournful sound with a sense of longing that cannot help but touch the soul but this handsome Fado group have a lightness to their songs and they perform them with real showmen style they were accompanied with guitars – everyone’s captivated. Even the riders on their horses waiting to perform the working equitation show join us to form a respectful line along the front of the marquee creating quite an atmosphere, cameras and mobiles were frantic.
Immediately after the singing came to a close the guests were invited to follow the riders to the picadeiro where they perform their show culminating in the fire performance.
It was an energising spectacle that sets everyone perfectly in the mood to dance the night away to a talented Danish Band, flown over especially to entertain them.
To our amazement after retiring to bed in the very early hours guests wasted no time in being up and ready for the next round of activities. The day planned was as action packed with museum and mini zoo visits, wine tasting at a manor house and Lusitano stud farm called Quinta da Lagoa. Guests were treated to a performance by a traditional Ribatejo group of singers and dancers. The group arrived as booked to perform at lunchtime we were expecting about 8-10 so were delighted and astonished when 30 adults and children tumbled out of the cars. They proceeded to give a charming, fun show even managing to encourage Niels and some guests to join in the dancing.
Everyone returned to Denmark feeling satisfied with a special and fun experience – few days they certainly will never forget. I think everyone one of us loves to know that some of the World’s tradi- tions are still very much alive and still giving us all so much pleasure. There is no doubt at all that we are set to see more and more equestrian entertainments in our events. Our equine partners bring that extra special something into our lives in so many ways, long may they enthral us and put that little skip in our hearts after all two hearts are better than one.
My thanks to Niels and Lisbeth for allowing me to give a glimpse into their fabulous weekend at Quinta da Varzea.
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
About 4 years ago (2010) I met Dylan Jones, joint owner of Dolbadarn Film Horses. He had approached me to find a Lusitano for his film business. In fact, I found him two beautiful black half brother Alter Real colts. From then on our friendship has developed. It’s been very interesting to watch the progress of the colts and to learn more about the horses in film and television. I thought it would make fun reading for you to find out more about “Lusitanos in Film’
Dolbadarn Film Horses is located in North Wales, UK and works in the film and television Industry.
Dylan as I understand, Dolbadarn Film Horses is a family business, how and why did it begin? and how long has it been running?
Yes, the Dolbadarn Film horses is a family company, formed in the early 70’s. My parents had a horse trekking business. They would to take regular trips to Ireland to buy horses from their friend, Austin Gaskin. Austin also supplied horses and carriages for TV and film. He was based in Bray close to Ardmore Studios.
On one visit, Austin picked them up from the ferry port and drove them straight to Bray to look at the selected horses. Austin had picked 5 lovely Irish cobs. However the horses couldn’t leave straight away, as he was using them in a new Sean Connery movie, in which he was the Horse Master, Zardoz. To my father’s delight he was asked to assist Austin on the job, my mother got to be the double for the main actress on horseback…..and so it began.
The business quickly grew and my parents supplied horses to many television and film jobs. They worked on top films such as Michael Mann’s WW2 Horror, The Keep, The Far pavilions, with Ben Cross – where we doubled up the horses filmed in the Ogwen valley. And more famously, we supplied a hundred horses on location in Dinorwic quarry for George Lucas’ fantasy movie – Willow.
I was only 10 years old when I started to regularly assist my Mother, on location. Amongst the hustle and bustle of horses being tacked up in period tack and trappings – riders in full costume mounting up and riding off to the set, two by two – I knew then this was something I’d love to do in my life.
Having fallen in love with the business I went to college to study Performing Arts and did a degree in Theatre Studies. While there, my agent called to ask if I would like to work as a rider on a new Merlin movie. I jumped at the chance.
On that film I rode along side some of the best stunt/action riders in the industry, I am still friends with them today. Doing this work confirmed my decision, to learn to run Dolbadarn Film horses!
In the early days I trained with one of the stunt riders I had met on the 97’ Merlin, Ian. He had his own equine stunt team, called the horsemen of the Apocalypse. With Ian, I gained new skills as a trick rider and as a result, I went on to perform in live shows for a number of years. Also around the same time, I began to research different training styles and passionately looked back at the old Medieval style of riding, which took me through Europe to Portugal. In Portugal I found a few very good trainers and excellent horses. Since then, for about 16 years I’veve been regularly visiting Portugal. I feel I’ve developed quite a bond with the country, the people and the Lusitanos.
Wow Dylan it’s lovely to hear that you enjoy Portugal so much, tell me what is about the Portuguese Equitation particularly attracted you?
I am fascinated with the high standard of riding I’ve seen. I especially like the subtle body weight aids and the sharp versatility of the horses. This inspired me to learn more. In particular ‘the working equitation’ in Portugal as there are a lot of similarities between working equitation and the film riding we do. Particularly the period medieval riding. The medieval style takes us back to classical principles.
I am very curious about your business it seems very fun and exciting, although I am certain behind scenes is a lot of training and hard work. Can you give us a bit more of an insight into your daily work and your horse’s jobs?
We train and supply horses to the entertainment industry. Our specialty is preparing the equines for the screen as well as live shows. For this we have develop two types of horses – an “Actor” trained horse which has to be an intelligent horse. One that understands and respects the riding level of its rider novice or experienced. He has to be constant in the action whatever the rider is doing on his back. We train these horses to go from “A” to ”B” however many times it takes to get the perfect shots.
It is very vital this training is done in a calm and safe way. The horse must be consistently calm at all times. We must always keep in the front of our minds that there is a precious artist in the saddle, trusting that the horse will look after them.
The other type is the action / stunt horse, These animals have to be courageous, brave, very trainable and even more athletic. They are fully trained rider’s horses. The action horse will run through a wall of fire. Rear up on command, fall over at a canter time and time again without being at all fazed. These horses must have an attitude, and most importantly enjoy performing!
A really good film horse can achieve up to 5 or 6 skills such as – trick riding, carriage driving, mounted combat, fire work, rearing, stunt falling over etc. But I find most horses settle with 2 or 3 skills.
These horses must be amazing, you’ve been training them now since childhood do you think the way you train the horses changed much from when you started?
We usually keep to our tried and tested methods although I have gained much inspiration from Portuguese equitation. In general Hollywood Productions bring the Period Blockbusters over to UK and Europe to film because there’s a reputation for the highest quality amongst the horse trainers here. In the UK there are some of the biggest horse teams, most of them are based near the film studios just outside London. We are only in small business by comparison so I am proud that we get to work along side some of the best horse masters and stunt riders in the industry.
Yes , all my horses and team train at out farm .We have an outdoor school and an indoor arena nearby. We are very lucky in that we have a natural training ground to prepare the horses.
We have mountains, lakes, beaches, farms and the ocean, busy roads and heavy traffic.
Our horses are introduced to everything so they become fearless and as we term ‘bombproof’. Or at least as close to bombproof as possible.
Naturally the burning question on my lips is about your Lusitanos – I know you do have several of them, please tell us how you find them to train and work with?
I love Lusitano’s! Some of my best horses are this breed. I find them fun, sometimes a challenge, very intelligent and honest horses. I have Actor trained Lusitanos and also action / stunt trained Lusitano’s so they are very versatile. In my opinion they are not an easy horse to ride or understand they don’t suit everyone.
This is because they can be quirky, sharp and sensitive ridden . But if you have the knowledge to understand them, I think they are, one of the best breeds around.
What are the most popular breeds used in film? How do the Lusitanos compare?
All the different film teams in the industry will have their own breed preferences. Some like the Spanish horse, Some like the Portuguese horse. Some might have both breeds for different skills and jobs.
In my experience, the Portuguese horse is sharper than his Spanish Brother but at the same time has more courage. The Spanish horse tends to be chosen because it is less sensitive in general than the Portuguese horse – but that’s generally speaking.
I find although the Portuguese horse is often hotter (depending on bloodlines), however you can send a Lusitano into a full energy battle scene, get the horse really hot mentally. As soon as the Director say cut, you willl see the same horse stand still and be a cool straight away. It is very good to see this, they have a working mentality.
I love it the Lusitanos are so cool !!!
Dylan, how do you choose your horses? and what age do you prefer?
I’ve grown up around horses . I was riding before I could walk. So I guess I’ve picked up the energy from the horses. For some reason, if I see a horse I’ll know very fast if he or she will be good for me. and more importantly if we’ll get on. Generally, the younger the horse the better.
Sometimes though, horses pick me this is how I came to have Valmorim from Jan Pendlebury – who has a Classical Centre near me. A few years ago she invited me to see her new Lusitano foals – which naturally I was delighted to do. When we arrive at the field, as with most very young foals they were shyly hiding close to their mothers. Then a little black foal came out of nowhere and stopped in front of me. I knelt down and slowly put my hand out, the foal reacted by licking my palm. He was so brave and bold I knew he was going to have a life with me.
13 Years later that black colt, now grey is one of my very special horses. He is unique, he can read my mind, and I his. We’ve grown up together. Valmorim and Diablo (my greatest horse a Welsh stallion), are two horses I am certain chose me!
I am extremely curious and interested in the Lusitanos that I found for you as 3 year olds, two half brother black Alter colts. I know one has turned out to be an ideal film horse and the other is stunning looking with the magical flowing mane and tail and he has been in photo shoots galloping along beaches. Can you talk a bit about them how they are to work with.
Yes although half brothers they are totally different in nature . Choque now called Beauty because of his extraordinary long mane is a fairy tale horse. Apart from Valmorim he is the most sensitive horse I’ve ever ridden. He’s not really a film horse, more of a one to one for liberty work and modelling potential – he does have incredible good looks! He’s already worked on an advert for Clogau Welsh gold. cantering along the beach with Amie, one of my fully trained riders. Once he has matured he’s going to be worth his weight in Gold. He is a fantasy black stallion with a stunning mane the perfect model. I believe he’ll be one to look out for in the future.
Casquito, his half brother. is a totally different horse. He actually reminds me of Diablo. He has a very strong and quirky character. I get on really well with this stallion. He has already worked on the final series of Merlin, the first series of Atlantis and was my mount down in Pinewood studios while we were filming Exodus, the new Ridley Scott film.
The first training day he freaked out at chariots charging towards him in the rehearsal field. He reared vertical, I came off! I climbed back on and carried on with the rehearsals, after that incident he didn’t put a foot wrong. I don’t know if he scared himself and thought it was best stick with Dylan or he just worked it all out. I think he worked out that this was his job, he is an intelligent horse. When it came to the shoot days he was perfect all the way through. There was 150 horses and chariots charging through into set. It was the first ever time for him to be on a job that big. Top horse.
What type of films and television companies do you work with?
Over the Years I’ve worked with various Welsh television companies , BBC , A lot of US Movie companies come over to Wales to film to work with us. We’ve worked for Steve Dent and the Devils horsemen, both big companies near London. I’ve supplied horses and riders for them on their bigger productions like Robin Hood, War Horse, Snow White and the Huntsman. Ridley Scott’s new Feature, Exodus and we’ve just recently finished filming a new adaptation of the famous novel , Lady Chatterley’s lover which is due to air as a television movie on BBC later this year.
Well apart from mine ! that has to be the bay Lusitano stallion owned by George Bowman in the Brave Heart movie ridden by Mel Gibson.
What do you enjoy doing the most in the business and with the horses?
I enjoy working my horses and traveling to new places. I’m not a good business man to be honest. I just love what I do and am very passionate about producing top quality equine performers. I started off acting and grew up with horses so it was natural for me to go down the road I’m on now. Better than working in an office!
What has been your favorite film and greatest most proud moment?
Has to be Robin Hood. I had as much fun on that movie, great experience and amazing team. There were 150 horses and riders and by the end of it we all knew each other very well. I am still friends with many of them today. The best television job has to be the BBC’s Merlin series. It was just a great show to be part of.
I’m proud most of the time just watching my horses do what they do, well when they behave, that is …. Ha, ha!
Dylan thank you so much I have loved hearing about all you, your team – horses and humans do, we will all be looking out for you in the up and coming films.
I firmly believe that the Lusitanos, Portugal, the equitation masters, you and your company’s equitation talents and experience have a great deal to offer film companies here in Portugal. I am so delighted to now be developing this opportunity with you through our events business.
Yes I agree, I think it is natural to join forces and make to most of Portugal’ s scenery, landscapes and medieval buildings and put them to good use. We’ve been talking about this for a while now and personally, I think that Portugal has great potential. So watch this space !!
See more about Dolbadarn Film Horses
CREDITS – Editorial Interview- Teresa Burton speaking with Dylan Jones
Photography – Supplied by Dolbadarn Film Horses
Published in 2014
Appearances in Sensational Global Film & Series
In 2011 Dylan Jones owner of Dolbadarn Film Horses came to us looking for Lusitanos suitable for ridden and carriage work in films.
The brief – to find Dylan beautiful, calm, bold horses with a great working ethic already ridden preferred.
After a search we came up with two stunning black half brothers from the Alter Stud Farm. Casquito AR and Choque AR. They were already lightly ridden and had been briefly introduced to carriage work. Now 8 years later it is great to report on how they are doing so we asked Dylan to give us an update.
Casquito is a very reliable horse, intelliegent and talented in film work so much so he has been in training to take over from my top horse Diablo and become to be my own steed on film work. As of late , we have worked together on the BBC’s Merlin , BBC’s Atlantis …. Ridley Scott’s Exodus…Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur, The Crown …. Game of Thrones ” Battle of the Bastards” and was a double horse for the up and coming HBO’s Watchmen series , coming out later this Year.
Games of Thrones
We were first called up a few Years ago when asked to supply horses for the big battle scene called ” The Battle of the Bastards” . We were subcontracted by the Devils horsemen who are the main horse suppliers for the show. There were over 80 horses in total we took 4 with Casquito being was one of them – I rode him into battle!
Since then I’ve gone on to work in the last 3 GOT seasons located in Ireland and Spain as an actor double , Carriage groom and ground safety crew.
It was an Amazing opportunity to be involved in such a globally successful film series. Also to work with such an experienced team as The Devils Horsemen and the action/stunt riders from all over Europe is a memory I will cherish always.
Image Dylan and Casquito behind the scenes on the GOT film set
Choque on the other hand is a totally different story. a great beauty and natural dressage horse, he is super sensitive and responsive. Thus he has been slower to develop, over the last couple of years has started to excel in liberty work. He has worked in many photo shoots, performing at liberty and ridden. Also he has starred in a commercial advert for Clogau Gold ( Welsh Gold) and more recently performed at liberty as a rearing horse for an art gallery promotion film down in Levesden Studios.
Algarve, is the southernmost province of Portugal, famous for it’s breathtaking mediterranean coastline, hot summers and mild, short winters, its friendly, laid back people, top golf courses, delicious traditional cuisine and stunning scenery.
We have discovered in the heart of this exotic area there is a equestrian escape where you can enjoy beautiful, well trained Lusitano horses and have a great riding experience.
The WOW Factor
The riding establishment called Centro Equestre Lusitanus is owned by the charming couple, João Pedro and Iris Miranda. To find out more we arranged to meet João and Iris one very early morning at a fabulous beach where a wide river meets the ocean. When we arrived João and Iris were already waiting for us with two handsome, braided Lusitanos – a stallion and a mare and what’s more our hosts were dressed up in 18th century costumes. So all we could say was ‘Wow’, what a first encounter!
Needless to say, it all made for a wonderful photographic opportunity, we had so much fun. Once finished we followed them back to their riding centre Quinta das Cinco Ferraduras – The Five Horseshoe Farm.
It is clear that João Pedro and Iris’ are both passionate about everything equestrian, both have been riding since they were very young and decided very early in life that they wanted to have professional equestrian careers. João Pedro is from Vila Franca de Xíra close to Lisbon, where he was fortunate to have several years of training with grand classical master, Luís Valença, he performed regularly in the famous Valença shows. Later on João expanded his knowledge within the German doctrine and developed the competition side of his riding with the army in Mafra. Here João Pedro obtained his riding instructor status, in fact he was ranked first in his course 2002. João Pedro stayed with the military school as a riding instructor for some years and also had the opportunity to take part in their shows and compete in several disciplines. Iris is from Algarve but at the age of 15 she moved to Vila Franca to attend the Equine Management course, which then led her to be a riding instructor by the Portuguese Equestrian Federation. Iris has also for many years competed successfully in dressage at national level.
Four years ago, having worked with Lusitano breeders and at a variety of different riding centres, João Pedro’s and Iris’ lives took a whole new direction. They came together with business partner Ana Afonso Mateus to take on the riding school where Iris rode as a child, Quinta das Cinco Ferraduras. Grabbing the opportunity they began to build the foundations for their own classical riding centre.
I could not help but feel inspired by this lovely couple and all they have achieved. In fact even while we were chatting there was a hive of activity in the stables, six horses, three dark and three grey, was being prepared. It turned out João Pedro and Iris had planned to give us a classical display together with four of their students. We were led down to the spacious outdoor arena where we could sit back and enjoy a show seated on beautiful old stone seats under the shade of lovely trees. It was great, we were made to feel really special.
After the show we visited the closest town, Loulé, for a very pleasant lunch at a vegetarian restaurant with a wide range of freshly pressed fruit drinks. The afternoon plan was to see Iris and João Pedro give some of their students dressage lessons as well as learn more of the competition side of their riding. They showed us well trained horses of various ages and educational levels.
The day ended with yet another surprise, an in-hand display in the indoor arena, a horse was elegantly shown in piaffe, spanish walk, levade and pesade by João Pedro together with a student. When it was time to leave we were feeling really satisfied with all we had experienced – João Pedro and Iris really managed to show their diversity, we can’t wait to visit them again.
Both João Pedro and Iris are qualified riding instructors in the Portuguese Equestrian Federation, national dressage judges, competition riders as well as directors and riders of their superb classical shows. All the horses at Centro Equestre Lusitanus compete in dressage, many at a high level.
Centro Equestre Lusitanus even has their own dressage team made up of riders at all ages who are competing successfully in the regional championship. Alongside this the students and all horses regularly take part in the classical shows and displays.
The riding and training philosophy at Centro Equestre Lusitanus -is a fusion of classical and competitive dressage principles, as João Pedro says:
“Our riding philosophy respects the very best of what each riding discipline offers in competition dressage and classical dressage. In applying methods and techniques from each style our goal is always that the horses are calm, forward going, straight with impulsion, flexibility and execute the exercises correctly”.
João Pedro explains that they devote much of their time to training of horses and students, their aim is to promote the practice of good horsemanship and to promote the qualities of the extraordinary Lusitano horse which by many is considered the world’s best saddle horse.
Today João Pedro and Iris have 27 horses in their care out of which almost all are Lusitanos ranging from youngsters to horses established at Grand Prix level. Many of the horses are also to trained to perform movements not executed in the competition arena such as spanish walk, levade, bows and more.
The equestrian holidays offered at Centre Equestre Lusitanus place the needs and wishes of the clients at the front. With João Pedro and Iris it is all about flexibility so their holiday riding programs are all carefully tailored, each riding package is designed based on the wishes of client. During your stay you can have –
- Classical dressage lessons
Long reins work in hand lessons
Specifically dedicated dressage lessons with corrective exercises
Competition tips and exercises
There is also the possibility to hack out in the beautiful surroundings and even beach rides when the season allows it. All of this can also be combined in whatever way you may wish for. Riders at all levels are welcome to stay for however long they want and to have as many lessons per day as they wish.
Centro Equestre Lusitanus is situated at Quinta das Cinco Ferraduras, in Loulé in the centre of what is often referred to as Algarve’s Golden Triangle.
The Golden Triangle is made up by the towns – Vilamoura, Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo – known for having some of the best beaches in the world, great golf courses, and fabulous cuisine with fresh fish available at more or less every restaurant. You can go surfing or visiting Vilamoura Marina – it’s regarded as one of Europe’s best – or why not take a trip to one of the many small, old, villages with narrow cobbled streets and visit the local market or find a small hidden restaurant where sardines are grilled out on the street.
Centro Equestre lusitanus is situated only 15 minutes away from Faro airport and the accommodation for your stay is too flexible. Algarve is not short of hotels and golf resorts, João Pedro and Iris have good collaboration with a vide range of places to stay, all from local accommodation in Loulé a few kilometres away from the beaches, to four and five star hotels and resorts, you choose what suits you best. They help with airport transfer, car rental, and if needed, and within distance, they can take you to and from the riding centre during your stay.
We hope to see you soon riding in Portugal’s southernmost region.
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To find out and book your holiday email us with your requirements
- Length of stay
- Type of lessons and how many
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Editorial by Hanna Larsson and Photography by Bruno Barata first published 2015
Monte Velho Equo Resort is one of the most stylish riding holiday destinations I have ever seen. It opened two years ago and has never looked back, successfully growing at a fantastic rate.
Monte Velho is a family owned business with a number of activities and at the fore front is their Lusitano Horse Breeding. They have a breeding philosophy a little different from most breeders and it’s proving to be a huge success producing top horses. Their aim is to breed a small amount of ‘Sport Lusitanos’ each year – learn more about their stud in our breeders section.
Monte Velho means ‘Old Estate on a Hill” and there are remains of an ancient Roman Settlement at Monte Velho Resort.
The resort is situated 7 km from Arraiolos at their stud farm (coudelaria). The property is in the heart of typical, almost prehistoric looking landscape of the Alentejo. Vast grey boulders, ancient cork old trees, holn trees, vine yards and long grasses. In the spring it’s an array of bright flowers which eventually turns to shades of greens and greys giving an almost modern Architectual feel. There’s a spiritual quality of times past and lingering thoughts what may have wandered the lands then. The views are wide open landscape with an expansive sky. At night the sky is a bed of bright stars made brighter for the absence of excessive light pollution.
We arrived along a dirt track between the impressive boulders through an arched entrance. The white and blue farm buildings are a blend of a traditional Alentejo farm and modern design. The main house and Equo resort architecture is designed by Arq. Diogo de Lima Mayer, the owner, and the interior design by Margarida de Lima Mayer, his wife. It all flows together organically blending perfectly with the surrounding countryside.
Diogo de Lima Mayer greets us in the courtyard. He a good looking man with a big friendly smile and sparkling eyes. He whisks us off for a coffee and chat on the patio before a tour around the farm. Coffee and tea is served in very trendy colourful china. However Lena can barely sit to drink hers, inspired she is immediately busy with her camera with so much to capture she’s off. Despite being a dull day, the grey clouds actually added to cool chic image and drama to the landscape colours.
On the their website it’s described as a boutique hotel but I would describe it as something a bit more than that. For me the word ’boutique’ suggests something very small, chic and limited to a certain area but here you feel you have the boutique-ness of modern styling and individual space but you also have a feeling of so much more space available to you and there is. I loved the bedroom suites which are very modern in design with comfort and ease to move around. They have super bathrooms with glass dividing walls and excellent showers.
Best of all each room has a private balcony looking out the landscape and a lake. I was delighted to see the balconies even have outside showers and comfortable furnishings. The perfect place to relax after riding with a glass of lightly sparkling vinho verde.
The more public areas are also well designed consisting of a bar, restaurant, plenty of outside seating and a really cool rooftop swimming pool. Which is surrounded by the boulders so you have the blend of the grey of the stones and fresh aqua of the pool, you can swim while enjoying stunning panoramic views. The sun sets from here are spectacular.
After our hotel tour we were itching to see the horses and the riding facilities. To get to the stables we crossed the sloping courtyard with peacocks and exotic planting. The stables are a good size in barn stabling, a spacious tack room with modern and Portuguese traditional tack clean and well displayed….. Another example of traditional and modern blending perfectly. The horses were in their stables all calmly munching their hay. Diogo proudly took us into each stable to introduce them. Most were from their breeding with a couple of other lesson horses. They all looked happy and well. Diogo is sensitive to ensuring the horses are happy so they have paddocks for relaxation time. We saw Diogo’s favourite, now retired stallion in the paddock enjoying life.
For the riding lessons there are two arenas available. The indoor arena is a good size with a super viewing gallery. Then there is the outside Carriere which has Olympic dimensions (60mx30m) an excellent surface and a seating area for viewing.
In addition to dressage lessons covering all from basics right up to advanced movements on a choice of 14 school horses you can go riding out in the countryside. Monte Velho has 250 hectares with all the surrounding area being National Ecological Reserve you will not have to ride on any roads but enjoy lakes, dams, soft tracks and 100% nature. Maybe even a picnic ride. You can choice to ride in normal tack or traditional Portuguese for comfort and style.
When we arrived at the Carriere we had the pleasure of watching João Torrão riding Equador MVL. What a spectacular young horse he is and with João onboard they make a perfect team. Now they are proving themselves in dressage competition. João is a talented young rider being trained by Paulo Caetano and is showing real potential as an international competition rider. Later Doigo treated us to some fun photographing Equador in liberty. Equador proved to be a natural born star and certainly likes to demonstrate this.
We were invited to enjoy lunch with Diogo and his wife Margarida at the main house on their patio. What a patio! What an amazing stone table! Both Lena and I were marveled at just the simple logistics of how they managed to install such a huge stone table top…. Diogo of course is a man that can :-). The lunch was delicious healthy fresh and imaginative. The conversation equally delightful. These are people that make a difference and know what makes others happy. They have style, an eye for detail and a true understanding of customer care. All in all I think to come for a riding holiday at Monte Velho will be a fabulous experience from your room, food, happy feelings and quality riding. For those that go I am certain will return again and again.
Even if you are not a rider you can enjoy nature, have a bike, take a boat on the lake or visit the city of Évora, considered World Heritage by UNESCO. Which is only 30 km from the Monte Velho Equo Resort.
Thank you Diogo and Margarida for such a super visit.
For further details go to Monte Velho Getting there fly to Lisbon or Faro and I recommend a hire car. It is certainly worth getting out during your stay to visit Evora buy some of the wonderful local produce typical to the Alentejo region – such as cheeses, wines, smoked hams and sausages.
CREDITS – Editorial – Teresa Burton Photography – Lena Saugen Photography
Written May 2015.
Maria Caetano – interview 2014
Maria is petite, pretty, intelligent and an extremely capable she rides Grand Prix dressage internationally and is not afraid to gallop across rolling hills rounding cattle. She is highly focussed and professional in her career never missing a day with the horses. I was really interested to learn how she developed her equine passion.
Maria you are doing just great in dressage competing Internationally and you were in the World Equestrian Games this year. We would love to know more about your life, your dreams and what it is like being trained by your famous dad. What age did you start riding?
I don’t remember the first time I sat on a horse. Since my first year I had been on a horse’s back with my dad. But I do remember that the first time I rode a horse by myself in the Golegã fair was at the age of 5.
I started competing when I was 13 in small dressage competitions and the Portuguese traditional equitation competitions. But it was in the Working Equitation that I started the serous competition, I was 14 years old.
Do you have any funny stories of your early days riding? Did you and your brother get on or did you compete with each other?
I always had a big passion for bullfighting and riding out in the fields with cows. So, since I was very young (10 or 11) I used to bullfight small cows with my brother in the fields. I always did it and still do it just for fun. In 1999 when I was 13 years old I did perform 2 real public bullfights. However, despite my public presentation, it was never in my mind to be a professional bullfighter. I always wanted to follow a sport career.
You did very well in your younger years but you then competed on a warmblood how was that for you? Would you like to ride warmbloods now?
I started in the serious dressage competition as Junior. It was when I was in the young riders level that I started my steps into International competition. I chose to compete on warm bloods at that level because, at the time, they were more competitive in movements required for Prix St Georges. So, I competed as YR on White Cedar, a Hannoverian, and we achieved 2 gold medals in the National Championships and we competed 3 times in the European Championships. Then I needed a schoolmaster to help me to get in the Grand Prix and we bought Diamant, a big warmblood from Kasselman stables. He was a great schoolmaster for GP and gave me a gold medal in the Senior National Championships on 2008 and a place on the national team for the European Championships in Windsor 2009.
For me the good horses are the good ones, whatever their breed. However it’s a greater pleasure for me to represent my country on the back of a Lusitano.
What makes the lusitanos special for you?
What makes the Lusitanos special is the willingness to work and to please the rider. A Lusitano is always trying to understand and help their rider, giving all of him or even more if he can.
You and your father have quite a dynamic relationship how do you like working together?
It’s a big pleasure, a lucky situation, to have my father as a trainer. We work every day together, which is a big advantage. Our relationship is spectacular. He can be strict, but we know that at the end of the day we are father and daughter! I’m so lucky to have a master like him at home!
Is all your training with Paulo or do you have others trainers also? Attend clinics etc?
I have had the opportunity to learn from great masters. I spent some of my summer and Christmas holidays in Germany, training with Lisa Wilcox and then with Dolf Keller. I also use to attend to clinics with Kyra Kyrklund and her husband Richard White, Jan Bemelmans and Francisco Cancela de Abreu.
I have seen you and Paulo ride the same horse and I notice differences as would be with any two riders of course but i feel to get on a horse after Paulo has been riding must be quite a feel as he rides very much more classically and has the bull fighting roots. The horses seem very positively dynamic after him I would like to hear you thoughts and comments on the differences for you.
In fact we have the habit of sharing the horses’ daily work with each other. I find that it is very positive that we both ride the same horse since we can share feelings and opinions and then, we can direct the work in a best way. Of course my father has much more experience than me in training horses up to GP. So, he uses his skills, focus and his method in teaching the horses new exercises and I usually focus my method and skills on preparing them for the competitions.
Maria on Xiripiti
Your riding has come from classical principles too how do you find the cross over into modern competition what are the key differences for you if any?
The classical equitation is, for me, the right basis for the sport. Also I always have present in my mind the FEI training scale, I think these are the main tool structure for the horse and the rider combined with classical principles they can bring you and your horse to competition. Nowadays Dressage has developed a lot and the marks increased exponentially, in my opinion we are beginning a golden times of good equitation and I think that riders are coming more and more to the classical principles.
It was a big pleasure for me to represent my country with a Lusitano at the WEG! I had been before in 3 European Championships as Senior, but in the previous WEG (2010), my horse Util died 5 days before the competition, so I really wanted to be there this year. Unfortunately, Xiripiti was not totally fit, due to an injury he had after the National Championships, he lost some weeks of training before the WEG. Anyway, he did a very clear test, no mistakes, but without his usual strength in the extensions and half passes.
Maria, I guess your next goal is the Olympics and we would truly love to see you competing in them tell us a little about your ambitions we are very interested to know.
I prefer to be focused on the short term, since with horses you have to live day by day, developing your methods and your horse in the daily work and then the results in competition will appear. Anyway, of course that I have some goals in my sportive life, and one of them is the Olympics. Next year I will be focused on the European Championships that will take place in Aachen. A place for a long time now I’ve been dreaming to compete there. Then we will try to be in the Olympics. It’s a tough job to get a place in the Olympics as individual rider, so the first goal will be that the Portuguese team get placed into the 6 first team in the Europeans 2015 and consequently get the qualification, as a team, to the Olympics. I think that it is possible since we have a great group of horses and riders to compete next year in GP level. If it doesn’t happen, then I have to try to get a place as individual.
You told me that you are now very much involved in the horse breeding aspect of your farm how are you making your breeding decisions these days as I believe you are still producing Lusitanos for bull fighting and for dressage competition. How many mares do you have and do you use your own stallions?
We have 15 Lusitano mares we breed for dressage and for bullfight for a long time. I use to say, “when a horse is good is good for everything”. Of course it is not strictly like this but, we always try to find horses with strong backs and legs, with flexibility and “self-carry” and good mind, being always willing to work with the rider. These are essential characteristics for bullfighting and for dressage. Then, we try to use stallions with curriculum in dressage and in bullfighting.
Foals 6 months old
You are not just a dressage rider but a very fun adventurous rider that is not afraid to have some real fun galloping across the Alentejo hills rounding up cattle, and taking part in many Portuguese traditions wearing traditional clothing it is lovely to see this make you very cool in our eyes tell us a little about this side of your life.
I always loved to ride out in the countryside and to work with the cattle. I like to participate, as a hobby, in Acoso y Derribo competitions with my husband. It is a Spanish tradition where two riders have to lead a cow and catch it in the open field. It is really fun and it gives you a lot of adrenaline. We have to have very well trained horses to do it. I can’t imagine having a hobby without horses.
Maria and her ex husband in the fields
I want to thank you Paulo and Maria for your openness in revealing parts of your world, I think you have achieved remarkable things and are a truly inspirational family to know. Many top riders in Portugal are from classical schools of equitation such as The Portuguese School of Arte but very few have bull fighting as their training. What ever ones opinion is about bull fighting – it is an art of great precision and an outstanding horse/rider relationship it is also amazing to hear how a horse can compete PSG one day and bull fight the next. I very much look forward to following your future developments.
Thank you both x
Click here to read Part one with Paulo Caetano
Text by Teresa Burton and Images by Lena Saugen Photography excluding vintages images.
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