A simple arch at the entrance of Morgado Lusitano, a horse stud farm near Lisbon, divides the ordinary from the extraordinary. Crossing the arch is entering a world where Lusitano horses are treated as if they were the offsprings of Pegasus. These beautiful animals exude joy as they trot with elegance and vigor in a field that overlooks the marshes of the Tagus river.
The estate attracts horseback riders from all over the world. They stay in traditional country houses, enjoy their meals in the manor house, and ride twice a day under the tutelage of a group of top instructors.
Just before lunch, we met several riders who were drinking an aperitif in the library. They were all fans of Lusitanos, the Portuguese horse breed known for its intelligence and docile temperament. And they were eager to talk about their experiences at Morgado: the beauty of the farm, the quality of the food and wine and, most of all, the amazing horses and superb instruction.
“Three days here feel like a long vacation,” said one of the guests smiling, “I forget everything except the desire to ride in harmony with my horse. I go back recharged and renewed.”
The 18th century estate is run by Alexandre d’Orey, the heir of an aristocratic family. He takes great pride in his ability to match each rider with the perfect horse. “What is your teaching method?” we asked. “We teach riders how to communicate with the horse using hand and leg gestures with sensitivity and skill. After they master the basics, we instill in our riders the confidence they need to be relaxed on top of the horse. Confidence is crucial because riding is like praying, you have to believe to make it work.”
Click here for the Morgado Lusitano website.
One of the most captivating beaches in Portugal is the Pessegueiro (peach tree) beach near Porto Covo in Alentejo. It is wonderful to seat on the sand feeling the sea breeze and enjoying the view of the Pessegueiro island. The island looks so mysterious that it is impossible to resist the temptation to plunge in the emerald waters and swim a shore. It is great fun to explore the 15th century fort and the ruins that date from Roman times.
In the afternoon, it is fantastic to go horseback ridding along the coast. Claudia Castanheira and Paulo Rosa of Herdade do Pessegueiro provide all you need: well-trained, intelligent horses, horse-riding instruction, and a picnic. Riding a horse through trails and sand dunes, feeling one with nature is an unforgettable adventure.
Click here for the Herdade do Pessegueiro web site.
The excitement of driving a Ferrari or a Maserati doesn’t come close to the thrill of riding a Lusitano horse. You can, for modest fees, master the art of riding these elegant animals at the St. André Lusitanos school, on the outskirts of Lisbon.
The school has a long tradition of teaching excellence. When you take one-on-one lessons with the St. André instructors, you become an heir to knowledge that goes back to King Dom Duarte’s famous 1435 equestrian treatise “The art of ridding on every saddle.” If you always yearned for a royal inheritance, this is your chance.
Click here for the St. André Lusitanos website.
When the Portuguese kings and queens stayed at the Mafra Palace, they enjoyed hunting at a local game reserve called Tapada de Mafra. The Tapada is now a national park that offers many fun activities for kids. There are train rides, donkey rides, archery lessons, and falconry demonstrations. You can see deer, wild boar, foxes, and other animals in their natural habitat.
Our favorite activity at Tapada is taking horse-ridding lessons. A 30-minute lesson costs only 5 euros. But riding an elegant horse in the beautiful Tapada grounds, always makes us feel like royalty.
Click here for the Tapada’s web site. Mafra is an easy 40 km drive from Lisbon on the A8 highway. Horse-ridding lessons are offered between 9:30 am and 12:00 pm. It is a good idea to call in advance to make reservations (Tel. 261 81 4240 or firstname.lastname@example.org).