A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about horseback riding

First dressage lesson


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It was no risk you would be cold or freeze in your room during the nights. The heaters in the rooms were generation enough heat. Otherwise it can be chilly in these paved and stucco clay houses in the warmer countries at this time of year.

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Early in the morning it was foggy outside the window and it looked raw cold outside. But despite that you could still hear the birds happily warbling in the trees.

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At 8 am, the dining room table was set with breakfast such as yoghurt, French toast, marmalade, cheese, ham, fruits, freshly made orange juice and coffee/tea. It was somewhat cold in the dining room in the morning and the sun had not yet made it through the fog.

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Outside the high windows were peacocks sitting on the railing of the balcony and cleaning their feathers in their beautiful feathering. Sometimes they would look in through the window glass hoping to get some piece of bread.

After breakfast we went out on the farm together to look at some of the surroundings and gathered at the arena at 9 am. The white-painted buildings with padded facade are common sightings in Portugal and gives a well-kept impression and the beautiful stucco details gives an extra touch. The farm has several stable buildings whereof one stable is now built together with the actual arena.

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On our way to the arena we were met by two dogs happily greeting us and tried to give us clear invites to play. The smaller dog, Pipoca (meaning popcorn in Portuguese), was so adorable! She really had those puppy eyes which she used and looked at you with… “Please play with me!” The bigger black and white dog, Mia, was a bit shyer but wanted to play gladly.

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First lesson began at 9 am. Since we were only three riders, we were all having private lessons, 1 hour each, both in the morning and in the afternoon led by our instructor Patrícia Palmeiro.

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A, M and I had had time to discuss a little more about the riding and decided that I was to ride as number three in the morning. But as it turned out I was riding first of all of us, since Patrícia had tacked my horse, Infante, first. So, you just had to re-think everything, suck it up and mount the horse and start riding… *no pressure*

Infante, a brown Lusitano stallion, was quite calm and, if you ask me, one of the easier horses to ride. But it felt great riding him on the first training, then I could focus on what Patrícia said and how she expressed the different riding phrases in English. When going on a dressage holiday like this you need to study English words and phrases (unless you already know) since the instructors rarely are or know Swedish.

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So, equipped with dressage saddle and bridled with Pelham bit, it was just to mount Infante and ride into the arena. It was a while since I had ridden with double reins, but I got it pretty fast. I got to borrow a stick in the beginning of the lesson because he felt slow. But it was enough that he knew I had a stick in my hand, he immediately got more energy and length in the steps. You learn rather soon that the style of riding practiced here in Portugal versus the English style of riding are different. One example is corner passing. In the English riding school, you should flex the horse’s neck and flex the horse with your inside leg and do a proper corner passing in the arena, while Patrícia here at Herdade Pero Viegas mean that you must let the horse pass the corner on its own and not push the horse out in the corner. The Portuguese style of riding also advocates shoulder in and shoulder out as well as leg-yielding in different paces to free but also control the shoulders. So, after an hour training with many shoulder in’s and leg-yielding’s and a lot of work with the outer rein and collected canter, my first lesson was done. It went surprisingly fast. But I had to work just as hard as Infante, or even more…

Lunch was served at 1 o’clock and was, just as dinner yesterday, well-cooked and very good. Both Nuno and Patrícia sat down at the table and had lunch with us. First served was a god soup, with succeeding meat together with rice, potato fries and vegetables. It was tender and great meat. For dessert was cake and fruit salad. After lunch we had an hour “siesta” before afternoon riding lessons started again. We, the guests, took the opportunity being in the sun on the balcony for a while, because now the morning fog had eased long ago and the sunshine warmed us up. Despite being November, the sun was strong, so I felt it was enough being in the shadow. The sunshine was reflected off the white-painted facade and it was enough being in the shadow on my part. It had to be around +20 °C, perhaps even more.

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Patrícia announced during lunch that I would ride first in the afternoon as well. So, when I arrived in the stable, a roan was tacked and waiting for me. It was Xileno (pronounced Chileno), a Lusitano stallion that she thought would fit me better.

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Xileno is on the cover of the riding holiday magazine "HorseXplore".

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He was considerably more sensitive than Infante and we found each other rather fast, Xileno and I. Xileno had, earlier in his life, been ridden on the hand “wrong”, so you really had to lower his neck and get him to work with his back. The hard part was that he had a very bumpy trot and was difficult to ride him in working trot. But somehow, I managed to get through the lesson with shoulder in, leg-yielding and flying changes. Also got to try his passage, but just as Xileno’s working trot, the passage was super hard – if not impossible – to sit down in. I stayed in the arena after my lesson to watch A and M when they rode their lessons. But later that afternoon/evening when the darkness had settled outside, it got really chilly in the arena. You really had to dress warm in order not to freeze to death.

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After a warm shower and some rest, it was time for dinner at 8 pm. A warm soup as starter and bacon and chicken with rice and potato fries as main course, with vegetables of course. The dessert was fruit salad and chocolate cake. Goody!
The evening was rounded up with playing some pool.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Portugal Tagged horseback_riding Comments (0)

Terrible muscle pain


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It was with some difficulty you got out of bed this morning. The muscles wouldn’t function as I wanted and some movements wasn’t made without grimacing. Had been sloppy with the preparation for this riding week. I had focused a lot on strengthen the core but not as much on my legs. So, it was there, in the legs, the muscle pain now was. I don’t think any stretching could have prevented this… I had truly been lazy and was unfit for this holiday – period.

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Breakfast was served at 8 am and on the balcony outside the windows, the peacocks cleaned their feathers. Every now and then then looked inside and curiously watched us wondering whether they would get some bread or not.

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First riding lesion started at 9 am. A and M rode one private lesson each with Patrícia before it was my turn. I mounted, stiff like a refrigerator, and I was doomed to fail this riding lesson. To ride with muscle pain was and is not to recommend. Furthermore, I rode Xileno who is a very sensitive horse and of course felt that I was stiff and his uncomfortable working trot didn’t make it easier. No more need to be said about this lesson ;)

Lunch at 1 pm. As the other meals, this one wasn’t bad in any way. A warm tasteful soup, followed by meat with rice, potato fries and vegetable and as round up some kind of vanilla cream with mango and fruit salad.

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The afternoon riding lessons started at 3.30 pm. A rode first because she wanted to do some running afterwards and before it got dark. Talk about well-trained, if you feel energetic and have the energy to run after one day with 2 hours of dressage? Thereafter it was my turn and this time on Diamante. Diamante, a dark brown Lusitano stallion, owned by Nuno (owner of the farm). My muscle pain had not gotten any better during the day, so neither my seat nor leg were in place. So yet again another lesson without success.

After a long warm shower and attempt to some stretching (ha ha, like it would help now??) it tasted great with dinner served at 8 pm. A good, warm soup as starter, chicken with homemade mashed potatoes and vegetables as main course and thereafter fruit salad and chocolate cake. *Goody!*

The evening ended with some pool. Downstairs was a pool table for the guests to use. I played against M. During that time a power failure occurred. Today, Herdade Pero Viegas is driven by a diesel generator to generate electricity. But during the winter season, when all the water needs to be heated, more electricity is needed for lamps and heaters, the diesel generator gets overloaded and result in power failure. Most of the time, the power was back within a minute or two, but it wouldn’t be that funny to be riding in the arena and it suddenly got pitch black. But from what I understand, Nuno has ordered and payed for power lines all the way up to his farm and already payed about €50 000 and then has not the work started to get the power lines on his domains yet.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Portugal Tagged horseback_riding Comments (0)

Working Equitation (WE) premier


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The muscle pain was somewhat better, but I was still stiff. The breakfast was as inviting as usual when you went up-stairs passing the tiled hall walls into the dining room. At 8 am everything was served and you definitely didn’t need to leave the table hungry. Fruit, yoghurt, toast, cheese, ham etc. And of course, coffee and tea for the one who wished. And the newly made orange juice was refreshing.

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Patrícia braiding Delta.

A and M rode one private lesson each beginning at 9 am. Even though the temperature outside was around +20 °C, the temperature inside the arena was chilly. Especially when you’re sitting down and not moving so much.

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With the feeling that at least it can’t get any worse now, I mounted Infante again, the brown Lusitano stallion. It had not escaped Patrícia’s hawk eyes that it was the legs I was “weak” in and therefore she had the planned an exercise just for that. So, my lesson had a focus around the three cones she had placed in a triangle. It was about riding around these three cones in either 180° or 360°. I just had to get Infante around the cones with the only help of my legs. Not flexing the horse but a straight horse around the cones. With my right leg it went well anyway but when it came to the left one… you could say it’s my weak side. Then add muscle pain to that, you have the perfect recipe for muscle spasm.

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After a well-needed lunch at one o’clock, with soup, sausage and rice with vegetables and a delicious strawberry cake (or was it a pie?), we had a siesta on the balcony outside the main building in the, for us, warming sunshine. The main building is French inspired and was built during the 19th Century and has been in Nuno’s family ever since. After that, stables, an arena and other buildings have been added until today.
Note that the Portuguese wore warm sweaters and even warm jackets and coats, while we Swedish sat in thin linen in the sun and enjoyed the sunlight. I’m not a big fan of the sun, but have started to appreciate it more now when I during the last few years travelled abroad in November just to get some sunshine and energy.

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At 3.30 am it was time for the first riding lesson in the afternoon. I rode first, on Infante. The muscle pain had started to give in now and it felt a lot better than yesterday. Both leg-yielding and shoulder in without any problems and canter strikes. The lesson ended with a Working Equitation (WE) exercise where one had to move a rod between one barrel to another, in canter. Now when one had tried out some WE it seems pretty fun… and I think the horses also appreciate it more than just ride around, around in an arena. Thereafter A and M rode their private lessons. It is very luxury having private lessons at riding holidays. Often, you ride in small groups or maybe two and two. But because it was only the three of us during almost the entire week, we were fortune enough to ride one by one.

Dinner started as earlier during the week at 8 o’clock at night and started off with soup, then fried eggs with some kind of Spring rolls and vegetables and for dessert were fruit salad and what was left over of the yesterday’s chocolate cake. Also, this evening ended with some pool, this time against A. This evening “only” one power failure occurred.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Portugal Tagged horseback_riding Comments (0)

Shape is back


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Woke up and felt that the shape is back. Muscle pain was almost gone, so I went to breakfast with almost a fighting spirit to prove to both Patrícia and myself that I can do more than I’ve been able to show the last couple of days (with terrible muscle pain).

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Even though the sun was rising early in the morning, it was rather chilly in the dining room. So far during the week it had been fantastic weather and not a single cloud up in the sky, apart from one morning with fog. Only blue sky, sunshine and a comfortable temperature. You can’t ask for better weather.

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First riding lesson of the day started at 9 am. I rode as number two, on Infante. It both felt better and looked better today. And then I’m talking about my seat and leg. There was no problem getting Infante to do shoulder in or leg-yielding or canter strikes. It felt much better.

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As usual, a delicious three-course meal was served at 1 pm (which I forgot to write down what it was :/ ). During the week, Patrícia had lunch with Nuno and us guests and planned the afternoon riding lessons with us. Who would ride first and which horse to ride.

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As mentioned, the farm Herdade Pero Viegas is situated in Alentejo region. Alentejo, which means “Land Beyond the Tejo River”, is a region with a soothing impression and wide-open views and the open fields are mixed with olive plantations and cork trees. The farm consists of 600 hectares of land with cork trees and pastures for the horses, etc. Portugal produces more than half of the world production of cork. The cork trees in Portugal are cultured by certain laws. Cork trees are harvested every nine years. A new-planted cork tree needs to grow and reach a diameter of 70 cm before the bark is considered good enough to be used as cork material. All bark from the tree before that is used as e.g. floats, shoe soles and building materials. The extraction usually takes place in August, after a period of rain and a dry period, when the bark can be separated from the trees without any damage. When the tree has been harvested, it’s marked with the last number of the same year, e.g. a 7 for the year 2017. A cork tree can reach an age of 200 years and sometimes older. But there are regulations about when a cork tree can be cut down due to protective Portuguese laws. A supervisor must come onsite and assess whether the tree is really dead or not. If someone would cut a tree without permission, heavy fines will be applied. I don’t remember the exact amount but I think it was about €50 000. During history, illegal cutting of cork trees has been punished with whipping and 2 years in exile.

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Riding lessons started at 3.30 pm and I rode as number two. I rode Xileno, and I felt empowered and craving for comeback after last riding lesson on Xileno (which went all but great). Before this lesson Patrícia had adjusted the curb chain of the Pelham bit, making the bridoon rein stronger. I, on the other hand, never thought he was too strong but A who also had been ridden Xileno thought so. I don’t know if it was due to the change of the curb chain or if it was me, but it felt a thousand times better today. We clicked on a totally different level now, Xileno and I. He was very nice, round and collected. Even though he didn’t have the best working trot, Xileno had a very nice canter. You can ride him in very collected canter and he just keeps going and going, in other words he’s very strong and endurable. I could even try to collect him in passage. But that was easier said and done. As mentioned earlier, his working trot is hard to be seated in, so the passage was definitely not easier if I may say so. But a few steps were manageable. During my lesson, Fernando came in riding on another Lusitano stallion, a very beautiful roan. Fernando works part time here at Herdade Pero Viegas and part time at a stud farm, and educate young horses for sale. Patrícia said I had “the wall” and that Fernando would stay out of my way, but I still kept an eye out for him. Would be very awkward to crash.

Dinner at 8 pm according to tradition at the farm. Nuno, A, M and I gathered around the dinner table. So far it had been only the four of us having dinner in the evening, but tomorrow four new Swedish guests would arrive, so it would be crowded around the table.
A nice warm soup followed by tender meat, rice and potatoes with vegetables. After that a fruit salad and some kind of Papaya cream-ish was served.
Today I probably had been working a little extra because I was really tired. But that was just fine. That’s why I signed up to come here in the first place ;)

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Portugal Tagged horseback_riding Comments (0)

Comeback


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Five new guests would arrive today at Herdade Pero Viegas. All Swedish. But we had no idea what time they would arrive. Or how experienced riders they were, since the farm accept riders who never been on a horse before up to Grand Prix, so the skills may vary a lot.
Last day we would be able to ride private lessons; A, M and I. Tomorrow we would ride two and two.

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Morning lessons started at 9 am and I rode as number three. I rode Infante again. Today I felt super excited. After a few days at the farm you now dared to work the horses a little more. The Pelham bit isn’t as strong as the Double Bridle but stronger than a common snaffle bit. I got Infante very nice on the bit and the lesson just flew by. Maybe it had to do with me riding in another saddle today? That saddle was a little deeper and felt more comfortable to me. Many exercises to control the shoulders as shoulder in and leg-yielding. An exercise I had not done before was riding shoulder in along the short wall and as soon as you came out of the corner you immediately changed to leg-yield a couple of steps. Then you straightened the horse a few steps and then leg-yield back to the wall again. When you got the grip of it, then you could really feel the difference between shoulder in and leg-yield.

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The lesson ended with riding some Spanish Walk. Infante almost did it on his own, but it was really mighty to feel how he worked and lifted his fore-leg high and straight and then almost hitting it back down on the ground with some force.

Table was set for another three guests at lunch, but they had not arrived yet as time was 1 pm. Patrícia, A, M and I had lunch while Nuno waited for the new guests to arrive and had lunch with them later on. A nice soup followed by meat with rice and potato fries and vegetables and ice cream cake as dessert. I really don’t eat soup that often, mostly when I’m travelling or eat out on a restaurant. You really should eat soup more often.

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After some siesta in the sun on the balcony it was time for riding lesson at 3.30 pm. I rode first on Xileno. Empowered by the great morning riding lesson, I felt it could only get better in the afternoon. Xileno has a very nice canter and can easily be collected. No wonder he’s great at flying changes too? It was a joy to work with Xileno in the canter. And due to his sensitivity, he is a great master. If you carelessly didn’t move your leg enough or sat a little off in the saddle, he didn’t do a clean flying change. Also tried the passage again, but as yesterday it wasn’t easy to sit down. Just as yesterday’s afternoon lesson, Fernando rode in during my lesson. This time on another roan, probably a young horse from the stud farm that he was educating.
Then A and M rode. During their lesson there were several power failures and it took a lot of time before they had it under control again. It had gone dark outside, so it really got pitch black when the power failed. The horses didn’t seem to care and took it with ease. They were probably use to power failures every now and then.

For the evening dinner the table was set for eight guests and Nuno. At this time, two more Swedes had arrived. So, now the big wine bottles had been put out and there was food well enough for all of us. A warm soup, then chicken with rice and potato fries and vegetables and ice cream cake and chocolate cake thereafter.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Portugal Tagged horseback_riding Comments (0)

Last day of riding


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And so, the last day of riding. In the beginning of the week it felt like you would be here for eternity. But whoosh, the last day of riding had come. Just as you had started to know the horses and start developing with them. So, maybe you should book two weeks when you sign up for dressage holidays? Then there’s always one thing what you want and another thing what it would cost ;)

Today, we all needed to ride before lunch, so we would be riding two and two. So, A + M started riding at 8 am already, without eating breakfast. I was lucky enough to have time to eat breakfast and then ride at 9 am. You could tell Patrícia was more stressed and had a hard time matching the new riders with the “right” horses. Most of the other guests were not that experienced and therefore needed calm and safe horses.

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I rode Xileno and today we were a team – Xileno and I. We were both relaxed and had a great connection from the start. The other girl riding with me was not on the same page with her horse and Patrícia had to focus a lot on her. After 40 minutes I was left alone in the arena and Patrícia told me to ride by myself the rest of the time and do some work in canter. So, I took the opportunity to ride Xileno in collected canter and do a lot of flying changes, that went surprisingly well.

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The last one's had barely made their lessons in time for lunch at 1 pm. Once again, I forgot to write down what it was for lunch, but it was at least a three-course meal with soup as starter.

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A, M and I had scheduled a tour to the state stud farm Coudelaria de Alter, situated about an hour by car from the farm. We had to leave no later than 2.15 pm to get there in time. Nuno drove us and joined us during the tour. And of course, it’s about Lusitano and its large breeding activity, it’s not uncommon with about 60 foals per year. The mares stay outside in large pastures together with their mare foals most of the days but are getting check-ups every day.

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When the stallion foals are separated from the mares, they are all put together in another pasture. When the stallions are broken, the pasture is changed to a loose-box all day long. Most of the foals are sold and only a few are kept for breeding by the stud farm.
The stud farm also educates professional equestrians that during the weeks live on the state properties. We were toured through the stables and looked at all the stallions. Many of the horses are competing at high level of dressage or horse driving trials. We even got to pet a stallion who competed in the last Olympic Games and was for sale for 2 million Euro. Yeah, like you have that kind of money just laying around.
They also have a small museum with historic objects like Portuguese and Spanish saddles, weapons, spurs and old riding show clothing. The tour ended in the souvenir shop. It was a lot of things made of cork, like hand bags and slippers. But also, jewelries, marmalade and toy horses. Everything at an increased price.

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After the visit, Nuno drove us back to the farm for our very last riding lessons for this riding holiday. It was difficult not to think that, but it was fact. A + M begun riding as soon we had changed into riding clothing again. They rode more independently and Patrícia only gave small comments every now and then.

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After they were done, it was my turn and my last riding lesson with Xileno. I rode alone and just as with A and M, Patrícia only commented my riding once in a while to help out. In the end of the lesson Xileno and I were at our best. We had not been better than this in the entire week and it was pure joy to ride a Lusitano stallion just submitting completely to its rider and just waiting for the next command. It felt like I could have asked him to do anything and Xileno would have done it without hesitation. I couldn’t have had a better round-up.

8 pm. Last dinner. Every seat around the table was taken. The atmosphere was high and it was a nice end to this trip. Of course, with soup, then shrimps with pie and vegetables and ending with fruit salad.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Portugal Tagged horseback_riding Comments (0)

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