Many riders travel to Portugal for equestrian holidays, to go horseback riding, learn more about refined Portuguese classical dressage and to experience the friendly and hospitable country. Equilife visited an equestrian facility with unique possibilities to learn and experience something completely out of the ordinary.
Text by Ane Bjølgerud Hansen. Photo by Monte Velho
The Monte Velho Stud Farm has been breeding lusitano horses since 1994. The owner, Diogo Lima Mayer, runs it. He started with four Alter Real mares and the stallion Xaquiro. Nowadays the stud consists of five mares. The goal has always been to breed horses with solid conformation, good gaits and excellent temperament. Most of the horses are best suited for dressage, which also is the purpose of the Stud Farm. For many years Monte Velho has achieved top results and received numerous awards for their progeny, among others four times as “Champion of Champions” in gaits of the Lusitano Horse Breed. A number of Mayer’s horses are doing great in dressage competitions in Europe and Brazil. It is a real treat – and worth the visit – to watch the mares and foals running around in their natural environment.
Monte Velho Equo Resort offers lessons of dressage and trail rides on their Lusitano horses. There are 14 ”lesson horses” available in their teaching programme for riders of all levels of experience. Notice that they ask the guests to be competent in walk, trot and canter and preferably to know some lateral movements as shoulder-in and half-pass, to get the most out of the dressage programme. There are a maximum of two riders having lessons at the same time, to benefit the most of the dressage instruction. At Monte Velho there are facilities like an outdoors Olympic-sized arena (30m*60m) as well as two other arenas, included one in line with the stables.
When on the premises, you ought to go trail riding as well. One can go trail riding around the 250 ha large property of the farm. A National Ecological Reserve surrounds it where you can ride for hours without crossing paved roads. There is a choice of trail riding in Portuguese saddles that give you a sure seat. If your friend or partner doesn’t ride, the resort offers other activities like long hiking trips, canoeing or riding a bicycle on the property. You may even fish in one of the dams – everything without extra charge. Every meal is included in the price.
«Monte Velho» means ”old estate on a hill” and remains of ancient Roman settlement is found at the Monte Velho Equo Resort. Today’s owners are architects and have designed a modern resort with every possible facility on the property. The houses, stables and arenas are attractively situated in the landscape on the ancient hill. There is luxurious accommodation and every room has a balcony with a great view, wifi, iPhone-dock and coffee machine. In addition there is an outdoor pool and large sun terrace for the guests. This is a genuine place to relax completely in a peaceful setting.
One may enjoy and explore the countryside outside the resort. Monte Velho lies in the heart of the region Alentejo, an exciting area for tourists. Alentejo means the area «south of Tejo», that is the river Tejo that floats 100 miles from the middle of Spain and flows into Lisbon. The landscape; a typical flat steppe, is very suitable for agriculture – and horseback riding. The area is called the Breadbasket of Portugal because of the grain growth here. There are also lots of cork trees that are cut at regular intervals, to make wine corks or all other sorts of cork products. The agricultural land consists of big estates. The old aristocratic Portuguese families own almost all of the land in spite of the attempt the government tried to reapport the land and establish agricultural co-operatives after the fall of the dictatorship in 1974. That policy didn’t succeed and as of today most of the land is in the old owners’ hands again.
The Alentejo area is, in addition to the horses, known for its own cheeses, white wine, smoked ham and sausages. The Portuguese kitchen is healthy and tasty with many elements of fresh fish because of its long coastal line. The main capital in Alentejo is the city of Évora, which is on the World Heritage List by UNESCO. The city is a must-see for visitors; among other things there is a nearly intact medieval wall and a Roman temple there. Évora is only 30 minutes away from your new dream destination, the Monte Velho Equo Resort.
The Lusitano horse
- The Lusitano horse and the Andalusian horse are the breeds most known of the Iberian Peninsula. Until 1966 they were considered one breed but from then on in separate studbooks.
- The Arabic invasion of the Iberian Peninsula in the year 711 A.D. led to the import of the Barb horse. The Arabs crossed the native Iberian horse with the Barb horse to make a strong and famous warhorse.
- The Conquistadors introduced this breed to the Americas when they conquered the continent in the 16th century.
- The Lusitano horse is originally bred to be a warhorse but also for dressage and bullfighting.
- The Alter Real horses’ strains go back to the Royal Portuguese Stud of 1748.
- The Lusitanos are generally bay or grey but come in any solid colour.
- The horse breed gets its name from Lusitania, the ancient Roman name for the province that is Portugal today. The Romans named the area after the Indo-European people, the Lusitanians that fought the Roman occupation.
- From Norway – by plane to Portugal (both SAS and Norwegian) to Lisbon (one stopover, approx. 6 hours) and Faro, Algarve (4 hours nonstop).
- From Lisbon to the Monte Velho Equo Resort it takes about 1,5 hours by car.
- From Faro, Algarve approx. 3 hours by car.
- By hired car it’s easy to get to the Monte Velho Equo Resort and other sights in the area, like the city of Évora. After Portugal joined the EU, there has been an increase in development of the infrastructure and there are numerous modern motorways throughout the small country. There is toll collection on these motorways but it’s easy to find one’s way.
- The Monte Velho Resort can arrange a shuttle or taxi from the Lisbon Airport for a small extra charge.
- Look at the Internet page http://www.montevelho.pt/index_en.html for prices and additional information.
Monte Velho» means ”old estate on a hill” and remains of ancient Roman settlement is found at the Monte Velho Equo Resort. Today’s owners are architects and have designed a modern resort with every possible facility on the property. The houses, stables and arenas are attractively situated in the landscape, here is luxurious accommodation and every room has a balcony with a great view. Here you find horses bred and trained to top-level dressage and in addition you may take riding lessons on well-trained school horses. Do you want a more relaxing holiday, trail riding is highly recommended. A National Ecological Reserve surrounds the resort where you can ride for hours without crossing paved roads. Other activities of leisure offered are riding a bicycle and go canoeing or you may take a walk in the 250-hectare vast area of the property. The outdoor pool invites to long, lazy days on sunbeds.
The Monte Velho Stud has been breeding Lusitano horses since 1994. The all-round goal is to breed horses with solid conformation, good paces and excellent temperament. For years Monte Velho has achieved top results and received numerous awards for their progeny, among others four times as “Champion of Champions” in gaits for the Lusitano Horse Breed, and a number of Mayer’s horses are doing great in dressage competitions in Europe and Brazil.