João & Equador is the youngest pair to help qualify Portugal for their first-ever Dressage team place in the Olympics. An exciting prospect for this young pair just beginning International dressage. The duo has already achieved an impressive 46th in the FEI World Dressage Rankings with predictions to be in the top 20.
Text Teresa Burton Images Bruno Barata
At Monte Velho Equo-Resort, a stunning stud farm and luxury riding holiday located in the Alentejo region of Portugal, you will find João Miguel Torrao and the promising Lusitano stallion Equador MVL. Just 25 years old João is the youngest rider to qualify Portugal for a team place in dressage for Tokyo Olympics.
João began working at Monte Velho when he was only 15 years old, to complete a summer internship programme. He fitted in so well that they invited him to continue to join the team. Together with the 11-year-old Lusitano stallion Equador, the two have shared a journey from knowing very little to competing on the International stage, really impressive for two so young.
“Training with Carl Hester has been an amazing experience.”
It was João that started Equador and trained with him from the very beginning. He glows when he is talking about the brown stallion telling me he is an enjoyable horse to ride, always with some surprises, especially when Equador was around 5 and 6 years discovering his stallion side. “Equador is focussed and intelligent,” he says.
About four years ago the director of Monte Velho, Diogo Lima Mayer observed their potential and decided to bring on board a trainer that could work with the pair three times a week. This showed to be the game-changer. The new trainer Coralie Baldrey; a graduate of the famed Cadre Noir in Saumur France, brought her talent for working collaboratively with both horse and rider providing the next steps needed to accelerate to the International stage. Watching them working together makes it is easy to see what an excellent decision this was. Coralie is a calm and attentive trainer, valuing the importance of combined training, hacking regularly, never over train and keep focusing on the basics.
With Coralie ́s guidance, the partnership developed enormously, which resulted in the opportunity to train with Carl Hester in the UK.
“Training with Carl has been an amazing experience,” João says about one of his greatest inspirations. Since then, João is enthusiastically introducing new ideas to his training programme and daily activities for Equador.
“I am very motivated by Carl ́s amazing unrelenting positive attitude and how he finds the best in every horse, he continues.
Joao and Equador are currently ranked 46th in the FEI world dressage rankings, with predictions to be in the top 20.
Equador ́s weekly training programme contains two days out hacking and four days in the arena working mostly on the basics and maybe one or two exercises each session. They also work with João on his confidence and focus ahead of the competitions.
“An intricate part of becoming an international competitor is our mental capacity and determination, Coralie Baldrey says. Numerous sports legends tell you that mental strength, visualisation and focus are vital keys to success.
João has several horses to develop and prefers to do everything himself from grooming to grazing, hacking and training. He wants to establish a strong bond with each horse; there is no doubt that he has achieved this.
With several promising young horses bred at the stud farm, João keeps himself busy. One, in particular, is the very promising youngster Maestro MVL standing 175cms, demonstrating a temperament and talent for the higher levels.
Monte Velho breeding
A part of Monte Velho’s breeding strategy is to only focus on five good mares. Each year they carefully select Lusitano stallions that most complement each mare with a potential for dressage competitions. To date, they have already produced some excellent horses that have been sold internationally for dressage. The mares and foals live in a wide-open landscape with many hectares of gentle hills to roam, cork oak trees for shade and a lake for water and bathing. Not sure you could image a better start for young horses.
Monte Velho Equo Resort – Riding holidays
The Monte Velho farm also offers high quality riding holidays with beautifully designed accommodation, restaurant, spa area and endless outdoor spaces. Twenty riders per week enjoy riding schoolmaster Lusitanos in beautiful arenas surrounded by the beauty of the Alentejo region. There is also plenty of other leisure activities available such as biking, hacking, boating and walking.