Ever heard of the sleepy little township of Golegã in Portugal?
Photos and text by Danielle Skerman and Patty Taylor
Golegã awakens every November for over a week when it becomes the destination for many Lusitano horse owners and breeders in the country. This horse fair is not a new thing as has taken place since the 18th century thus Golegã is known as Capital do Cavalo (horse capital). Golegã is engulfed by these festivities each day and long into the nights! We have been bringing you photos of this fair for the past two years and 2014 in the magazine, and now it was our time to go and experience this for ourselves. We thought we knew what to expect but was an absolute adventure from driving through the narrow streets, finding a place to park, dodging the rain and soaking up the party atmosphere.
The Portuguese are devoted horse people, and their beloved Lusitano is a family member too, and this was ever so evident here in Golegã. Horse and man become one as the streets are overflowing with both! It is also a meeting place for people catching up; breeders showing their horses (many horses are also brought to present them for sale) and the surrounding narrow streets are filled with shops and stalls selling their horsey wares. It was a treat to see in person many of the most renowned studs in Portugal. Wandering around you can also meet up with many of the Lusitano breeders in their small cottages where you can chat, enjoy a local wine and view their horses.
In the middle of the township, there is a large arena where there are a mixture of riders and horses who are either galloping with mud sloshing everywhere, trotting or just ambling around. Many hours can be spent here being entertained and watching the events unfold. The atmosphere is not complete without the traditional Portuguese riding costumes which the riders proudly display. We even saw a few ‘ring ins’ with a donkey and some Friesian horses been driven! We were enthralled watching all these events and noticed that it seems that it must be in the Portuguese DNA to ride so beautifully…. riding is as natural to them as walking and is just a delight to watch.
November is cold in Portugal, and the ambiance was enhanced by the rain and the smoke from the roasting of the chestnuts. As the night time comes the bars and restaurants fill, and the party feeling grows. There on offer is many of the traditional Portuguese food to enjoy and sadly once this fair is over many of these restaurants are not to open again for another year!
Golegã is certainly a place to go and experience the true Portuguese experience for any horse lover … you won’t be disappointed.
It would be amiss of me to mention the wonderful accommodation we had whilst in this region. We stayed at Quinta do Regato to which was about 30 minutes from Golegã. This is a gorgeous place with the most stunning decore, lush garden, and the owner is a perfect host. The hospitality is second to none, and if you are going to go to the fair this is the best place to stay. http://quintadoregato.wix.com/quintadoregato
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