All photos courtesy of Keron Psillas from previous trips to Portugal
article by Katherine Howard
Portugal has always been a traveler’s delight, offering a perfect blend of rich history, stunning landscapes, and warm hospitality. For the equestrian traveler, the National Horse Fair in Golegã stands out as a true celebration of equestrian culture and is not to be missed.
Every November, Golegã transforms into a captivating spectacle during the National Horse Fair, or Feira Nacional do Cavalo. This event, dating back over 400 years ago, is a celebration of Lusitano horses in all their glory.
Stepping onto the cobblestone streets marks your travel back in time; you will pass by riders sitting on their horses outside of the bar, elegant fur-lined capes and hats that pay homage to when fashion and class went hand-in-hand.
Horses are everywhere. I remember watching a child who could not have been more than ten years old executing flying changes to canter pirouettes over and over in the middle of the track around the arena. He looked like a bullfighter, only his stirrups hardly reached down his horses sides. Nobody paid him much attention, as antics such as these are normal.
During our time at the fair I witnessed the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art perform, a performance by the daughters and granddaughter of Luis Valenca, along with an appearance by M. Valenca himself, working equitation competitions, riders in bullfighting getup, Dany LaHaye work her horse (while we dined above the arena in true luxury), driving competitions, and so many beautiful (and maybe some slightly less beautiful but no less loved) horses.
And when you (or more likely your travelling companion who is not as equine-enthused as you) tire of watching the endless Lusitanos from backyard to ridden by Manuel Veiga himself, you can visit the artisan tradestalls, shop for beautiful handmade tack, and sample traditional Portuguese delicacies that will have you considering permanent relocation. Believe me when I say that you will be extremely well-fed on this trip.
In Europe, anyone who is anyone to be associated with Lusitanos shows their face at Golegã, and the chance to delve in with someone like Dominique who was so deeply impacted by his time there is one that you should be chomping at the bit for (forgive the horse pun, it could not be helped).
Whether you’re captivated by the equestrian world or simply seeking a unique cultural experience, Golegã promises to leave an indelible mark.
Dominique and Debra will be back this fall in Portugal, and you are invited to join in the fun!
Take a look at our Equestrian Tours page for more information – keep in mind that deposits made before August 15 will receive a discount!