Inspiration from Abroad

Each day in Portugal began with a walk to a small local café/bakery for rich strong coffee in small cups with fresh bakery goods for breakfast, followed by a taxi ride through torturous, vine and flower lined streets of the old town of Cascais, to the showgrounds at Quinta da Marinha, a truly classical old European horse show facility on a Breezy hill, surrounded with tall, rounded top Pine trees. We watched many classes of beautifully turned out fillies and stallions of all ages, shown by men in typical Portuguese cowboy, or campino, attire, the flat brimmed sombreros, short jackets and slim riding pants. Finally the older stallions were shown, first under saddle, then stripped for conformation judging. The marquee at the end of the field, a computerized sign board, announced the horses name, the name of his farm and of his breeder. All in Portuguese, of course, but we were standing along a hedge at the side of the field where we were accompanied by other breeders, and horsemen from all over Europe, who spoke good English and explained the activities. I visited with a Portuguese rancher, a German horse breeder, a French show jumper, and a swiss dressage competitor. It was truly an international event.In the evening we were taken to downtown Lisbon, to an area called Belem, in the old part of town, very hilly, near the Tejo river, where the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art is located. This is the baroque school where the Alter Real horses are kept, and where performances are done in the evening, to Baroque music, in a riding hall with the appointments of the royal school. It is no longer called royal since Portugal is now a democracy, but the performances harken back to the age of elegance in the court of the 17th and 18th centuries. There we saw beautifully choreographed high school movements, including the legendary airs above the ground, Corbette, Croupade, Ballotade, and Capriole, even done with riders mounted, and all performed with grace and with a quiet peaceful demeanor, as if the horses enjoyed the act as much as the men. It was inspiring to say the least, a breathtaking evening.

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