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The Portuguese Homage to the Horse.

The little market town of Golegã has celebrated the feast of S. Martinho on the 11th November for a few hundred years now. Today this is totally devoted to the celebration of the horse, combining the National Horse Fair and the International Lusitano Fair. People arrive to pay homage to the horse from all over Europe, if not, the World.
The horse is King. Every shed, garage, nook and cranny is filled with a horse and yet more horses. During the day every track, path and arena has its complement of this superb animal. Where there isn’t a horse there is a bar or wine-tasting stand offering the seasonal chestnuts and agua pé (a very light wine made from adding water to the crushed grape husks). Where there isn’t a bar there is a trade stand, with everything for the horse and rider, or market stall with local cheeses and produce.
There is an exhibition of paintings, sculptures and ceramics devoted to the horse on every day of the fair. The horse, art and culture are here inseparable.
During the day the whole town seems to move en mass to watch the activities whose nature needs a wider expanse of countryside. The Carriage Driving Marathon and Cross Country events are held out of town at the Quinta da Labruja. The Quinta de Stº António is the venue for the Carriage Driving Manoeuvrability and 3-Day Event Dressage. The Quinta da Broa, home of the Viega stud, is the host for the Country Party, where the traditional horsemanship for working the bulls is displayed and shown in the normal environment.
The arena, in the main square, "Largo do Arneiro", is the centre point of activities later in the day. Here are held the competitive events: Show Jumping, Gymkhana, Dressage, Showing, the very energetic Horse Ball and Traditional Portuguese Riding, demonstrating skill and dexterity. The highlights of these are the exhilarating floodlit displays of Haute École by the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art, in their velvet jackets and gold braid, and the Luis Valença Equestrian Centre of Leízira Grande.
Surrounding this arena are the walkways for spectators and the seven-metre wide parade track that is packed with horses jostling for space in the evening. Here can be seen horses of many descriptions, but mainly the national breeds of Lusitano, Sorraia and Garrano. Ridden, driven, exercised, lunged, led, and shown off, the spectacle appears endless. There is no right way round and carriages, riders and, above all, horses can appear from either direction.
From the young boy proudly riding a family stallion in a family group to the patriarch driving another, the whole company is mostly attired in immaculate traditional dress. The men wearing a short jacket and cummerbund over a white frilled shirt, and the "Amazonas", a short jacket over a similar white shirt, with culottes or side-saddle apron and gloves. Both outfits are topped out with a wide brimmed flat-crowned hat. The traditional long quince sticks are carried upright in the hand ready to be used on either side. The horses, with their flowing manes and tails, are attired in silver decorated bridles and the deep Portuguese saddle with decorated box stirrups.
From the single horse trap to four-in-hand carriage a variety of horse-drawn vehicles gleam and shine behind their equally polished steeds.
In the twilight mist and chestnut smoke the parade takes on a dreamlike quality.
No stud in Portugal can afford not to be there. Their hospitality stands are again full of the best of their stock, many of whom will be competing to be the National, International and Champion of Champions.

All the sights, movement, colours, sounds and smells assail the senses, and combine to leave one with a deep sense of tradition.

Admirers of the horse, and the Portuguese way of life, will you be there as well this year?

XXIV Feira Nacional do Cavalo – Golegã 1999.

Where: Golegã is a small town on the river Tejo (Tagus), 35 kilometres up river from Santarém and about 13 kilometres south of Torres Novas.

When: 5th November to 7th November
and 9th November to 14th November.

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Article by kind permission of the authors.
Photographs of 1998, as on Tiffany's Riding Centre, Golegã page

First published in Insight, August 1999, Volume 2, Issue 3 - the quarterly magazine of A.F.P.O.P. the Association of the Foreign Property Owners of Portugal, with no illustrations.

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Copyright © 1999 Vale Grifo
Last modified: June 04, 2007