The Portuguese National Horse Fair, or “Feira Nacional do Cavalo”, will take place November 8th-16th, 2015 in Golega, Portugal. Dating back to the 18th century, it was originally named “Feira do Sao Martinho” or “The Saint Martin Fair”, a name many locals still use. This year J-Dot Stables will be visiting the fair and we are looking forward to a small group of us getting to experience this unique event.
Golega is a quiet town of about 5,600 people located in the Ribatejo region in central Portugal. A typical Portuguese village, Golega is picturesque with white stucco buildings, tiled roofs, an ancient Cathedral, and cafes with local patrons sipping espresso or port. However, every year during the second week of November the town swells with thousands of eager enthusiasts who experience the majestic beauty of the 3,000 plus Lusitano horses and marvel at Portuguese horsemanship.
This extravaganza of Lusitano horses and their exhibitors makes for a sensational experience for anyone attending the fair. In the town’s center is a large arena where day and night there are scheduled events including performances by the Portuguese National School of Equestrian Art. In addition, there are competitive dressage, working equitation, driving, show jumping and breed competitions. Other exhilarating activities include musical freestyles, mock bullfighting, and Horse Ball, mounted sport where opposing teams attempt to throw a ball into a goal.
One of the most interesting aspects of the festival is the manga, or corridor, which around the central arena. Horses, riders and driving carriages enter the manga day and night, but the evening is the most popular for horses to be exhibited often resulting in shoulder to shoulder lines of beautiful Lusitano horses, most of whom are stallions, promenading around the manga with riders and drivers dressed in traditional attire. The exceptional temperament of Lusitanos means there is very rarely a conflict between horses. This concentration of beauty and tradition is a feast for the senses of equestrian aficionados.
Breeders from all over the country bring their prize horses for display. In the stables, one can see the result of generations of thoughtful development of the national horse of Portugal. The goal of the breeders is to keep the Lusitano typical to its roots and develop horses who are beautiful, athletic, intelligent, and willing, characteristics for which Lusitanos are well known.
A testament to the respect and admiration for the horses, they have the right of way at the fair. It is not uncommon for horses to be working their way through the throngs of people visiting the many restaurants and vendors, and pedestrians always make way for them. When riders need a refreshment, they simply ride up to a horse-height bar and order a drink of their choice, giving them time to quench their thirst and exchange pleasantries with their fellow riders.
People come from all over the world to attend the festival, making the occasion a mix of local and historical culture and international interest.
If you are interested in joining us at the festival and visiting other locations in Portugal, please contact us for availability. However, we are bringing a small group to keep the experience intimate so if you are interested in joining us then it would be good to check with us soon.
A schedule of the festival can be obtained at the official website.