A most amazing trip!
Monday – first day in Portugal. As people arrived from Faro airport we went to the lovely Four Seasons Country Club nearby where members met each other and were able to chill out after what had been for some a very early start. Three brave souls were intimidated by the chairman into joining her in the outdoor pool, and in spite of the rain had a lovely swim, even if they acquired the reputation of being totally mad.
Day Two was spent at Pinetrees where owner and ABRS member Beverley Gibbons (also trip organiser) hosted an informative session with a demonstration of the benefits of working riders on a pad rather than a saddle. This was followed by some riders from the Cerebal Palsy centre in Faro, who seemed to thoroughly enjoy having an enthusiastic audience.
Dr. Nuno Onofre from the Vetalbu Clinic gave an interesting illustrated talk on the challenges of keeping horses in the Algarve where not only are horse owners challenged by the difficulty of obtaining hay and grazing but have to cope with several different types of Colic, seasonal, ulcers and impacted colic are common due to insufficient intake of liquids, especially when working in 40’ heat. Tick fever is also common, severe Sweet Itch – exacerbated by pollen, hoof problems as the ground is very dry in summer and very wet in winter, and West Nile Fever where although the vaccination is 72-80% efficient, it is a virus that mutates rapidly. Keeping horses in the Algarve certainly has its own challenges but the horse owners we met were very positive that it provides great opportunities for training and competing and there is also wonderful riding in the hills with views to impress the most hardened traveller.
Wednesday began with a visit to Monte Santa Luzia, the stable of Antonio Reis and Lucia Cabrita. Lucia is a FEI Level 2 course designer and was really enthusiastic and generous in sharing her knowledge. She had some wonderful stories about show jumpers too . . . We watched several horses working with Antonio who specialises in show jumping and has two pupils who competed in the European Championships. We thoroughly enjoyed our time with them, acquiring knowledge, looking round the stables and meeting the horses.
In the afternoon we visited the Centro Equestre Lusitanus belonging to Sr. Joao Pedro Miranda and his wife Iris. João Pedro is a dressage judge at top national level as well as a competitor. We were treated to some really interesting demonstrations, showing their training methods for classical dressage, mounted and on the ground. The finale was an impressive Pas de Deux performed in traditional dress.
Our fourth, and for some, the last day, we spent at Vilamoura, a large tourist resort with the most impressive purpose built show jumping facility. It was hosting the Champions tour which runs for 6 weeks every autumn . We were privileged to have a guided tour of the facilities by Antonio Moura himself, whose brain child it is and who is the event’s President. We toured the stabling area for 1000 horses, bars, restaurants, several large rings and warm up areas, a veterinary area complete with x-ray facilities and laboratory and of course tack and equipment shops. The show is currently host to 30 nations with over 850 horses staying there and we watched some top class jumping while enjoying a leisurely lunch in the comfortable seating area.
Most people went home on the Friday, my Essex friends and I stayed on. I visited another ABRS school Quinta Pariso Alto to do their inspection with Bev, while my companions took the opportunity to go for a hack – enjoying the off road riding on sand through the pine woods.
Bev did the most amazing job of organising this trip. Every detail was thought of and (on the surface anyway), everything ran amazingly smoothly. Taxis always appeared on time, the hotel was great, the evening restaurants were amazingly good value and the ‘horse stuff’ was varied, informative and interesting. The hospitality of all the places we visited has ensured that we returned home several pounds heavier! Being with Bev is rather like being with a walking encyclopaedia – the knowledge she contains about everything – history, tourism, Portugal, horses et al is phenomenal. We cannot thank her enough for providing us with such a great experience – those ABRS members who didn’t make it, really missed out on a treat.