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Lusitano horse

The horses of Portugal

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The horses of Portugal

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They look like the last aristocrats.

They are treated with the most respect and tenderness.

They have the best diets and food.

They have fancy shampoo baths before showing up.

They have the best shoemakers.

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They have healthcare 24/7.

They dress the way their forefathers did in the 18th century.

They have gentlemen’s hairdressers.

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They are all males living at the Royal Palace of Queluz, 20 kms (12 miles) north of Lisbon, the same palace that received past Kings, Queens and Presidents during their state visits to Portugal.

They have care takers and horsemen all around, proud to be a part of the Equestrian Art Portuguese School.

They are the Lusitano horses, descended from the family of Iberian wild horses that were tamed by the stud farm of Alter do Chao in southern Portugal in the 18th century. The Royal Equestrian School closed in the 19th century but due to the Portuguese tradition of bullfighting on horseback the art, the skills and culture survive until today.

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The Lusitano horse has been developed as a horse for bullfights, academics and training making them some of the most desired in the world. Portugal, the ancestral home for Lusitano horses has now been surpassed by Brazil with their fast-growing horse farms.

Twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays the horses appear on the baroque gardens of the Queluz palace. With epoch music playing along for fourteen minutes viewers feel like they are being transported to the past.

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Source: blogs.reuters by Jose Manuel Ribeiro

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A spectacular art mural for a spectacular place!

The company Reliable Mission is crowd-funding to offer Morgado Lusitano a stunning art mural, to be painted just by the stables.

The work will feature two photos from the Portuguese Riding School official photographer Pedro Yglesias, author of the celebrated books "LVSITANOS" and "Portuguese Riding School in images", which will be painted by renowned young artist Smile.
The campaign is being funded through IndieGoGo, and can be visited here:

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/518746/emal/4563302
If you can, please help their project and very soon you can use it as a stunning photo-point during your stay with us.

 

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SON ET LUMIERE EN PROVENCE

If there is something that only the French can do, then it is Son et Lumiere.  And if they want to do it really well, they pick their spot.  And if they have the choice, then it is in the sun, and in the south!  And since they have all that, then why not choose the ultimate venue.  One that the Romans would choose for a spectacle.  Indeed, why don't they just use one that the Romans left behind.  And so they did.  The amphitheatre in Arles.
 
On a wonderful August evening, what better way to celebrate art.  During August, part of Provence's cultural programme, focussed on evening entertainment, during which the four famous academies of Equestrian Art in Europe, displayed their knowledge.
 
Some schools are older than others, but the pursuit of excellence drives all four.  The Escola Portuguesa de Arte Equestre, from Lisbon, is Portugal's stamp, and during the week of August 16th, they made their mark.
 
King John V, in 1748, formed the school, and horses still are sought from his Royal Stud, at Alter, to perform the movements.  The tradition of horsemanship practised in Portugal, has been maintained in the bullfight, which differs from that of the Spanish, and focusses mainly on the ability of the horse.  It is derived from the fighting movements, which were a necessary part of the battlefield.  After a degree of peace, then the sons of the nobility still maintained the tradition, and with the bullfighting tradition, it has not been lost in the modern world.
 
Culture has prevailed, and the old ways are now being celebrated.  In true style, with pomp and circumstance, at which the French excel!
 
So, if you were thinking of popping a few serious dressage lessons into your holiday in Lisbon, don't.  At least, not in August.  Most of MORGADO LUSITANO'S  teaching staff will be in Arles!!!
 
To find out more about Morgado Lusitano, and how every- day riders can access this knowledge, with embarrassment,  please visit Quinta do Morgado

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Sometimes friends drop in . . .

In Portugal, family ties run deep, and family traditions deeper still.  When both of these join together a deeper passion, then the result is a heady cocktail.
 
There is, in Portugal,  a policy between family and close friends of Porta Aberta.  Open door hospitality, when within reason, visits are made spontaneously, and without invitation.  Usually the "payment" for this "intrusion" is food, or more often wine.  But sometimes the callers bring the gift of talent.  Fado itself, as a genre, was based on spontaneity, so it is no surprise to find that a spontaneous visit, ends in an evening of Fado.  For when D. Francisco's cousin, D. Manuel da Camara comes calling with friends, that is usually what happens!
 
Fado is the Portuguese way of expressing, in song, how people feel about their lot in life, good or bad.  It has, many forms, but Fado is particular in that it is geared in its form to the situation or surroundings in which it finds itself.  It is no surprise, therefore, to learn, that when the Fado Marialva sing, it is particularly suited to the rural lifestyle.  The Marialvas have been together for around eight years, but have known each other always.  D. Manuel da Camara, Rodrigo Pereira and Francisco Martins were good friends,  "but needed to do something different".  So when three friends get together to sing, about those things in this life, about which they care passionately, then the result is almost always guaranteed to please.  There are things other, in this life, than an early morning crossing of the Tagus, to give one that certain "frisson".
 
They sing about "the countryside, horses, bulls and bullfights, love, women", and D. Manuel, like D. Francisco, can look to father and grandfather when it comes to being in the family tradition.  D. Manuel's grandfather was a professional opera singer, and his father, D. Vincente is a famous Fado singer, and can remember his younger days in the company of Amália.
 
But the real heady mix of passion shared by the cousins, is the love of the Lusitano horse.  Listen now to a solo by D. Manuel, Meu cavalo Lusitano........

 An evening in the country with friends is always a pleasurable thing.  An evening in the country with the Marialvas as your hosts would be even better.
 
To find out more please visit D. Francisco de Bragança website or get in touch through email: info@franciscobraganca.com.  Groups can be catered for Friday and Saturday evenings with the Marialvas at Archino.

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Lunch under a cork tree

It is very difficult, to concentrate on one's horse, when riding, when one's attention is being 'competed' for, by three things at the same time.  I am well used to the first two things:  namely, the horse's idea of what is correct, because, being well schooled, he knows more than I do, and my Instructor's idea of what is correct, because, being the product of centuries worth of knowledge, therefore, not to put too fine a point on it, also knows more than I do!  The third factor, is a first.  Probably, for all of us!  The smell of sardines, being grilled!

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An evening in the country

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An evening in the country

An evening in the country is always pleasurable.  And an evening in the country around the supper table with friends, even more so.  But when you find yourself in company where one member has a birthday, and your hostess has arranged a surprise treat, then an evening in the country can turn into something quite special.

And so it was, that I found myself being entertained by the Fado Marialva.

 

Rural areas in Portugal came very late to electricity.  Traditional homesteads, such as the one at which I was a guest, have not abandoned time-served means of cooking, heating and lighting, for who knows when 21st Century power may fail, and necessitate a return to the old ways.

In the failing light, the paraffin lamps were brought out, and the doors and windows flung wide open to receive the cooling breezes, for there were many flushed cheeks that required to be cooled!  The wine was taking effect, and the blurred edges around everything may not have been entirely attributable to the flicker of the lamps!

The evening was gathering momentum, and the once reserved trio were starting to get into their stride.  Their audience was starting to recover from the initial surprise.

To those of us who were familiar with Fado, and especially those songs which form part of the Marialva's repertoire, no sooner was one finished, than another request was shouted out.  With traditional country fare on the table, and a seemingly never ending supply of local wine, short breaks for the singers to step outside for a smoke, and to rest the vocal chords, did not prevent time passing at a gallop.  We cannot remember how many songs we got through, many favourites, or especially stirring ones, being sung more than once.  And we prefer NOT to remember how many times certain of those among us couldn't resist the urge to get up and do a jig!  To think that Fado is funereal, is to do it a great disservice, since while some lovely slow ones were sung, and some which were religious, that evening called for something different.

As I looked at the faces of those men that night, I started to wonder if perhaps I might be able to understand some day, what it is about Fado that means so much to them and indeed all Portuguese.  They were singing about their way of life, and the things which mattered most to them, and about which they cared passionately.  Gone were the cares of the day, the worries about the economy and all those external factors that knaw away at our wellbeing.  The more they sang, the more expressive they became, none more so than the guitarist, who had to be reined in on occasion, and reminded that this was not a solo performance!

And eventually, it was, with great regret, that we had to call it a day.  The food was exhausted, the wine was exhausted and so were the people.

People who started out being strangers, and parted, the greatest of friends.

This most enjoyable of evenings was spent at Quinta do Archino.

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Bullfighting, a rooted tradition

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Bullfighting, a rooted tradition

Bullfighting or tauromachy (Spanish toreo, corrida de toros or tauromaquia; Portuguese tourada, corrida de touros or tauromaquia) is a sport that involves, most of the time, professional performers (generally called in Spanish toreros or matadores and in Portuguese toureiros) who execute various formal moves with the goal of appearing graceful and confident, while masterful over the bull itself; these maneuvers are performed at close range, concluding (in Spanish-style bullfighting) with the death of the bull by a well-placed sword thrust as the finale.

It is a ritual spectacle that is usually designated in Spain as an art, for others as a sport, as tallies are kept for the purpose of ranking the bullfighters. The art of bullfighting requires a significant degree of skill and athleticism, resulting in the widely held view of matadors as national celebrities.

The practice generates heated controversy in many areas of the world, including Spain where the "classic" bullfighting was born.

Origins of Bulllfighting

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Bullfighting goes back at least to Minoan Crete, where the bull-leaping ritual practiced by youths of both sexes is memorialized in the famous wall-frescos at Knossos. The frescos offer no hint of struggle or violence, and the Lunar Bull was a sacred animal commemorated in ritual and legends such as that of the Minotaur. Modern archaeologists tend to emphasize the danger involved in this athletic skill and may underestimate the extent to which the bull cooperated. The killing of the sacred bull (tauromachy) is the essential central iconic act of Mithras, which was commemorated in the mithraeum wherever Roman soldiers were stationed. French ethnologist Dominique Aubier considers that there is no relationship between the Greek sacrifice which is an agricultural ritualistic celebration and the bullfight which is in Spain of pure paleontological hunting origins.

It is often linked to ancient Rome, when many people-versus-animal events were held as a warm-up for gladiatorial sports. The event's earliest roots are probably religious, as many bulls played an important part in the belief systems of many ancient Mediterranean cultures; compare, for instance, the Minoan reverence of the bull and the Greek and Roman practice of sacrificing bulls. It may have been introduced into Spain by the Moors in the 11th century, although there are other theories that it was introduced into Spain a millennium earlier by the Emperor Claudius when he instituted a short-lived ban on gladiatorial games as a substitute for those combats. The latter theory was supported by Robert Graves. In its original Moorish and early Spanish form, the bull was fought from horseback using a javelin. (Picadors are the remnants of this tradition, but their role in the contest is now a relatively minor one limited to "preparing" the bull for the matador.) Bullfighting spread from Spain to its Central and South American colonies, and also in the 19th century to France, where it developed into a distinctive form in its own right.

In the 18th century, the Spanish introduced the practice of fighting on foot, Francisco Romero generally being regarded as having been the first to do this, about 1726. The modern style of Spanish bullfighting is credited to Juan Belmonte, generally considered the greatest matador of all time, who introduced a daring and revolutionary style which kept him almost constantly within a few inches of the bull. Although extremely dangerous (Belmonte himself was gored on many occasions), his style is still seen by most matadors as the ideal to be emulated.

Portuguese Style

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The Portuguese now practice a type of bloodless bullfighting which is in many respects different from its original form. A Portuguese corrida de touros has three main events:

  • Cavaleiro - A horseman (rider), dressed in traditional 18th century costumes fights the bull from horseback. The horses are Portuguese Lusitanians, specially trained for the fights. These horses are usually skilled in dressage and may exhibit their art in the arena. The purpose of this fight is to stab three or four bandarilhas (small javelins) in the back of the bull. Horseback bullfighters are usually members of old aristocratic families.
  • Bandarilheiros - Akin to the Spanish matadores (see above), but without the sword. These men simply play the bull with a red coat.
  • Forcados - The forcados are a group of eight men who challenge the bull directly, without any protection or weapon of defense. The front man provokes the bull into a charge to perform a pega de touros (bull catch). The front man secures the animal's head (usually it is a violent choke) and is quickly aided by his fellows who surround and secure the animal until he is subdued. Forcados were usually people from lower classes who practice their art through amateur associations.

The bull is not killed in the ring and the fight is accordingly referred to as a "bloodless bullfight". After these three sets, the bull is removed from the arena alive and is sometimes killed, away from the audience's sight, by a professional butcher. More often than not, many bulls are entered into other events, such as rodeos in California, or released to pasture until their end days. Nevertheless, tradition was so strong at the small town of Barrancos, where the bull was illegally put to death in the arena, that the government was forced to relent and permit the town to follow its ancient matador tradition and kill the bull in the arena. There are many forms of traditional, popular bullfighting in Portugal, differing from the "official" version, some of which involve groups of people doing a tug-of-war with young bulls, by holding large wooden structures into which the animals charge. In the Azores, bullfighting is often remniscent of the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, in which those most at risk are human beings, not the bulls themselves.

In Portugal, some bulls have their horns severed in a way that they do not present sharp points. This practice is believed to have been introduced by King Joseph I of Portugal after a tragic event in a bullfight he was presiding. The son and heir of the Marquis of Marialva was fighting a bull on horseback when the animal wounded his horse. The young man fell, was kicked by the bull and killed. The Marquis himself, then around 70 years of age, jumped from the royal cabin that he shared with the king, drew his sword and killed the animal.

Also in Portugal, the main stars of bullfighting are the cavaleiros, as opposed to Spain, where the matadores are the most prominent bullfighters.

Bullfights are not accepted in some parts of Portuguese society, as it is in some parts of Spanish society, and to that extent, has seen a decline in the number of spectators in those sectors. However, southern regions such as Ribatejo and Alentejo, and the Azores are traditionally more interested in the corrida de touros, than Portugal's central and northern regions, where it has little presence. Part of this decline is traceable, for good or bad, to the homogenization and uniform moral subjectivity of European culture and ethical standards.

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