View Full Version : Portuguese dressage vacation -ideas?
Oct. 2, 2009, 03:25 PM
My husband's 50th is around the corner and I am considering booking a trip to Portugal for us either in early Dec or early Jan as a (big, big) gift. We both ride, and this is a dream of his. I am looking at:
ALCAINCA DRESSAGE PROGRAM
Because Morgado has limitations on days (must be seven or three, and they don't recommend three), I am leaning toward Alcainca. I also like the presentations of the facilities/trainers better that I saw on youtube but it could just be marketing.
Has anyone been to either place? Which would you recommend? Other suggestions?
Oct. 2, 2009, 04:39 PM
I went to Alcainca years ago. I had fun, though I would have gotten more out of it riding-wise had I been more advanced. The stables and housing were cute, clean, and pretty. The instructors were good, and very good humored and encouraging. The horses were kind and lovely. The food was great, and there were other students (and non-riding spouses) there from all over the world, making for lots of great boisterous round-the-table chit chat and wine drinking.
(ETA: Portugal is not ideal for vegetarians. If you insist on "no meat" they will either swear there is none, when there actually is, or else you will be fed boiled unseasoned potatos and cabbage. :D )
The advanced students rode in the outdoor ring, the less advanced in the indoor. The advanced students compared saddle sores and aches and pains sometimes. The indoor ring was a bit on the dusty side.
There were lots of opportunities to sit in the open lounge area adjoining the indoor and watch young horses being schooled, as well as hanging out by the outdoor watching the advanced riders and several boarders ride their horses. The horses were all treated with kindness and patience.
All the horses there were stallions, and were all very friendly and good tempered, and trained to various levels depending on age and talent. The ones used for the less-advanced classes were very tolerant of our mistakes, and were used for children's classes on weekends.
There is no turnout ("old-style" sort of European setup, and all stallions), except for some younger colts (4 year olds, maybe?) who were turned out in the sunken "bullrings" to play several hours a day. Some horses were in box stalls, some (a half dozen or so) were in straight (standing) stalls.
I think there was one day several of us went to visit a saddlemaker nearby - several people bought the cool Portuguese half chaps, others bought tack to take home.
All in all I thought it was a nice week. I stayed there as part of a longer trip where I visited friends in Lisbon (fun city to visit) and also visited Sintra - SOOOO worth a side trip - amazing old elaborate villas and a strange monastery on a mist-shrouded mountain near Lisbon. We also drove through the Serra de Estrela, which is fantastically beautiful and rugged. Be prepared to stop and refill the radiator in your dinky rental car when it overheats crawling up the mountain roads.
I don't know anything about the other place you mentioned...
Oct. 2, 2009, 06:24 PM
I have been to Alcainca twice, and would go back again.
I worked a LOT on basics ("straight the horse!" when the horse FELT straight to me. I got a LOT better at feeling "straight") and rode at least one horse who showed me very dramatically what I WASN'T good at. And I got to do some advanced work (Spanish walk, piaffe, passage, 4-tempis) which was a real thrill.
There were times when I could barely walk when I got off.
The first time I went with my husband, but he was a bit too much of a beginner to really appreciate it (though he insists he had a good time).
The second time, I went with my sister (who is actually a more advanced rider than I am, AND used to be fluent in Portuguese), but for some reason the teaching style didn't "click" for her.
First time they told me I "wasn't bad for an American". Second time they told me I was a "good rider", and used me as a guniea pig on a horse just coming back in the teaching string.
Oct. 2, 2009, 07:47 PM
Dos Potros Gordos and Janet,
Thank you! Those were exactly the kinds of comments I was hoping for -really, really helpful. I am getting really excited now.
Oct. 3, 2009, 07:32 AM
Take plane to Portugal. Get off plane. Turn left.:D
You lucky dog!
Oct. 3, 2009, 10:35 AM
Another vote for Alcainca. I was there in 2005 and would go back in a second! I have lots of pics if you want to see them. Just PM me:-)
Oct. 4, 2009, 10:12 AM
Jorge is a nice guy if he is still at alcainca. Morgado Lusitano's trainer is also a rider of the Portuguese Equestrian School though. There are also others like Centro equestre da Leziria grande (Luis Valenca's place) and Quinta da fonte Santa (Francisco Bessa de Carvalho's place) and plenty of others