And so to December: the closing of the year. At this time, I – like many of you, I’m sure – often find myself reflecting on the achievements of the preceding months while looking forward to new plans for January. It has been a very rewarding and busy year at Quinta do Brejo so far – full with the coming and going of horses, guests and friends, both old and new. And beyond Portugal I’ve enjoyed developing my clinics in Sweden and the UK – there will be more of those next year, I’m happy to say.
My Swedish roots feel strong at this time of year: Even after all this time spent in Portugal, December for me means snow and mulled wine and log fires. And I know that many of my friends from the North are already enjoying beautiful winter landscapes and life-affirming cold! But here in Portugal we can still enjoy some sun, which is not all bad, of course!
This month Swedish magazine ‘Kentaur’ have published a beautifully written article about Quinta do Brejo and our riding holidays – http://www.kentaurmagasin.se. In all good Swedish stores now!
I’ve also just returned from another teaching trip to Sweden and I want to thank everyone for making these clinics so interesting and enjoyable. I love to revisit long-term students and see the progress they have made since the last time. Of course it’s always lovely and gratifying to welcome new students too! Each introduces different horses, challenges, experiences and hopes, yet they are bound together by a common love of riding and desire to improve their horsemanship. It’s a pleasure and a privilege to share their journeys with them. Above and below are some photos taken by Ulrika Malm from a recent clinic in Sweden.
Recently we welcomed a new friend to Quinta do Brejo for a riding holiday. She revealed a wonderful talent to us that we would like to share with you…
This series of photographs was taken by Ulrika Malm – a recent guest at Quinta do Brejo who works as a professional photographer. You can click on the images to enlarge them. And you can see more of her beautiful work at www.ulrikamalm.se. Thank you to Ulrika for allowing us to share the images here.
Flyinge is a beautiful equestrian facility in the South of Sweden – one of the oldest national studs in the world and a centre of excellence for education and training. I was very happy to be invited there to give demonstration rides at the close of the Swedish National Dressage Championships.
It was a big honour and a little nerve-wracking to perform for my home crowd! But it was a lovely day. I rode two horses belonging to students of mine – the first a PRE (Pura Raca Espanhola) named Ares; the second, a warmblood named Tupack. We had only two days to prepare and to develop a good communication with the horses. Even though I have followed their progress during my visits to Sweden, we still needed to get in tune for performing in front of a big audience.
First it was a demonstration of classical riding in baroque costume, with a video backdrop of quotations and illustrations from Masters of horsemanship such as Gueriniere, Xenophon and Baucher. The objective was not to show any perfection of any kind but simply the beauty and artistry of classical horsemanship, which I hope came as a relief after the pressure of a high-level dressage competition.
Next, the warmblood Tupack and I demonstrated how the gymnastic exercises we use in classical dressage can be used in every day training to soften, supple and balance the horse and allow him to move in self carriage. It was nice to show how the classical approach – which is often associated with baroque horses – can be used just as effectively with warmbloods and other breeds.
Finally, Ares – dressed in dramatic lights to show his outline in motion – and I entered a darkened arena to perform to music. Our three performances took place within a one hour long show which included “Beridna Högvakten” and other very talented riders.
I want to thank everyone who helped me to prepare for the event and gave their support. And thanks especially to Ares and Tupack and their owners – I couldn’t have asked them for more. Here’s a little film from the evening event:
It’s the end of an era at Quinta do Brejo. We have said farewell to two of the most important members of our team – our working student from Canada, Marie-Philip and our beautiful 10 year old Lusitano, Vip.
After a year and half of schooling with us, Vip is now continuing his journey elsewhere. He is a great personal favourite of mine and I know was very popular with the guests who rode him. I’m very grateful to Vip for the great pleasure it has been to school and ride him; the joy he gave to so many; the almost holy riding experiences he gave to some. I know he has a special place in many hearts and I’m sure will continue to touch people throughout his life. At Quinto do Brejo we took a journey together through piaffe, passage, pirouettes, spanish trot, flying changes and levade and I could feel that he enjoyed it as I did. It is with tears in my eyes and much love in my heart that I wish him bon voyage.
Marie came to us last December and revealed a true passion for horses and dedication to learning the classical methods of training and riding. Working with horses and living in a completely different environment with a new language, different horses and a whole range of cultural differences is not at all easy but she made a big impact and became a valued member of our team. She has made great progress with her riding and her way with horses and I’m sure will enjoy a wonderful career back in her native Canada. I wish her every success for the future.
Some of you might remember the photoshoot that was taken a few months back at Quinta do Brejo with Vip. Well, the photos have now arrived with us and I thought I would share some outtakes with you.
The time seems to have passed so quickly since my last post but I have neglected my writing for long enough. A lot of things have been happening here at Quinta do Brejo and beyond.
I had a very nice week in England – giving my second clinic at Birtle Riding Centre near Manchester and then teaching some private lessons around the North West of the country. I’m looking forward to returning there in a couple of months to see how everyone is progressing.
Back over in Portugal I’ve been busy with guests of both the two legged and four legged kind. Most recently a beautiful new friend has come from Quinta da Encosta to stay with us for a while – a 3 year old horse named Esquivo da Encosta. He’ll be with us for a period of training before moving to his new owner in Sweden. Esquivo moves wonderfully and is a very tall and handsome horse.
We have also been scouting out some hacking routes for clients who come to stay here. And my goodness the scenery around the farm is beautiful. On horseback you can wind your way through the woodlands and over the hills surrounding Quinta do Brejo, eventually looking out on the small villages around Malveira and toward the ocean. When it’s clear you can see as far as Sintra. To smell the wild herbs and eucalyptus trees; hear the gentle song of church bells and ride through villages alive with the daily chores of laundry, bread baking and the gossip of elders: it reminds me of the reasons I fell in love with riding in the first place. Sometimes it’s good to put aside our projects and just enjoy how the world looks when you’re sitting on a horse.