Saudade

Saudade is a Portuguese word without direct translation in English, but which characterises so much of the Portuguese national character. It is a kind of deep, melancholic longing for something cherished but absent. The traditional Portuguese folk music, Fado, expresses this notion through beautiful, lyrical stories, usually sung with guitar accompaniment.  A group of my Swedish clients at Quinta do Brejo were recently treated to a Fado performance by Manuel da Câmara – a dear friend of our hosts, Antonia and Tomaz Alercão.

Fado at Quinta do Brejo. www.charlottewittbom.com - Photo by Sören Belin.

Like all great art forms, Fado music resonates across cultures. Even to foreign ears these songs about love, loss, displacement and homeland speak of universal human emotions. It was a wonderful evening where friendships and memories were made.

It struck me during that evening how the concept of saudade describes well the feelings many of us will experience in our journey with horses.  Often the guests I have welcomed at Quinta do Brejo, and to my clinics around the world, have expressed a powerful longing for a kind of connection with their horses that has been elusive, yet present for them. We surely can all recognise the feeling of catching glimpses of how our horsemanship could be without ever seeming to obtain it. It’s almost to have loved and lost simultaneously – to know we have had something heavenly in our grasp that we may never fully recapture.

Fado at Quinta do Brejo - www.charlottewittbom.com

But in the concept of saudade and in Fado music we also see the importance of communal human experience, of telling stories and of learning to see the beauty and power in our feelings of longing. I suppose this is why there is so much benefit in a riding holiday or clinic shared with others – there is great solace in seeing that our deepest desires, fears, disappointments and joys resonate in the experiences of other people.  In sharing these important stories, we find companions, hope and pleasure in the journey to come.


In other news since my last post:   I was very honoured to be nominated as a ‘Magic Mentor’ in the UK magazine ‘South East Rider’ by a dear student of mine, Christine West. She has a beautiful Lusitano named Zunido.  You can see the article in South East Rider magazine here: http://www.southeastrider.co.uk/2013/south-east-rider-june-2013-2/

I’ve also been giving clinics in Sweden and England. I think the pictures will speak louder than my words – I hope you will enjoy them.
Photos courtesy of Colin West.

Photograph by Colin West.

Photo taken by Ulrika Malm.

Photograph by Ulrika Malm.

Photo taken by Ulrika Malm.

Photograph by Ulrika Malm.

Photo taken by Ulrika Malm.

Photograph by Ulrika Malm.

Photo taken by Ulrika Malm.

Photograph by Ulrika Malm.

Photos courtesy of Colin West.

Photograph by Colin West.

Photo taken by Ulrika Malm.

Photograph by Ulrika Malm.

Photo taken by Ulrika Malm.

Photograph by Ulrika Malm.

Arte Equestre

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…

Bailador, Lusitano stallion www.charlottewittbom.com

Quinta do Brejo - www.charlottewittbom.com

Diamante - www.charlottewittbom.com

Diamante with Charlotte Wittbom - www.charlottewittbom.com

Diamante with Charlotte Wittbom - www.charlottewittbom.com

Diamante with Charlotte Wittbom - www.charlottewittbom.com

Quinta do Brejo - www.charlottewittbom.com

Erus - www.charlottewittbom.com

www.charlottewittbom.com

Dante with Charlotte Wittbom - www.charlottewittbom.com

Dante at Quinta do Brejo www.charlottewittbom.com

Dante with Charlotte Wittbom - www.charlottewittbom.com

Quinta do Brejo - www.charlottewittbom.com

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.

Moon Fox Spanish Mustang with Charlotte Wittbom

Over the Moon

And so with heavy hearts we have waved goodbye to Moon Fox, the Spanish Mustang mare we have had the pleasure of training here at Quinto do Brejo for the past four months.

Moon came to us as a five year old at the beginning of her schooling and has now rejoined her owner to continue her development into the very fine horse I know she will become. It has been a wonderful experience to work with such a beautiful strong mare and to know her unique characteristics as well as those she shares with her Lusitano cousins.  Every horse I come to know brings new experiences and new learning.

Spanish Mustang Mare 'Moon Fox'

At five years old, Moon’s musculature was already beginning to be well developed, but having lacked the gymnastic work that would often take place from around the fourth birthday, her physique was quite tight and inflexible.  We started then with a lot of work in hand to supple and free her in walk. This helped to build the right foundations for the balance and strength necessary for ridden work.

Moon Fox Spanish Mustang with Charlotte Wittbom

On the other hand, being five years old, Moon had the mental maturity to progress quickly with the ridden work. You will see from the photographs that we found we were able to introduce the double bridle relatively soon in her training. For a young horse at Moon’s stage of development, this is more helpful in encouraging and supporting flexions of the neck and the suppling work from the ground, than as an aid to collection (as the horse matures, there will be more potential for collection in ridden work).

Moon Fox Spanish Mustang with Charlotte Wittbom

The early photographs also show that Moon’s physiology gave her a tendancy to fall on to her forehand. Therefore we incorporated lots of exercises – such as rein-back from the ground – to encourage her to carry her weight more evenly.

Moon Fox Spanish Mustang with Charlotte Wittbom

By the end of her period of schooling with us, Moon had progressed very well through the basic lateral work and is beginning to find self-carriage in the more difficult lateral exercises such as haunches-in and half-pass.  She is very attentive to the seat and can be ridden with a very light hand, which shows that she has both the physical and mental maturity to enjoy her work at a higher level of training.

Moon Fox Spanish Mustang with Charlotte Wittbom and owner, Julie Ann Rees

I’ve had a lovely time training Moon and I wish all the best for her and her owner. They have the makings of a great partnership and I’m sure will have a wonderful journey together.

Spanish Mustang mare, Moon Fox and owner, Julie Ann Rees with Charlotte Wittbom

Nuno Oliveira at Quinta do Brejo

We hope you are enjoying a peaceful weekend wherever you are. After many days of beautiful warm weather, there has been some rain here at Quinta do Brejo which has released an uplifting perfume of wild herbs and pine resin from the woodland surrounding the farm. To me, one of the most rewarding things about working with horses is that I am always close to nature – the cycles of day and night; the seasons and the elements. Of course our horses sense and respond to these changes just as we do, and these moments of mutual empathy and connection are surely the drug that every rider craves.

I came across this edited extract from a French documentary about Maestro Nuno Oliveira, in which he can be seen schooling here at Quinta do Brejo – the home and stables he built up and which we are now fortunate to inherit.  Those of you who have stayed with us will see how little has changed since his time here.  I hope you enjoy watching the master at work.

Information about the original film “Nuno Oliveira, l’écuyer du XXe siècle et 20 ans après” by Laurent Desprez can be found by clicking here (includes some more wonderful footage of Quinta do Brejo).

Quinta do Brejo on TV

How time flies – it’s already February. The weather has been beautiful in the UK where I have been giving clinics and I’ve returned to Portugal to find the same bright winter sunshine that I left a week ago. Since my last post we have welcomed riding guests from Estonia and Switzerland and were also visited by a film crew from the channel, TV Equitacao. They were here to record a piece about Nuno Oliveira and his home, Quinta do Brejo, which is now the location for our riding holidays and schooling. For those who don’t speak Portuguese, I’m afraid the interviews might be hard to understand, but it’s still well worth watching for some wonderful footage of Maestro Oliveira working here in our indoor school.

Cheque’s Progress

This is Cheque, who you might remember from a previous post. He is a 4 year old Lusitano stallion – the first horse I brought with me to Quinta do Brejo. Now he’s been in training for almost a year.

Cheque is going to stay with me for a few more months of schooling before he moves to his new home in Sweden and I’m very pleased I’ll get the chance to see him develop – he’s a lovely horse to work with.  At this point in his training we’re still working on the basics, but now I’m also adding some lateral steps and a few transitions from walk to his programme.

This video shows our first attempt at a counter canter in our small arena. The counter canter is a good exercise to help a horse develop his balance, but Cheque is a little young to do very much of this exercise, so we take it gently and only every now and again. His canter in general is now becoming more balanced, even though he sometimes drops a little onto his forehand. He can do this in trot too, but he is a big young horse with a lot to carry and is still growing. With time, and as his musculature develops, his balance will improve.  It’s important not to rush a young horse into advanced work before they are ready. And adding lots of variety in the work we do ensures we don’t ask too much of them too soon.

I also do a lot of work from the ground with Cheque, which helps with his suppleness.  Cavalettis and easier jumps help with his athletic development, but they also add variety and stimulation in his work – it’s good that he has fun too!

I try always to read the signals the horse is giving me so that I only ask for what he can give me.  A young horse goes through different stages of growth and development – their physicality, mental maturity and even their changing teeth will all impact on the way that they respond to the work we’re asking of them.  So if it sometimes feels that the horse is a bit unbalanced again or not always developing forward, I don’t worry. I try to think of our development together (and the relationship he’ll form with his new owner) as a long journey, not a sprint – given time and patient work, the pieces will fall into place.