Quinto do Archino, near Ota (1hr nth of Lisbon)
Owner and trainer Don Francisco de Braganca is a descendant of the the now-defunct royal family and long-time student of the renowned Nuno Oliveira. His stable is full of impeccably presented, breath-takingly beautiful and solidly trained Lusitanos.
The indoor arena and viewing area is incorporated into the stable barn with a large outdoor flanked by fields of lavender and rosemary. Francisco’s focus and absolute priority in training is the correct position of the rider and the correct application of the aids. My first lessons there involved remaining in walk until a true and effective position was achieved. His horses are extremely sensitive and it was always apparent when you hadn’t communicated correctly with your seat, legs, voice...! Spurs were absolutely forbidden and riders were only allowed to carry a stick if it became obvious the horse was unable to decipher their forward aids any other way. Riders learn to take responsibility for any mistakes or unintended/incorrect responses from the horse.
As a coach, Francisco is quick thinking, responsive, with an excellent sense of humour - even when yelling at you! Lessons were what we would consider short (25 - 30 min on the horse). All riders spend the entire morning and afternoon sessions together (there can be around 6 guests at one time). As each person rode, everyone stood in the arena with Francisco - observing, discussing and learning.
Just a short walk from the barn, the accommodation was just lovely: comfortable bedrooms, plenty of space inside to relax in the cool and an outside pool area. The food was always outstanding - a simple continental breakfast including the requisite meat, cheese, bread and strong coffee, 3-course meals for both lunch and dinner including ample quantities of delicious local table wine. The staff were friendly and helpful; always able to cope with guests not having any grasp of Portuguese! Francisco’s lovely wife Maria appeared over the weekend and we had the special treat of sharing Francisco’s birthday celebration with his family and friends.
Morgado Lusitano, near Alverca (45min nth west of Lisbon)
Morgado is a family-owned organisation operating an equestrian vacation and professional training centre. Many of the horses used in the school are bred by the family, who have a long equestrian history in Portugal. Morgado is well set up to accommodate up to eight or so riders of every level wishing to ride horses fully established in grand prix movements. Lesson are usually in a group (2-3 riders) in their large covered arena, unless a private lesson has been specifically requested and can be catered for. Their resident instructors (whilst I was there) Rodrigo Matos and Paulo Sergio Perdigao are top graduates of the prestigious Portuguese Riding School in Lisbon and very experienced trainers of both horses and riders. Both Rodgrio and Paulo travel extensively around the world conducting dressage clinics with riders on every kind of horse, as well as being Iberian horse specialists.