Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Get Ready For The Heat

Wednesday September 5 2007

Next up: Portugal, host of the 2007 FEI European Endurance Championships this coming weekend.

And good news for heat wimps like me, and maybe some of the equine competitors: weather forecast for the weekend claims it will 'cool down' (my term) from the high 80's to 78 on Saturday, day of the competition, and 73 on Sunday. The humidity should be around 50% which might make it a bit easier for horses (if not me) to cool down during the ride. (And we'll choose to go with the MSN weather forecast because it is a bit lower than others!)

Portugal is not new to endurance: in 1958 Portugal organized a 700 km ride from Lisbon to Madrid, with 63 riders. In 1999 the European Endurance Championships were held in collaboration with Spain, in the country border towns of Elvas, Portugal and Badajoz, Spain.

24 nations have pre-entered Saturday's 160-km ride, high calibre horses and riders from around the world, some of them having already participated over the course for the Pre-Ride in 2006. They will cross the starting line at 6:30 AM.

The ride will be held on and around the grounds of Companhia das Lezírias and Barroca D'Alva.
In the last ten years, Companhia das Lezírias, one of the important Portuguese agricultural estates, has organised top equestrian events – endurance, eventing, jumping, driving, dressage. It is also famous for its vineyards – making their own wine for 120 years, cattle and Lusitano studfarm.

Barroca D'Alva and its equestrian center – owned by the family of José Samuel Lupi family since the early 1800's - has hosted national and international competitions in endurance, jumping and eventing, and is known for its rice and corn paddies, its bullfighting cattle, and its stud farm of Lusitano horses.

And you can't mention Portual without talking about the Lusitano horse and traditional bullfighting on horseback. (Until 1960, Lusitanos and Andalusians were registered together under the Spanish Stud Book, when the breeds separated.) Portugal indeed has a long tradition over the centuries with the horse and superb horsemanship.

For 700 years, until 1492, the Iberians – Spanish, Portuguese – repeatedly repelled invaders on horseback. Bullfighting possibly originated in Spain and Portugal around these same times. And with one thing leading to another, once the wars were over, and cavalrymen had nothing to do, the bullfighting on horseback was born – or so the stories go.

While wars on horseback and bullfighting on horseback necessitated specific, skilled, honed riding education and traditions for horses and riders, these skills were eventually undoubtedly the foundation for riding schools, from which the modern day Spanish Riding School of Vienna and the Royal School of Portuguese Equestrian Art grew. And the latter developed because of Nuno Oliviera - born in Lisbon in 1925 (died in 1989) – the world famous classical dressage rider and teacher, “one of the last great international riding masters.” Horseback bullfighting today - “toureio equestre” - is done primarily with Lusitanos, and still now, as hundreds of years ago, demonstrate the athletic ability and agility and bravery of the horse facing a bull charge.

We of and are looking forward to a taste of Portugal, (food and wine included!), and some skilled horses and riders and horsemanship of a different kind this weekend in the European Endurance Championship.

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