One of the oldest nation states in Europe, its territory includes the sub tropical Atlantic archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira. With a warm and sunny climate outside of the cities Portugal remains a very traditional society with equestrianism still highly regarded. Blessed with 850km of splendid beaches and an exceptional range of different landscapes in a short distance, hospitable people, excellent cuisine, fine wines and Lusitano horses, it is a natural place to visit on a riding holiday.
Horses have been present on the Iberia Peninsula as far back as 20,000BC and by Roman times the Lusitania region (roughly corresponding to modern Portugal) was famous for its war horses. When the Muslims invaded the region in 711AD they brought Barb horses with them which were crossed with the native war horses, developing a horse that became famous excellent for use in war, dressage and bull fighting.
Historically Portugal pioneered travel of the world with such famous explorers as Vasco de Gama. However, Portugal hasn't done so well at attracting today's travellers to its own country with large areas remaining quite undiscovered. It is one of the least spoilt corners of Europe - ideal to visit on a horse riding holiday.
The Portuguese Lusitano breed is an Iberian horse closely related to the Spanish Andalusian. By 800 BC war horses from the Lusitanio region were in much demand. When the Muslims invaded Iberia in 711 AD, they brought Barb horses with them that were crossed with the native horses, developing a horse with a convex profile, heavy muscling and intelligent and willing natures. These horses then went on to excel in dressage - which has its origins in training for the battlefield - and bull fighting.
In 1966, the Portuguese and Spanish stud books split. Lusitanos have competed in several Olympic and World Equestrian Games as part of the Portuguese and Spanish dressage teams. For those interested in Dressage, or classical equitation, riding a well-schooled Lusitano is a must.
Trail riding holidays are 'point-to-point' rides. With these itineraries you ride from A to B; each day you will set off from one location and finish in a different place to where you will spend the night, perhaps in a local guesthouse or under canvas.
Trail rides are a good way to cover ground and often allow you to explore different areas, eco systems and cultures. Riders confident in all paces are best suited to these rides along with a degree of fitness as trails often involve 4-6 hours in the saddle daily.
Some trails are circular, bringing you back to the place you started, whereas others are linear and will finish in a totally different area. These are top quality rides in every way and very popular, so book early.
Unicorn offers numerous riding holidays in Portugal and there really is something for everyone - beginners to advanced riders, trails to based holidays, natural horsemanship, western riding, riding on the beach, ranch holidays, luxury to more basic accommodation, dressage tuition, rides that welcome singles and rides perfect for a winter sun break. See a selection of these rides below:
Horse Riding Holiday, Algarve
If you think that ranch holidays are limited to the USA then think again! Here in the Algarve we offer a fabulous and very popular ranch holiday with the wild west on your doorstep. We call this our Western Style Algarve ride. All the horses are schooled in western riding using natural horsemanship. This may be the Algarve, but you will ride out daily on glorious trails without seeing another soul. Enjoy the magnificent views and peacefulness of the countryside enveloping you - just rider and horse. Should you fancy a trip to the beach, then no problem, it's close by. Back at the ranch, in the evening, join your hosts and fellow riders around the camp fire for drinks. This riding holiday caters for all levels of riding, beginners to advanced riders.
Horse Riding Holidays, Costa Azul - Blue Coast
The Costa Azul is a beautifully stunning area on the southern stretch of Portugal's west coast extending 180 kilometres south of Troia. This is a region yet to be discovered by tourists. Even in summer you'll find the beaches virtually deserted and further inland tourists just drive through on their way to the Algarve. This is a region that is ready to be explored by riders who would like to see an unknown area of traditional Portugal.
Unicorn offers different trail riding holidays in this area of Portugal - what better way to discover this jewel than on the back of a first class Lusitano.
The Bottlenose Trail is so called because around the mouth of the Rio Sado is a sanctuary where dolphins play. Our trail goes south where 36 miles of deserted beaches are peppered with lagoons and tiny fishing villages. Ride from the coastal mountains to the fabulous beaches and turquoise sea. The trail suits intermediate to advanced riders. The accommodation is simple but comfortable and the food is typical of the area.
If you would prefer more luxury why not try the Dolphin Coast Trail which is a member of our premier horse riding holiday range. Three nights are spent in an historic Puosada. Then, you enjoy two nights in the heart of the country followed by 2 nights on the coast by the Lagoon of Santo Andre. As with the Bottlenose Trail you will need to be a competent rider.
Our third riding holiday in the Costa Azul region is the Blue Coast Trail. Again, you will ride through stunning deserted scenery on magnificent Lusitano horses. Discover beaches and forests of eucalyptus and cork trees. This ride is extremely popular with Unicorn clients and many return to experience manificent horses and above average accommodation.
Horse Riding Holiday - Alentejo
Stretching south of Lisbon, Portugal's capital city, lie the vast plains of the Alentejo region separated from the Algarve by a range of mountains. The area is known for breeding fighting bulls and it is the greenest in Portugal. Here we offer our Alentejo Estate Trail Ride, a premier riding holiday. Your fabulous accommodation is beautiful renovated private estates that were once the homes of nobles. Take in a visit to a National Stud Farm, a highlight for all lovers of Portuguese horses. The view from the farm, 1,200 feet above sea level, is incredible - hundreds of mares and their colts grazing on huge meadows. The ride ends at a private hunting reserve.
Perhaps you fancy combining a wonderful climate and wonderful natural beauty with dressage lessons. We have a selection of dressage holidays available for every level of rider. Visit the home of the Lusitano breed, Golega, where you can ride these special school masters who are trained to advanced level. Our Golega Dressage and Trail Riding offers the chance to brush up on your flat work skills aswell as ride out in the local countryside.
You my have difficulty choosing from these wonderful adventures in Portugal. Contact us now for advice on which rides are best for you. Don't forget, we can also arrange extensions such as city stays, maybe Lisbon, with a range of different accommodation options available.