The Riding Company trip to the magical Quinta da Fe in the heart of Portugal was in November. 4 intrepid ladies managed to squeeze themselves and their baggage into a Fiat Punto for the drive from Lisbon Airport to rural Alentejo. Upon arrival at c.10 pm we were greeted by our host Marc de Wery and ushered into the charming sitting room lit by a blazing log fire. A first night of relaxed chat and laughter set the tone for the week as we were shown to our rooms, each themed and decorated individually with artefacts Marc has picked up over the years. First impressions really count and Marc has made his communal areas warm and inviting.
The ‘Farm of Faith’ is a place to immerse yourself in the art of dressage, and to Marc, it is an art, rather than a sport. He is a Grand Prix rider, judge and top class instructor who offers not only riding on his Lusitano stallions but also theory lessons where he discusses his philosophy and guidance that complements the riding that he offers. The theory covers all sorts of aspects of body awareness that we never think of, both in our own bodies and our horses. The sessions were fascinating and backed up by watching DVD’s of some of the world’s top riders, many of whom Marc knows personally through his own competing and work with the Portugese National Team.
Our group were rather nervously introduced to our horses the next morning for our first session with the maestro. We all rode rather tensely as one does with a new instructor and new horse and Marc assessed our needs for the week and planned a strategy to improve and relax all of us as individuals. I was paired with beautiful golden, dun Rio and Marc likes to keep you on the same horse whenever possible so you work as a team and develop a bond. Adele from Canada was paired with the stunning and temperamental grey Zorba, Sara with the elegant white Raposo and Anne-Marie with Lusitano cross, well mannered, Kelvin.
With the help of his able British assistant Tom, Marc managed to turn us from dressage ugly ducklings into pirouetting princesses and dressage divas. The team on hand included ‘Super Mario’ responsible for maintenance of not only the gardens but also bodies as he is a sports masseur, and Paulo who cooked great food and ran the kitchen with great humour. Our fellow guests from Germany, Priscilla and Mario, added to the international flavour of the holiday and as a group we could not have enjoyed ourselves more. Meals are taken together in the intimate dining room where we enjoyed traditional meals prepared by Paulo including quail and a range of Portugese seafood amongst the dishes.
On our 2 half days, we drove into the lovely city of Evora in pursuit of traditional Portugese custard tarts to die for (oh, and culture of course). Anne-Marie and Sally shopped till they dropped and on our 2nd visit Anne-Marie acted as our photographer, directing us like a pro! Her ‘3 ladies doing half pass without horses in front of the Roman Temple’ is destined to be a classic image. It probably was the only time I rode it perfectly!
At the end of a fabulous week we said farewell to our friends at QDF but have all vowed to return. If anyone would like to experience Marc’s magic contact firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for availability. T: 01534 745795 or visit us on www.theridingcompany.com
There were so many highlights: riding around the arena to fine classical music, finally doing a decent shoulder in/travers/putting together a series of movements, sharing a room with Sara like a couple of kids at camp, Adele’s final hurrah, cantering on Zorba with her Spanish hat on, hair flowing behind, Anne-Marie doing a successful leg yield for the very first time after just a few months as a rider, Tom’s red slippers, those basset puppies, Marc’s Bach cello concerto which he is practising for a charity concert…oh and the horses, every one of them a delight.