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Spain and Portugal. What did I learn?

It was wonderful to go back to Spain after 44 years. Of course, Madrid had really changed in that time but what hadn’t was the horses. In Andalucia, the horse still reigns supreme.

I was fortunate indeed to be introduced to José Antonio Olea Rodriguez, the current Spanish WE Masters Champion. He generously allowed me to have some lessons on his champion horse. Having been trained by Miguel Tavora I was able to ride this divine horse.

Highly sensitive and responsive with an enormous amount of power he was a delight. To be invited back to train with Jose was such an honour. I will certainly take him up on this offer!

Watching the beautiful performance at the Royal Andalucian School of Equestrian Art in Jerez de la Fontera, was again, reinforcing correct riding and position. Stunning.

In Portugal I was introduced to Alfredo Faneca, one of the most important breeders of Lusitanos in Portugal. I was, due to Alfredo’s connections, able to watch the morning exercises and go behind the scenes of the Portuguese School of Equestrian Arte.

Talking with the more senior riders it was rewarding to see the methods and techniques I had been taught by my mentor Miguel, were still in use. Some remembered Miguel fondly and all praised his ability as a trainer, rider and coach.

Alfredo then took me to his stables where I watched the training of the bullfighting horses. This was fascinating. The manoeuvrability, suppleness and reflexes of these horses was of the highest level. I also watched the training of dressage horses, all Lusitanos. Again, all the warm up exercises and patterns were the same. The corrections to improve the performances, the same. I went to two other training stables for bullfighting horses and always the same respect, techniques and methods I had been taught were employed by the riders both young and old.

The Portuguese do not stray from their methods and ideology for training horses, regardless of discipline. They are not influenced by the latest fad but stay true to their methods. It was heartening indeed for me, as since Miguel’s passing five years ago I have had no one to help me. Sometimes I have to stop and think, “What would Miguel do?’ Luckily I have his book as a source of not only information but reinforcement of his teachings.

So what did I learn?

Firstly the teachings of Nuno Oliviera and Miguel are still current.

Secondly the horses I saw were, without exception beautiful in movement and responsive to their riders without negative tension.

Thirdly, and for me most importantly, it has reinforced that I am still on the right track. I have tried hard not to be swayed and stay true to the coaching I received.

I feel validated and reenergised.

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