Portugal - Quinta da Fe

Immerse yourself in the art of dressage in the Alentejo region of Portugal. A unique riding school, dedicated to dressage, to excite all standards of rider. Quinta da Fe is the ultimate holiday destination for the dressage enthusiast. The cosy, beautifully furnished five-bedroom farmhouse will become your shared home while the adjoining stable yard and sand schools set within orange groves and vineyards is a veritable sanctuary to the soul. Instruction is led by Marc de Wery, an exceptional and experienced rider and trainer who is equally gifted in communicating his riding philosophy – using video lessons, lunge lessons, individual and small group lessons and with riding sessions set to music. For those wishing to experience the true Portugal, food is cooked to traditional farmhouse recipes and there’s opportunity to visit the nearby town of Evora, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Any stresses and strains are bound to be released during your stay especially while relaxing by the lovely pool or with the help of the on-site masseuse. An excellent, intimate and informal venue.

Quinta da Fe is possibly unique in its existence devoted, as it is, to educating all abilities and ages of rider in the art of dressage. The focus is on medium level riders who would like to learn classical dressage on well schooled horses. Marc de Wery, the owner and inspiration behind Quinta da Fe, competed up to Grand Prix level and has trained some top riders, but don't let that intimidate you as he is equally enthusiastic about teaching complete novices and also hosts 'learn to ride' weeks. The atmosphere at Quinta da Fe is informal and intimate and it’s a place that will help you learn as much about yourself as about dressage. With just five rooms and a maximum of ten guests, your week long stay could lead to finding life-long friends from many corners of the world in the reassuringly safe and secure environment that means Quinta da Fe is equally suitable for independent travellers. Many guests return throughout the year or year on year to hone their skills.

Your multi-lingual hosts and trainers are Marc and his British assistant Tom. Both are on hand through much of the day and guests are invited to share experiences and encourage each other in training, watching or swapping anecdotes.

A timetable of the next day is produced every evening to allow flexibility in the programme to suit individual needs and requirements. Conversation, discussing the horses and training, will not be in short supply over supper and depending on energy levels riders may relax by the pool, settle down to watch dressage DVDs, read, or even turn the evening into a bit of a party!

The Riding: For those on the popular ‘dressage and body conscience’ programme your morning programme will include a theory lesson – covering history of the horse, basics in riding, the creation and circulation of energy/activity, transitions and mind and body control. Riders will have two lessons per day – one before lunch and one later in the day with timing depending on the temperature/season and the rider’s on-site massage appointments. Lunge lessons are individual while there is a mix of other training with no greater than four riders in any group session. Riding lessons are leisurely and often last well over an hour as riders are encouraged to soften to the horse and feel its paces, only performing the advanced movements when their seat and understanding is established. Hacking in the area is offered with a guide and, given the significant value of the horses, is kept at a controlled pace and teaching a horse to lunge is also offered.

Dressage is taught up to an advanced level including lateral work with exceptionally experienced and qualified English-speaking instructors on site. Beginners are equally welcome to start their riding career off in style with a specially tailored course in expert hands.

The horses: The Quinta's Lusitano stallions used are quite unlike the ‘riding school’ horses many guests will have encountered. They are trained to a high level yet forgiving and safe for the novice rider. And, they will still excite the experienced competition rider, helping them to re-establish their seat and perform advanced movements with greater accuracy and finesse.

Ten or so Lusitano stallions or Lusitano crosses are used for dressage tuition, lungeing and hacking. Riders are typically paired up with one horse throughout the week – chosen to suit the rider’s experience, age and weight such that they can really bond with the horse though changes, where necessary, are allowed for. There are horses suitable from beginners/novice to high level. Most horses can perform exercises like piaffe, passage, Spanish walk, flying changes. However, before performing these, most guests, even quite experienced riders, must have a few lessons to correct their incorrect use of aids/position. In this case, the special dressage programme – see below – that includes theory lessons, private sitting lessons and massage is highly recommended ( 80% of guests book this program) .

Facilities include a 20x40m outdoor sand school and a lunge ring. The arenas are overlooked by the farmhouse, vineyards and orange groves.

The Lusitano

This lovely horse was closely associated with another of our favourites, the Andalucian until the breeds separated in the 1960’s to refine the particular qualities of the Lusitano. Proud, noble and intelligent, these horses are a pure breed that originate from the Iberian peninsular and have adapted to the rough and challenging terrain there, making them both careful and surefooted. Their bravery and agility led to them being used firstly as war horses, then for bullfighting, but have since evolved to be used as saddle horses. Their very good balance enables them to have particular strengths in the dressage arena, having the ability to carry out complex moves such as the piaffe, passage and flying change.

They are forward going and can be fiery, though are also biddable and affectionate and are known for their classic good looks as well as their very comfortable gait. Like the Lipazzaner, they tend to go grey as they age. The rarer palomino, buckskin and cremello coloured Lusitano is highly sought after.

For accompanying non-riders and for the day off:

Quinta da Fe offers an oasis of calm where they can relax – taking a walk through the orange groves with the plethora of friendly dogs that live at the farm, enjoy bird-watching –of which there are many – take a dip in the pool, read a book in the communal sitting room or lie in the garden. Bikes can also be hired to explore further afield though for those who like to keep in touch with the outside world, where within range, wireless internet access is available.

Accommodation & Facilities

The farm is hundreds of years ols and retains much original character. Features include a communal sitting room with an open fire, library of books, TV with video and DVD player and a friendly dining room for breakfast, lunch and supper. Soft drinks are provided with a self-service tab. All meals can be provided on a half board or full board basis. Although a rustic centre, the Quinta da Fe offers fine home cooked meals and the table is a meeting place to get together and relive the day's events.

Rooms: Each of the five en suite rooms has an internal and external door enabling riders to watch the riding from the combined vine-covered porch. The rooms have been personally designed by Marc and decorated to reflect Portugese culture and are named Vinho, Lusitano, Alentejo, Vasco da Gama and da Fe. Bathroom comprising mirror, toilet, sink, bath including shower option. Twin or double beds including pillow, duvet and throw. Wireless internet access is available in some rooms and in the communal sitting room.

Local Area

The Alenjento region is the size of Belgium but is famous for being the untouched third of Portugal. Typically agricultural, fields, vineyards and cork woodlands are commonplace whereas industry is rare. The village of Vidigueira is just 3 km away from Quinta da Fe, offering local amenities and, like many surrounding villages, is a delight to walk around, exploring the cobbled streets.

Evora, thirty minutes away is a UNESCO World heritage site and offers visitors a chance to see the remains of a Roman temple and numerous churches in a mile-wide area.

For those wishing to visit other equestrian establishments, your hosts can arrange trips to studs in the region and for other activities, a golf-driving range exists nearby, Grande Lago, created after one of the biggest dams in Europe was built, offers water sports and wine-tasting is also popular.

Check out our guest feedback:

Had an absolutely fabulous time at Quinta de Fe, it is a truly magical place. The horses are wonderful - the horse I rode was probably the nicest horse I've ever ridden. I think experienced riders (rather than beginners) would get most out of this holiday, you need to be comfortable and balanced (at least in walk and trot) to get the most out of these sensitive, spirited animals.

The instructors are fabulous - again, some of the best instruction I've had, they teach with a sense of humour and full dedication.

I'll be going back!

Ros, April 2011

"Julie and I thoroughly enjoyed our holiday at Quinta Da Fe, it was better than we could ever have expected, the location was fantastic, the atmosphere was relaxed, the horses were well looked after and all were schooled to a very high standard and appropriate for the highest level riders. I am a qualified coach and trainer and found the training with Marc very beneficial and definitely learnt a lot and will pass on his techniques to my clients at home. The staff were very friendly, professional and could not do enough to help. The food was lovely all home cooked, presented well and decorated with a flower......We did love the holiday so much ... we will be recommending it to friends and we will be going back."

Tracey & Julie, October 2011

Penny has just returned from a Riding Company trip to the Quinta da Fe and if you would like further information on this fascinating destination then contact us via email: kat@theridingcompany.com or on 01534 745795. See Penny's report and some super photos on the TRC trip on our Blog page.

Great news is that prices for 2012 will remain unchanged! See our Latest News page for Quinta da Fe's special offers.

Getting there

Flights: Quinta da Fe is approximately equidistant from Lisbon and Faro Airports – around 1 hour 30 minutes away. Both airports are served by many low budget airlines such as Easyjet and from many regional airports.

Transfers: We can organise airport transfers on request. Return transfers to and from the airport are approximately 300 Euros per car for 2- 5 persons (with 1 suitcase per person). Individual transfers are 250 Euros. Please note transfers can be arranged by us but are payable in resort.

Transfers from Lisbon:
Train: An inexpensive option is to take the train from Lisbon Estacao Oriente to Cuba, Alentejo. Trains at certain times in the morning and one at night (around 18:30 - !9:00). Journey time: 2 hours, cost 14 Euros one way. Transfers from the railway station to Quinta da Fe (10 mins) are 15 Euros per person.

To get from the airport to the train station, take a taxi (very cheap in Portugal) to “Estação Oriente' (just 3 km). There are also airport buses. From Estação Oriente, there are trains to Cuba - Alentejo.

Recommended by us as the cheapest option: Buses: From the Airport take the Aeroshuttle costing 3.50 Euros to Sete Rios Bus Station. Hourly buses from Lisbon bus station Terminal Sete Rios to Évora cost 12.50 Euros - we will meet the bus to take you to the farmhouse. Bus tickets are pre-bookable online to avoid the queues. Return tansfers from Evora Bus station to Quinta da Fe cost 60 Euro payable in resort.

Transfers from Faro:
We can arrange pick up at Faro for £85 each way or you can take the bus from the " terminal rodoviario" under the Hotel EVA in Faro, to Beja at 16 :30. It arrives in Beja at 19:25 (cost approx. 15 eur). Someone from the farm will pick you up from there.

Car hire: Europcar costs approximately 200Euros/week. Toll road en route: approximately 13 Euros from either airport.

Riding Ability

Beginners to advanced riders. There is a child or adut 'learn to ride' programme for complete beginners new to the sport and also riders training for the Olympics ! Horses are prepared ready for riders though guests are welcome to ask questions or assist.

What to bring

The Riding Company always advises taking your own hat. Appropriate footwear and riding apparel is advised. Swimming things.

General information:

The official national language is Portuguese, you’ll find many people who speak English, French, and Spanish.The local currency is the euro, and banks are generally open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 3pm. Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted. Tourists travelling with electronics should note that the electric system uses 230/400 volts with the European-style two-pin sockets. Local shopping hours are generally 9 or 10am to 7pm, with a lunch break around 1-3pm. Shops are generally closed on Sundays, except mornings in December for holiday shopping.