– in the footsteps of history
There is a strong tradition of horse riding on the Silver Coast. Horse riding has been woven into the culture of Portugal since before Roman times and the country has produced not only top-class international riders, particularly in dressage, but also the world-famous Lusitano horse.
This noble breed has origins that can be traced back to prehistoric times. Cave paintings found in the area are said to prove that the world’s first saddle-horses appeared in this part of the world, so horse riding here is truly riding in the cradle of this sport.
Noble Lineage of the Lusitano
They are depicted in cave paintings from that period – and by 800 BC were famous as being the best war horses in Europe. When the Moors invaded Portugal they brought their own Barb horses and these were cross-bred with the Iberian breed to produce a magnificent horse that was used for war, dressage and bull fighting.
In the 1960s the Spanish and Portuguese decided to put their own separate official designations on what had been known as Iberian horses until then. In Portugal this became the Lusitano horse, shown by DNA tests to have a maternal lineage back to wild Iberian horses of the Early Neolithic period.
Myth of the centaur
The Lusitano horses, and the skilled Iberian horsemen who rode them, were so swift and agile they are thought to have been the inspiration for the myth of the centaur which came from the valley of the Tagus River that flows into the sea at Lisbon.
According to the Portuguese stud book every true Lusitano comes from a 90-year old lineage that has just five stallions and one mare at its head. Every horse can be traced back to this one mare and one of the stallions.