The spectacular Lusitano Festival – quite literally a unique experience held in Golegã every November.  Golega known as the ‘Capital of Horse’ in Portugal, located at the top of the Ribatejo area and home to many of the famous Lusitano Breeders.

The History of Golega

The Golegã National Horse Fair dates to the 18th century and was called “Feira de São Martinho”.  Originally Golega was established as an agricultural fair to promote local products. Since there were also many well know Lusitano breeders in the area they were encouraged to show their horses here too. Quickly the Lusitano horse became the main attraction, and the name was changed to “Feira Nacional do Cavalo”.

Held every November, over a ten-day period, Golegã must include the most important date the 11th  of November.  This day is “The Feast of Saint Martin or Saint Martin’s Day”.  On this day the people eat roasted chestnuts and drink new wine. Being the most important day of the festival, everyone dresses in the traditional Portuguese Riding attire, (although most dress up throughout the festival, you will see the finest clothing on this day).

What happens at the Horse Fair?

During this time the whole town of Golegã, transforms from a usual sleepy town to a frenzy of horses and carriages.  The air is filled with the smoke from the roasting chestnuts and BBQ’s. The whole town becomes a party atmosphere from late afternoon to the early hours enjoyed by the locals and foreign visitors alike.  With a wide array of traditional food stalls, restaurants, bars, cafes, and discos that stay open most of the night.  In addition, it’s a shopping extravaganza of wonderful stalls everything from traditional tack and clothing to quirky battery-powered horses for children, traditional drinks and foods, artworks and even antiques.

What type of horse competition will I expect to see?

There are various Lusitano showing classes in hand and ridden, dressage competition, and working equitation.  Endurance and eventing are also included.  During the evening in the main arena (The Manga) you can enjoy beautiful classical shows, fast action games of horse ball and prize-giving parades.

Many of the breeder’s ‘Casettas’ are situated around the Manga, with the opportunity to meet the breeders. The ‘Casettas’ are small wooden houses designed to greet guests offer wines and olives.  Alongside each Casetta are stalls with some of their horses are presented.

Some important tips

  • Book early as getting accommodation at Golegã can be difficult
  • It is winter in Portugal in November and can be very cold in the evenings, so be sure to have suitable clothing.  It can also be raining.
  • The town is noisy all night so if you like quiet when you go to bed, it is recommended to seek out accommodation further away.
  • Traffic can be busy and driving to and from Golega is very slow.

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