Discover the Golega Horse Fair

This week, Portugal’s National Horse Fair gets underway in the lovely valley town of Golega. This event was founded in the 18th Century to coincide with St. Martin’s Day on November 11.  The weather during this time of year is particularly gorgeous, much like an American Indian Summer.

Photo by Aurelio Grillo

Golega is located on the Tagus River floodplain, which is a rich agricultural delta. The fair showcases Lusitano horses, a Portuguese breed that has roamed the region since before the Romans and was part of the same herd as the Spanish Andalusian. These beautiful and powerful animals are used throughout the country for dressage and bullfighting.

Prized for centuries, the Lusitano has a storied history.  When Catherine of Braganza was married to Charles II of England in the 17th Century, her dowry included over 50 Lusitano mares.

The highlight of the Golega fair is the hundreds of horses prancing through the streets. My children love this event and I have photographs of my husband sitting on his father’s shoulders, fascinated by the horses.

Everyone in my family—except me—rides Lusitanos in classical dressage and many of our friends are breeders with their own “brands.” During the fair they congregate in their casetas on the main square and entertain friends and family as the stallions and broodmares parade past the crowds.

The horse fair is steeped in tradition and is great fun for families. The streets are packed with vendors selling roasted chestnuts and Agua Pe, or foot water, which is the light and refreshing runoff from making wine. The festivities go all day and all night.

Like many European rituals, Golega’s traditions extend to the way people dress. People get decked out in traditional riding capes, boots, and leather hats.

Naturally, the event has had a great influence on some of my designs for Papo d’Anjo—most notably the Monteria Boots, which closely resemble traditional Portuguese riding boots. They look great paired with the Tweed Drill Coat, Tartan Trench Coat, and Quilted Jacket, which my own children wear to the Fair.

The entire scene is one of the most authentic events in all of Europe.  Of course it’s a must for horse lovers. But Golega is also about having fun with your family and friends and repeating the same rituals each year. Even my teenage daughters love to go and hang out with their friends.

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