Golegã Horse Fair happens every November in the town of Golegã, known as the horse capital of Portugal. Overnight, the normally sleepy town is transformed into a buzzing hub of Portuguese horse enthusiasts converging to celebrate their much-loved native breed, the Lusitano. Guests on our ride in Portugal are blessed with absolutely perfect timing for the fair, which occurs over ten days just prior to the start of the ride.
Golegã Horse Fair has to be one of the most exciting events on Europe’s equestrian calendar. It has absolutely everything: showing, dressage, driving, equitation, showjumping, eventing, endurance riding, equestrian games, performances, endless equestrian stalls and markets, top breeders from Portugal and beyond, and some of the most beautiful horses you will ever see. We’re not just talking Lusitanos, either – all sorts of breeds can be seen prancing in arenas and peering out of stall doors throughout the streets of Golegã.
And it’s this immersion that makes the fair so wonderful – you don’t have to attend a particular event or to to a specific area to be completely surrounded by horses and riders. They’re everywhere – trotting along the roads, tied up outside makeshift bars, grazing in tiny backyards, pulling cartloads of giggling children, and even accompanying their owners to the ‘discotheque’, where, amazingly, they don’t seem at all bothered by the strobe lights and throbbing beats!
The most important day of the Fair is the Feast of Saint Martin, or Saint Martin’s Day, which occurs on the 11th of November. Riders and horses don traditional Portuguese riding costumes and join the pilgrims in walking through Golegã to the Church of Saint Martin. Once they have been blessed, the party begins in earnest. The air is thick with the smoky scent of roasted chestnuts. New wine is consumed in truly impressive quantities. Street vendors, restaurants, clubs and bars stay open until the wee hours, and the energy and excitement of thousands of horses and humans is tangible.
If you’re visiting Portugal in November, you absolutely cannot miss this horse fair! Check out our horse riding holiday in Portugal here.
Have any of you globetrotters been to Golegã Horse Fair? Tell us what it was like in the comments!
Image credits: Feira da Golegã and Casa Ceres, Portugal.