The following account is written by Jane Lomont, a client of Equitours who was among the first to visit Monte Velho
I was met at the airport by Monte Velho’s driver, Tiago, who was very pleasant and knowledgeable about Portugal — history, present government, well known sites we passed by: e.g., Europe’s longest bridge, the cork trees and cork industry. Although very convenient, I learned that if one is traveling with a companion it is better to rent a car because then you are free at your convenience to explore the area around Monte Velho. Not far away is Évora, UNESCO World Heritage site.
My room was modern, bright, inviting, and comfortable. It looks like the color photo in the Equitours description. The first day I arrived I met a Swedish couple and I accompanied the attractive and very pleasant Elizabeth B. as she hiked down the driveway to a group of mares and foals in a nearby pasture. One of the foals is hers, so this was a rather sad goodbye until I see you again — but as she is returning in September, the wait is bearable! I took some photos of her and the darling filly for her with her camera. I was a little sad to see her leave as well.
The first ride I had was a trail ride and not a disappointment. A bit curious though. My horse, Quinine, was lazy or stubborn. Joao gave me spurs to put on and during the ride he loaned me his crop. The next day Quinine was a different horse! He pepped up and was a pleasure to ride. Half way through the week, I was asked would I like to ride Sensual and as I always opt for a new experience, I said yes and had my choice of either one the rest of the week, which was nice.
Note: That is an example of how accommodating the staff is. They may notice something, or overhear a remark, and before you know it one is being asked if he or she would like such and such.
The first day there I asked for a lesson and, of course, they said of course! and arranged for me to have a private lesson with Coralie. I am so glad I had that lesson! I have experienced nothing like it. Of course, I am not a dressage rider anyway, but here I was getting a lesson from the crème de la crème of instructors (they all are that at Monte Velho) and it was a fascinating experience I will always remember. The Lusitano I rode was a popular bay, good sized as they all are, good natured and what fun to ride him and get that instruction which was non stop commentating! The weather was very warm to hot. So with the lessons we got quite a workout.
Most of the other riders signed up for the mix of a dressage lesson in the AM and a trail ride in the afternoon, or the reverse. But some doubled up on lessons.
I would like to add that the trail rides cross country were very enjoyable. We went on different routes, had wonderful canters and gallops, saw marshes, lakes, an old mill, through nice scenery. Sometimes the leader stopped in a spacious field and let us canter around, do what we liked. The horses were willing, too.
I cannot express adequately the professionalism, expertise, and amiability of the instructors! The week I was there the riding guests included couples from Sweden, Australia (the wife is a veterinarian and owner of a herd of 50 Lusitanos), a couple from France (wife is a veterinarian also), a youngish Englishwoman and at the end of the week a very young woman from Australia who had missed out on a yoga clinic at at Monte Velho and decided to come when she could and take riding lessons; she had never been on a horse before! During the week two girlfriends from Switzerland and Germany came to ride for an overnight stay. So, matter not the age, language, or riding skill, Monte Velho graciously welcomed and provided for them all. Among the couples, the husbands rode regularly as well, but it was the wives that had riding experience in dressage.
The delicious meals and camaraderie around the table added to the pleasure of being there. The food was fresh, as attractive to the eye as to the palate, and wine was included at lunchtime and dinner.
Diogo, son of the owners, managed everything, with the help of his cheerful assistant, horseman Joao, and his parents who also could be seen occasionally tending to various details. Diogo knew I would like to visit Évora and asked me if I would like to go Friday, my last day. Certainly! He arranged for me to have a certified, professional guide/driver who turned out to be a great guide. He spoke Spanish as well as English (in fact, his Spanish was better) and as I speak Spanish too, and as he was the amiable sort, we had fun speaking both languages. I was having such a good time, and this fellow was so enthusiastic, I opted to see more and skip the final trail ride. As it turned out, I missed out on a surprise visit by an Olympic dressage rider who came to try out one of the dressage horses that is for sale. At dinner time I found the other riders, all big dressage enthusiasts, giddy with wide-eyed excitement from having witnessed such an exhibition!
I cannot thank Equitours enough for the Monte Velho Equo Resort experience! I am glad that I had dressage riding lesson with Coralie. It was exceptional, as was the pleasure I had spending the week at Monte Velho resort in the Alentejo region of Portugal!
I stayed three days in Lisbon afterwards, and it was not nearly long enough. I would love to go back to both places