Saturday, October 8, 2011

Fantastical Presences - A Trip to Portugal

German hippologist, Hardy Oelke, surveys a group of his Sorraia horses which live completely wild in the Vale de Zebro preserve near Almeirim, Portugal. The Vale de Zebro preserve is on a private wilderness estate and not open to the public, assuring the horses remain as free from human influence as possible.

"I see before me fantastical presences"
--Teixeira de Pascoaes (from ENCOUNTER)

Handsome bulls at Herdade do Azinhal

The fates aligned recently and presented me with a truly significant and likely once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

An impressive entrance, rich in architectural detail

On the 26th of September, with mingled emotions of anticipation and homesickness, I gave farewell kisses to Kevin and all my beloved friends at Ravenseyrie, and embarked on a series of connecting flights bound for a week-long holiday in Portugal.

Hardy and Rose Oelke, leading the way up a 14th century cobblestone walkway. Castelo de Vide in the Alentejo region.

At the Lisbon airport, I met up with renown wild horse expert, Hardy Oelke and his wife Rose, who had left their home in Halver, Germany to spend two weeks in the land of cork and olive trees, aristocratic Iberian horses and immensely kind people. Hardy and Rose have been yearly visitors to Portugal for well over a decade and graciously had arranged to introduce me to several breeders of Sorraia horses and show me as many of their favourite places as possible in the course of my seven day Portuguese adventure.

One of the countless enticing roads in Portugal lined by aesthetically inspiring dwellings.

We traversed row on row of horses
Shaking their manes in the trade winds

--Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen (from DISCOVERY)

A family band of Sorraia horses at the Vale de Zebro preserve.

I am still feeling a bit in between worlds and am carefully working through the 800+ images my camera recorded during this amazing sojourn in Portugal. Over the next weeks, I will relay individual accounts of the people I met and places I was fortunate to see--and especially I wish to share with readers the photos of Sorraia horses.

"Sorraia horse: reconstituted by Ruy d'Andrade, from the ancient Iberian horse of convex profile, mouse colour or yellow dun, 1.47 m. Resulting from the inbreeding for the last 40 years [80+ years at present time] of a group of animals found in the Valley of the Sorraia River, tributary of the River Tagus, which answer to the descriptions made by ancient authors and of their now wild descendants in America." --Fernando d'Andrade (from A SHORT HISTORY OF THE SPANISH HORSE AND OF THE "GINETA" HORSEMANSHIP FOR WHICH THIS HORSE IS ADAPTED)

Standing out among a mixed group of yearlings at the Portuguese National Stud, two Sorraia colts show clearly their primitive characteristics which set them apart from domestic horses.

As moved as I was by all that I saw and experienced in Portugal, I found that the feeling I have for Ravenseyrie and its inhabitants is a reflection of being completely satisfied with my own humble existence here on Manitoulin Island. There is no place like home!

Sorraia stallion, Altamiro and his son, Interessado, enjoy an autumn afternoon at the Ravenseyrie Sorraia Mustang Preserve


eva said...

Lynne, welcome back. I can imagine your head still spinning from this trip, every time i make the trip back to old Europe (about once every 5 years) i feel like a time traveller switching into some parallel universe through a worm hole, it is hard to connect the experiences and in retrospect it all seems like a dream. My theory is that the physical human body is just not made for such speedy change of environment which will throw the mind into a dreamlike state.

I looked up the vale de zebro preserve on Hardy's website, I was curious how large this preserve is and how they manage it. 5 square kilometers is about 1250 acres, quite a bit of room to roam, but much smaller than most of the US herd management areas, so they do need to manage the population. Do they sell the babies? The males only? Is there a market in Portugal for these horses?


June said...

Wow! How exciting - I look forward to hearing more as you sift through your thoughts and photos and memories.

Lynne Gerard said...

Eva, I am for sure still in that dreamlike state and feel I won't fully be back until I have finished writing the stories of the trip.

Yes, there will be some Sorraias for sale if the gather (which was to occur this past Friday) is successful. Some colts as well as a mare that has a white star were hoped to be removed and re-homed. Yes, there is indeed a market for Sorraia horses in Portugal.

June I hope you enjoy reading about the things I got to experience while in will take awhile to record them all properly--especially since now that I am home I just really want to be hanging out among our own fantastic equines and gorgeous landscape. It is so good to be back!