Photo Workshop Exquisite Lusitanos of Portugal

Lusitano World Photo Adventure with Rita Fernandes



TEXT Filipa Jácome


PHOTO Rita Fernandes

Exquisite Lusitanos of Portugal – a photo-adventure

Springtime breathes life into Portugal’s landscapes. The fields become colourful with the blooming flowers as the days become longer and the light of the late afternoon sun colours everything it touches in hues of gold. It is no wonder this season is a favourite amongst photographers who wish to visit the birthplace of the Lusitano horse to capture these exquisite horses on camera. With the goal to showcase these equine treasures internationally, Lusitano World organized one more Equine Photo Workshop – “Exquisite Lusitanos of Portugal”. Led by the Portuguese photographer Rita Fernandes, this workshop focused on the Lusitano breed and on Portugal’s ancestral equestrian art and tradition.

Between 25th and 30th of April twelve photographers from around the globe joined this 5-day adventure, for a uniquely genuine photographic and cultural experience into the world of the Lusitano Horse. This photo initiative combined a theoretical review of technical and artistic aspects of equine photography, that were applied in practical photo shoots with outstanding models posing in unique scenarios, showcasing the breed’s multiple inherent talents. 

Equestrian Art

Equestrian Art and Classical Equitation are a big part of the development of the Lusitano breed. The “meca” for the “Picaria Real” is the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art, where workshop participants had the chance to appreciate the training session of the iconic Alter Real Stallions and their talent for high-school and air-above-the-ground exercises.  After this inspirational morning, we travelled to Centro Equestre da Lezíria Grande, where Mestre Luís Valença and his family welcomed us to witness and capture incredible high-school exercises performed in their lovely gardens and emblematic worldwide known indoor arena.

Stallions at Liberty

There is no better way to really understand the warrior spirit of the Lusitano horse and its incredible athleticism than to watch him moving in freedom. Portugal offers many different scenarios but the most emblematic are without a doubt its gorgeous wild beaches and the multi-coloured bullfighting round pens. This photo-workshop depicted more than 15 stallions – from all shades of grey, to bay, chestnut and even rare colours like cremello, champagne and chocolate palominos – all photographed at liberty, experiencing different “lights”, from the direct golden hue of late afternoon light, to backlight with dramatic dust clouds caused by their enthusiastic playing.

Sports and Dressage

Lusitanos are getting each day more competitive at the dressage world stage. To depict dressage exercises correctly is one of the most challenging aspects of equine photography, therefore, a theme to be approached during our master classes and to practice at photo-shoots. Participants got to witness several Grand Prix level Lusitanos: Manuel Veiga allowed us to observe his daily training with Ben-Hur and provided us with a true display of complicity when riding his powerful mare Bailarina at the stud’s floodplain and by its ancient rock gateway. At Companhia das Lezirias, Pedro Mendes performed under the centenary cork trees ridding Zodiac dos Diamantes.

Observing Herds Behaviour

Walking amongst mares and their foals, and being around herds of young horses is always an incredible experience from the standpoint of watching the social behaviour of horses. The photographers had the opportunity to get really close to the mares and their young ones, witnessing unique moments of tenderness and getting some true quality time with this magnificient creatures in their natural environment, daring to dream and guess which from those offspring will become the up-coming champions in their field of work. 

Portuguese Equestrian Tradition

This photo-trip also offered several unique moments to frame the worldwide admired Portuguese Equestrian Tradition. To leave no doubts as to the bravery of the Lusitano horse, we spent one afternoon with one of the few women bullfighters in Portugal – Ana Batista and her exquisite warrior stallions - who posed by the lovely architecture and played for the cameras in the colourful round pen, both in liberty as well as with the “tourinha”.
Also at the beach we had and incredible group of riders – including Working Equitation Champion João Duarte Rafael and international performer Frederico Peres. Their performance was mind-blowing! Against the crashing waves or the wild rocky cliffs models not only cantered – they executed passage, piaffe, pirouettes, spanish walk and even performed the garrocha in the sea!