Lusitanos d’Atela

Best breeder at the International Lusitano Horse Show 2017



TEXT Filipa Jácome


PHOTO Rita Fernandes

Lusitanos d’Atela – Best breeder at the International Lusitano Horse Show 2017  

Bessa de Carvalho Stud was founded 28 years ago by the renown rider from the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art, Francisco Bessa de Carvalho (FBC). Passionate for the Lusitano breed since he was a child, the history of the Stud is intrinsically connected to his life and that of his family, that actively contribute in the daily management of the Stud. The love for his animals is unconditional and the pride in the legacy that is being built is clear, as he walks amongst his mares telling the stories he experienced with each one of them.

He divides his time between the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art, the iconic riding school of Quinta da Fonte Santa (where the young horses over the age of four are trained) and the green pastures of Paul D'Atela. The stud's birth place is where the 20 broodmares and young horses up to the age of three are carefully monitored. Francisco Bessa de Carvalho leads a breeding project that stands ou not only in Portugal but also internationally.

Aiming to breed horses with character, functionality and beauty that stand out in the international sports panorama, the Lusitanos born at Paul D'Atela have been proving the merit of the stud. With several horses competing internationally at the highest level , 2017 has been a good year for Bessa de Carvalho Stud - they recently received the award of Gold Mare at Expoégua and reached the title of Best Breeder at te XXIX International Lusitano Horse Show, where they presented 15 horses of their brand. Jovial and always friendly, Francisco opened the door to his home and told us a bit more about the history of his stud, wich is also his story.


LW: How did the story of Coudelaria Bessa de Carvalho Stud begin?
FBC: It was the year of 1983 when I accompanied Master Luís Valença on a visit to Visconde dos Olivais’s Stud, the property of Mr Eduardo Veiga de Araújo, with the objective of choosing some three-year-olds for Lezíria Grande Equestrian Center. These colts had no management at all, so I offered to begin their training. It was agreed that in exchange for my work, I could choose one of the fillies born to the stud that year. The filly I chose was 'Baunilha', and she was the first mare in my Stud. And so the dream began... I presented her at the Agriculture National Fair, for the two-year-old female class of model and movements competitions where she obtained first place and a Gold medal! 'Baunilha' remained as a part of my stud until she died and to this day we still have some of her progeny in our herd.

LW: Why Lusitano horses?
FBC: I was fortunate to be born in Portugal, the cradle of the Lusitano breed, and to have had the opportunity to ride since I was nine years old with Mr Fernando Ralão in Lisbon. Later I met Master Luís Valença Rodrigues, who had just set up his new equestrian centre. This gave me the opportunity and the privilege to be in contact on a daily basis with an equestrian professional that I could look up to; he inspired me to dedicate my life to riding and to the Lusitano horse.


LW: What are the foremost goals of your stud? What type of horses do you aim to breed and what are the characteristics that you would like to retain in your bloodlines?
FBC: The priority is to breed horses with type, beauty and functionality, giving particular attention to good temperament and develop big uphill moving horses. We focus on quality in the walk and canter, essential for the saddle horse, but without forgetting that modern use of the sports horse demands a quality and expressive trot. Alongside beauty and type, our aim is to breed horses with good size to ensure competitiveness and a great performance internationally.

LW: Which are the main reproductive lines that you use in terms of mares and stallions?
FBC: Our broodmares originate from the mares from Visconde dos Olivais crossed with stallions from Veiga, Arsénio Cordeiro and Coimbra bloodlines. This basis was later mixed with the stallions Hostil, Rico and Soberano from Dr. Guilherme Borba Stud. All the stallions that we use nowadays were tested to the highest level, with special highlight to 'Soberano', recommended stallion for his model and his movements. He has three Gold medals, two tittles of Champion of Champions and also awarded stallion of merit for dressage. He obtained his best results during the world equestrian games in Caen, France in 2014, where he earned the highest score for the Portuguese Team, under the saddle of Carlos Pinto.

LW: We are aware that the stud has been using embryo transfer. Do you consider this strategy a catalyst for increasing the quality of your animals?
FBC: The modern methods of assisted reproduction are a tool that acts as a catalyst for the breed’s improvement, as it allows the mares to be tested to a higher level competition, without hindering their reproductive life. This is the reason why we have used this method for our top mares, giving us some very impressive animals of excellent quality. 

LW: Bessa de Carvalho Stud has horses with exceptional results both national and internationally. Recently, you received the title of Gold Mare at Expoégua with 'Guhapa d’Atela.' Tell us a little about this astounding mare and the perspectives for her progeny.
'Guhapa d’Atela' is a result of our embryo transfer program: a daughter of 'Quimera' and 'Hostil', we used a Lusitano surrogate mare that we kept in the herd to make sure the breed-specific and environmental factors remained the same as that of the other animals in our Stud. 'Guhapa' was ridden for one and a half years to test her qualities and assess the best pairing for her. We have now two fillies from 'Guhapa', the first by 'Destino dos Pardinhos' and the youngest by 'Escorial'. Both have displayed good breed-specific qualities and an exceptional temperament.

LW: Additionally, you have also achieved the title of “Best Breeder” at the International Lusitano Horse Show 2017, where you presented 15 animals of your brand. What does that mean to you?
FBC: This title of Best Breeder feels even better as it represents the recognition of the Stud’s maturity by the breed experts. It was very gratifying to present 15 horses and have 11 of them achieve a classification within their classes, with four silver medals and two gold medals. This title, which we feel very honoured to have received, is also a challenge for the future of the Stud.

LW: What were the horses that contributed to your victory and what are your perspectives on it?
FBC: The horses that contributed to this title were: one-year-old filly 'Menta d’Atela'; two-year-old filly 'Luz d’Atela'. The amazing 'Guhapa d’Atela', who received a medal again for her model and movements. We also presented Quimera’s progeny with the horses 'César d’Atela', 'Guhapa' and 'Isadora d’Atela'. In the class of ridden mares, we showed two very promising mares: 'Guerrita' and 'Gata d’Atela'. In the males classes, 'Idolo' and 'Instinto d’Atela' competed in the ridden four-year-old males class. Lastly, in the three mares cobra (a group of mares) we presented 'Bohemia', 'Xiclete' and 'Granada d’Atela'. We chose this group of mares because Bohemia is progeny of the first generation of the Stud (Garça VO by Hebraico MV), 'Xiclete' is a third generation (Queijada x Querer) and a direct progeny from our VO lines and Granada is a daughter of 'Soberano' on 'Xiclete', i.e. a fourth generation of the stud.

LW: The objective to breed sport horses has been leaving a mark on some of your best products. From the horses that are still competing to date, which are the ones you would like to highlight? Why?
FBC: It is indeed our goal to breed horses with sporting potential. It was the main reason why we selected 'Soberano' - whose career we supported until he competed in the Dressage World Championship as the main stallion for the Stud. At the moment, we would like to emphasize 'Xenofonte d’Atela' competing at the international scene in 5* competitions with Olympic Rider Miguel Ralão Duarte. Also, 'Cappuccino d’Atela' with Catarina Lopes had good results in young riders. 'Assírio d’Atela' with Salvador Pessanha was vice-champion in Portugal’s Dressage Cup before he was sold abroad.'Quartz d’Atela' in France with Bianca Roch, competed in GP FEI and was European champion in Masters du Cheval Iberique. 'Gin d’Atela', the property of Paolo Merli and now in Italy, did well in dressage and was Italy’s vice-champion of the breed. We have currently two-six-year old mares in preparation to compete, and another is already competing in dressage at C level with great results: 'Guerrita d’Atela' with Salvador Pessanha. The other two are 'Geada d’Atela' with Miguel Ralão Duarte and 'Gata d’Atela' with Gonçalo Sampaio.

It is our goal to breed horses with sporting potential - we value type, beauty and functionality, giving particular attention to good temperament and big uphill movements.

LW: Which do you highlight as your main achievements/ happiest moments throughout your path was a breeder?
FBC: Happiness is not simply an objective: it’s a constant search and all steps achieved throughout these 28 years of breeding that have been the incentive to carry on that search incessantly. The fact that we have had horses classified in first places, male Champions, female Champions and Champion of Champions titles, as well as Lusitano European Champions, is a recognition that we are heading in the right direction, but always remained alert to corrections and improvements that are within our reach.

We highlight just a few such as 'Xenofonte d’Atela', 'Hercules d’Atela', 'Guhapa d’Atela' in Portugal, 'Absinto d’Atela', 'Ehpico d’Atela', 'Exparta d’Atela','Conquistador d’Atela' in the UK, 'Galileu d’Atela' and 'Gin d’Atela', in Itally.One of the awards that we rejoiced over was given to 'Hercules d’Atela', which won the title of Lusitano European Champion in 2016, in Germany. This horse will be exported as a breeding stallion for Haras Vila de Sagres. At the beginning of 2017, we sold five horses to Argentina, three mares and two stallions and they will join a pioneer project of breeding Lusitano horses in that country: La Sagisciana. Two of these horses, both sired by 'Soberano', will compete in dressage in this country.

Every time we speak to a horse breeder, Lusitano or other breeds, we can’t resist asking their opinion about the evolution and potential of the Lusitano horse. During our conversation, we had the opportunity to exchange some impressions with Francisco Bessa de Carvalho about the evolution and future of our Lusitano Horse.

LW: How do you perceive the evolution of the Lusitano breed in the last decade?
FBC: The improvements in the Lusitano breed have been steady since the studbook’s establishment. The genetic makeup is of great quality and the ability to organise a selection program that gave privilege to the zootechnical improvement, respecting the breed’s type and functionality was a focus since the beginning.This selection, through a grid of just eight parameters, that weighted at 1.5 the characteristics that benefit type and functionality, was an astute foresight of its designers, since with a small number of sections and a summary evaluation of the breeding stock, their objective of selection was achieved.

LW: In your opinion, does the Lusitano horse have a place in upper levels of International Dressage Competition?
FBC: I believe so, even though in the past the breed did not have competition potential as an objective, however, now they have had several noteworthy results internationally. Nowadays, with a competitive objective assumed and out in the open, the number of horses with a hight level of sporting capacity will increase and the likelihood of them being handed to riders with the ability to explore this potential will increase exponentially. A good pairing between horse and rider is indissociable  to achieve success.

LW: Which are the characteristics, as a Lusitano Breeder, that you value most? FBC: Type, functionality and beauty.

LW: As a rider, would you say that the characteristics you search for as a breeder are the same? FBC: Yes, the better the raw material the greater chance of achieving what we desire in a ridden horse, no matter the discipline we practice.

LW: What do you wish your contribution to the development of the Lusitano breed to be?
FC: Through a consistent, objective and lasting selection program, we seek to develop the characteristics of good saddle horses, developing the breed and bringing back the old type characteristcs as initiated during the Foundation of the 'Puro Sangue Lusitano' Stud book.

Lusitano World would like to thank Francisco for taking the time to talk to us about his successful and forward thinking breeding program.


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