One of our new rides for 2016 being launched at The Riding Holiday Show is in the Peneda-Gerês National Park in the extreme north of Portugal. This is a beautiful yet wild landscape, home to the Iberian Wolf and a rare breed of horse called Garrano. The Wolf is not easily seen although you might see their footprint or hear their howl at night. The wild Garrano horses are much easier spotted and you frequently ride past herds of horses. Pedro Alarcão is the owner and riding guide on this exciting new holiday which we call Wolves and Wild Horses and you can meet Pedro, along with his wife Anabela (who is also a guide) at the Riding Holiday Show.
1. How long have you been a riding guide?
I’ve been guiding for 10 years.
2. Did you do any guiding before setting up at Ecotura?
Both of my parents love horses so I started to ride when I was 3 or 4 years old. I learnt under two great teachers but like most of the young riders in Portugal I trained for the classical disciplines. For many years I did show jumping, with an olympic rider as a teacher, and later studied dressage. Then, in 2005, when my wife Anabela and I decided to create the horse riding company I started to guide.
3. How did you get into guiding? Was there someone who inspired you?
To be honest it was not a person that inspired me but my own dream to be close to horses and the nature. I always tried to organise my life in a such a way that every change that I made brought me closer to this dream. When I met my wife I discovered someone else with the same goal and so everything started to be possible. We were both born in Lisbon and now, 48 years later, we have a trail riding company in the north of Portugal inside Peneda Gerês National Park, the most beautiful and wild region in the country.
4. If you hadn’t become a riding guide, what was your Plan B?
Before we had this company I was a wildlife photographer and filmmaker and my wife an environment journalist. We made books and wildlife documentaries so I imagine we would still be doing the same.
5. People coming on a riding holiday often think you have the ideal job – what do you love about it? And what are the downsides?
The great thing is to work in something that I love a lot. To discover great people from all over the world, learn with everybody, and ride every day. If you are good, guiding is not only a job. It is the way you live. If a person see guiding as a job I think he will not do it for long because sometimes it is very hard. When the riders are resting I’m preparing my horses. Every day there are other horses that need to be ridden or looked after.
6. What is the name of your favourite horse? And if they were a human, who would he/she be and why?
All the animals that we have on our farm are part of our family. Almost all the horses where bred and taught by me. I love all of them and I know them very well. All of them are special because at some time of their life they do something that leaves a memory that will never go. For example: We bred a horse that we call Átomo. He is a big cross bred of a Lusitano and an Arabian horse. When he was born, during his first week he couldn’t stand properly and so many times each day I had to help him stand so that he could drink from his mother. At that time I promised him that I would be the only person to ride him. 10 years later this is still true and now he is a powerful horse who really gives meaning to the phrase “riding with the wind”.
7. What can you not live without (when guiding or just generally)?
I couldn’t live without my close family, my animals and the green of nature
8. What has been your most memorable ride?
I have many stories and many great rides but maybe the biggest experience that “brand” me for life was a few years ago when I was guiding a group of four riders in a place that I like to call the “Wolf Valley”. In all the mountain this is my special place. It is beautiful and full of good energy. Almost everytime that I go there I experience something special.
Along the valley there is a small trail with soft curves and small water ditches. It’s the perfect place for a canter or a fast gallop jumping the water. These four riders were all experienced riders and we were doing it in a fast gallop with me at the front. Suddenly my horse started to be agitated and trying to turn to the left. When I turn my head in that direction what I saw was indescribable. A beautiful wild stallion was running 20 meters to my left in full gallop and stayed with us until we decided to slow down and stop. I think that I can speak for everybody – it was the experience of a life time.
9. How do you relax after a day in the saddle?
Seated in my garden with a cold beer looking at the amazing mountain that I have in front of me.
10. What advice would you give a 21 old who wants to train for your job?
Don’t work with horses that you don’t know. You need to be able to detect a different behavior of the horse in a few seconds; so when you start with a new group of horses just spend time looking at them. You are the boss but treat your horses like family. What you give is what you (and the riders that are with you) will get. Don’t work your horses too hard. They are not just meat and when they are tired they get grumpy which is not good for you or your guests.
Make sure you are physically fit yourself. On long riding days you need to always be the freshest rider. If you are tired you lose the capacity to judge and decide. When all the others are riding in a relaxed mode you should ride always in full attention to predict something that might happen. This will make you very tired.
Don’t look at this work “through rose tinted glasses”. The responsibility that you have with the riders in your group is huge. Learn how to read your new guests in the first few moments. The big secret of this profession is to make a perfect match between horse and rider.
Learn everything you can about your region. There is nothing worse than a guide that rides well but doesn’t know anything else. Be happy. Your energy will pass to the group. And finally, you should learn from all your guests. They are the link to the world and you are not the only one that knows something about horses.
11. Where do you go on holiday?
We make short holidays several times a year. We love to hike in the mountain for several days and we love rock climbing so we try to go in different destinations where we can do these two things.
Thank you Pedro for introducing yourself. We all look forward to learning more about the Wolves & Wild Horses holiday and meeting you at the Riding Holiday Show in London on 12 December 2015.
Space at the venue is limited so you must obtain a ticket in advance. The event takes place at the Royal Overseas League in SW1 just off Piccadilly from 10 am to 6 pm.
38 different riding destinations will be represented at the Riding Holiday Show. All part of the In The Saddle portfolio of worldwide riding holidays.