Read here about Diogo Lima Mayer, manager of the wonderful Monte Velho in Portugal. You can meet Diogo, Francisco, Mariana and Gonçalo from Monte Velho at the Riding Holiday Show on 12 December 2015.
1. How long have you been taking riding guests at Monte Velho? How did it all begin?
The ‘Monte Velho’ Stud Farm was established in 1994, when my parents bought the property in an unpredictable move. My father’s passion for horses came after a medical prescription, following a stress diagnosis caused by overworking. At that time, he bought his first horse named ‘Embaixador’ and started having riding lessons in Quinta do Pombal in Sintra, very close to our family home. Things got more serious when he joined two friends and bought the first mares in the Alter Real auction in 1992, which are still the pillars of our stud-farm.
Since I was a child, I remember coming almost every weekend to Monte Velho with our family, where my enthusiasm for our breeding and genetics has born. Our property was exclusively dedicated to the family and the Lusitano breeding until 2013, when we’ve decided it was time to share our treasure with other people. Almost all riding infrastructures were already built to support the stud-farm, so with the construction of the rooms we were ready to start the project.
2. What has been your biggest achievement to date? This could be in riding, or anything related to Monte Velho.
The Monte Velho’s horses have won several national and international awards, both in Dressage contests and also model/gaits shows. I would perhaps highlight the 4 Champion of Champions awards that we have won, with three of our horses, in the most important Lusitano horse Competition – The International Festival of the Lusitano Horse.
Queixosa MVL won the Festival in 2000 and 2005, Vexada MVL won in 2007 and Dihamante MVL in 2011. Queixosa MVL is still the best scoring mare within the Lusitano breed among more than 5000 mares spread worldwide. For the future we aim to have a MVL horse competing in the Olympic Games. We’re working consistently on that direction, and within our young squad of competition horses there is a lot of talent!
3. How did you get in to riding? Was there someone who inspired you?
My father was the one who has sowed the seed and the passion for horses in me, since I was 7 years old. I have always been the riding travelling companion of my dad, and his fellow on the equestrian activities in Monte Velho. He’s still without any doubt my biggest inspiration.
4. If you hadn’t become involved in equestrian tourism, what was your Plan B? Or perhaps you have another job too?
Prior to join the Monte Velho Equo-Resort project, I had a managerial career with L’Oréal Paris, where I was a brand manager in DPGP – Mass Market. My marketing and managerial experience background has been very helpful in my new experience as Hotel Director.
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?
This is absolutely true. Actually this job has surpassed all my initial expectations, working with nice people, good horses in a beautiful place, you can’t get any better. But it can also be extremely stressful some days, guaranteeing that every day all our guests have their horses in impeccable condition and prepared in time, it’s always a challenge!
6. If your favourite horse was a human, who would he/she be and why?
My favorite horse in Monte Velho is called GIRALDO MVL (Rubi AR x Vexada MVL). Giraldo is a 4 year-old stallion with the best genetics we can possibly find within the Lusitano breed. His father competed in the London Olympic Games 2012 (placed 14th in the Final) and his mother was a Champion of Champions with 86 points.
I call Giraldo the ‘Mustang’ because of all his power, his daring character that makes no one indifferent. I believe he can be The One. If he was a human? Perhaps he would be Mohammad Ali. Let’s hope that Giraldo can win as much as Ali did!
7. What can you not live without (when hosting, riding or just generally)?
My mobile phone! Managing a team of 12 people and knowing we have daily changes to our schedules and some unforeseen events, means your phone rings almost every minute. Much of my job is co-ordinating my team duties and activities, and assuring that our guest comments are processed in-time to everyone, to change whatever is necessary.
8. What has been your most memorable ride or time at Monte Velho?
I’ve had many memorable rides in Monte Velho, but I think the most memorable one was during last week. The group was composed of very experienced riders used to hacking with a lot of speed in their countries. I asked the group if they wanted a long canter. The answer was yes, and I had the same feeling of skiing from the top of the mountain down to village! It was a 15 minute canter, where we passed by three different properties, with moments of collected canter and faster canter as well. The 5 horses were always together, and it was rewarding to her one of them saying to me it has been the best hacking of his life.
9. How do you relax after a day in the saddle or hosting guests?
A long hot shower is the best you can get after a busy day! At least for me!
10. What advice would you give a 21-year-old who wants to train for your job?
I think managing an equestrian tourism business requires a set of different skills, from Business, Economics, Hotel Management, leadership and obviously Equestrian experience. I think my equestrian background gained from my childhood has helped a lot in this experience, but I would say the relationship and the experience we provide to our guests is the most important at the end of the day. The advice would be to have a consistent preparation, as this job requires a set of multi-task management and strong relationship insights to provide unique moments to the riders.
11. Where do you go on holiday?
I spend all the year thinking about my skiing vacations! I’m fortunate to travel to a ski resort in Switzerland every year, normally in February.
Thank you Diogo for an insight into life at Monte Velho. We look forward to seeing you in a few weeks’ time.
You can meet Diogo, Francisco, Mariana and Gonçalo from Monte Velho 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.