As my taxi cab pulled into the parish of Ginetes on the island of São Miguel in the Azores, I immediately spotted my ride. Two horses, a paint and a Lusitano, turned their heads in my direction when I hopped out of the taxi, grabbing my riding helmet as I slammed the car door.
Horse riding in Ponta Delgada, Portugal
This would be my first horseback riding vacation in Ponta Delgada, Portugal. My horse, sweet Artista, was patiently waiting for me in her Portuguese saddle.
Owner Salomão Oliveira of Quinta das Raiadas, dressed in beige riding pants, half chaps, a gray logo polo shirt and sporting a wool cap was ready to help me onto Artista.
Horse riding with Quinta das Raiadas
An out-of-shape baby boomer equestrian with a hip replacement, I broke the news to Salomão that we would not be horseback riding all day into the village of Sete Cidades. Instead, Salomão would adjust our plan, taking me on a two hour horseback ride through the village of Ginetes on the South West Coast of the Island of São Miguel, offering magical views of Sete Cidades on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. Now, instead of a picnic with horses, we would leave the horses behind and enjoy a typical Portuguese fish lunch in the village and visit the Massa house.
Horse riding on the island of São Miguel
I felt like I had stepped back in time once mounted on Artista. Our horses were not the least bit alarmed as we passed a man carrying containers of fresh milk while riding a motorcycle or dogs barking as we clip clopped through the streets of Ginetes on the way to the horse trial.
We passed pink, blue and white bushes of wild hydrangeas while the horses climbed up and up onto the ridge line. Once on top of the ridge line, we could see for miles around, to the village of Sete Cidades below with its interlocking blue and green lakes, as well as the unusual rock formations jutting out of the Atlantic Ocean on the other side of São Miguel island.
Riding in Portuguese saddle
I loved learning about the island of São Miguel, Portugal and its people from an Azores local, while on the back of a horse. Even better, this was my first time riding in a Portuguese saddle. I’d describe the Portuguese saddle as similar to an English riding saddle, but with wider and longer knee pads and larger metal stirrups.
While Quinta das Raiadas offers English and Western saddles, as well as carriage rides for the non-equestrian, the Portuguese saddle made for a very comfortable horseback ride.
Rural horse ride and farm experience on São Miguel
After our horseback ride, Salomão unsaddled the horses and tied them up by an abandoned hotel in seven cities, (Sete Cidades is the translation in Portuguese.) His charming wife, who worked at the local school, picked us up during her lunch break and drove us back down the mountain to lunch in the parish of Ginetes. While I fretted about the horses, Salomão assured me that he left them tied and unattended for hours at a time. He had done this before and was not worried.
We enjoyed a typical Portuguese lunch of fresh cheese, fried local fish, boiled potatoes and lentils at a small restaurant in the village. In fact, Salomão used to own this particular restaurant. The Azores local has also taught drivers education before starting his horse riding business four years earlier. “I have always loved animals,” noted Salomão.
Experience island life like the Azorean people did a century ago
For the non-riders and younger children, Quinta das Raiadas offers a farm visit to experience life as the Azorean people lived a century ago.
A visit to the “Massa” house is where guests learn to make bread on a clay pot, eat regional products, milk the cow in the pasture, see the farm equipment once used to work the land and tend the garden. To this day, many families on São Miguel island keep a cow on their property for fresh milk and to make the local Portuguese cheese.
Need to know
Horse rides range from a minimum of three hours to full day rides. Check the website listed below for current pricing.
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If You Go:
Quinta das Raiadas (351) 917 782 836
Estrada Regional, 54
Sao Miguel, Azores, Portugal