12.11.2016 - 12.11.2016
Breakfast was served at 8 am. I was going to ride alone with Lara today, while the other ladies had another curriculum. I met up with Lara at the stable where our horses already were saddled.
The horse I rode today was Mariñho, a relatively young, brown gelding who was cool as a cucumber. He was a very nice horse who did exactly what you asked for; no more, no less. But he had a short step during the walk, so you had to work a little to get him to lengthen the step.
The trail ride started at the estate and began by cruising through the streets in Livramente. The horses were fearless when cars swished by. Some cars didn’t even slow down but passed in full speed. But we got pretty soon out of the intense city traffic and got into the outskirt of the city. When the paved road crossed over to dirt roads we could speed up and canter more. You could tell the horses knew the trails because they started to speed up and knew exactly when it was time for cantering. We passed a village where according to Lara the richest person on São Miguel lives. His house was surrounded by a high wall and if you succeeded to get a glimpse over the wall you would only see bushes and trees. Lara said that the man owns 1/3 of São Miguel. If that’s true or not – I’ll leave unsaid, but it sounds really incredible.
Even though a huge part of the locals has a low income, the largest occupational group in Azores is lawyer, closely followed by medical doctor. A normal week of work id Monday to Saturday, with exceptions for the rich people, i.e. lawyers, doctors etc. People who doesn’t manage to get a job get a minimum wage from the Azorean government in exchange for four hours of work per day by clearing roadsides, mowing lawns etc.
We kept on riding north and passed a national park. The vegetation started to surround us more and more and became jungle-like. On the way uphill to a view point, we rode through high bushes of Ginger Lilies. The horses pushed forward through the vegetation and sometimes it was so dense I could barely see Lara riding in front of me.
I was truly fascinated by the horses that just walked on, straight into the jungle without really being able to see where they put their hooves. Talk about good mentality! After that we kept on riding for about half an hour until we arrived at the picnic lunch. The horses were fed, as Claude had set a table for lunch with macaroni lasagna, salad, bread and beverage of choice. Tasted really great after some hours in the saddle. We had great view over the golf course Batalha which has a really nice ocean view on the north coast.
After lunch we tacked the horses again and continued along dirt roads enclosed by lava stone walls. In the pastures cows were grazing and seemed curious about us.
If there is anything that is plenty of here in the Azores, it is cows. They estimate the number of cows to be about 120 000 over the nine islands in total, which is almost one cow per inhabitant (130 000 people). The most common breed is the Holsteiner cow which are held in herds together with 2 or 3 Jersey cows. That is because the Jersey cow’s milk has more fat and increase the fat content in the milk from a Holsteiner cow herd, which gives the farmers more money for the milk. The islands are completely self-supported regarding milk and dairy products and beef. São Miguel has a Nestlé fabric producing formula etc which is exported to Europe and other countries.
After some long great canters we finally reached our goal for today, the north coast. We stayed in one of the villages and waited for Marco to come with the small horse trailer (we only had two horses) and picked up us. I returned at the estate just before five in the afternoon and took the opportunity to rest before the evening dinner at 7.30 pm. The Italian chef did the cooking tonight. The starter was a soup (don’t remember what), then chicken for main course and rounded up with a Tiramisu as dessert.