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Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog about family travel around the world, without leaving the UK.
I love travel adventures, but to save cash and keep my family's carbon footprint lower, I dreamt up a unique stay-at-home travel experience. So far I've visited 110 countries... without leaving the UK. Join me exploring the next 86! Or have a look at the "countries" you can discover within the UK by scrolling the labels (below right). Here's to happy travel from our doorsteps. See www.nicolabaird.com for info about the seven books I've written, a link to my other blog on thrifty, creative childcare (homemadekids.wordpress.com) or to contact me.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Portugese pony power


This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. Impossible? No. Here's how to look at a horse and find yourself longing for all things Portugal... This post is by Nicola Baird 


Do you like horses? If so, you may already know about the Olympia Horse Show, held just before Christmas in London. It's a massive show jumping contest (prizes minimum of 10K Euros for each of the two contests we saw & pic of the grey is Depardieu ridden by Guy Williams, a GBR rider who won the Renault Christmas Mawsters on 17 December 2011) with an endless display of other crowd-pleasing horsy activities.

I've started to make it a pre-Christmas treat for my daughters and we usually hook up with an aunt or two (pic shows Kaz, Lola and Nell). Normally I come home impressed by the ways the top riders have changed. Twenty to thirty years ago, training was an extra cigarette and another pint. Now it is pilates, proper low GI diets, and lots of emphasis on the rider being supple and fit. The result is obvious: World Cup horses - and their riders - can jump higher.


But this year I came home longing for a Lusitano. This amazing Portugese breed - often grey - has a rocking horse canter and is known for being agile and calm. There have even been debates in the horse world about whether it is possible to fall off a Lusitano (duh! of course you can).

The Lusitano were originally used for war and bull fighting - and at Olympia we got to see eight blokes show off their horses' incredibly calm athleticism with the aid of long scary rods and war-like music. The atmosphere was lightened by two women riders, wearing long trousers that were cut as wide as skirts (in the Edwardian manner) demonstrating that these horses work as well for either sex. That said the Portugese men's bond with their horses was supposed to be so close, and so enviable, that this is where the birth of the idea that centaurs existed. It's all fascinating stuff on wikipedia.

Next up was the Lorenzo, the Flying Frenchman - who swapped his grey Carmague ponies for the Lusitano so he can give a really death-defying display of horsemanship. He stands one leg on his left pony, the other on the right pony with six or eight in front of him, controlled entirely by long reining. He can turn, weave between poles and even jump, see this video (experts can note the switch in breed perhaps?). Quite amazing to watch - and again only possibly because of the Lusitano. Oh, how I want one, and I'm sure a little one, say 15.2hh, would fit into our garden if I converted the chicken shed into a stable.

As must be obvious Olympia brings out the child in me, the one that never actually said "Daddy I want a new pony now!"

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