First Weekend of Golega

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Wow. Just wow. I arrived late Friday night. I am staying at the home of Ricardo Chibanga, a retired matador. He lives with his daughter Anete just two streets away from the central arena. Neither of them speak much English, so my understanding is a mixture of what little Portuguese I know…the slightly more Spanish that I know….and the 15 words each of them knows in English. I am gathering new Portuguese words daily…

On Saturday morning, I walked out from the house, turned one corner and entered the feira… The already narrow streets are lined with booths with food…with items for sale…with bars. I zig zagged my way down the streets until I came to the central arena. The arena sits as the hub of the feira.

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On the outside of the arena, there is a track where riders and carriages circle the arena all the time. Some are warming up for their competitions, but most are just enjoying the atmosphere with their horses. Outside the outer track is a laneway and then stalls. Several of the well known breeders have permanent stalls set up with day stall slots where they showcase their horses. And behind those are more shops and booths. It’s a set of concentric circles around the main arena. The booths also radiate down every side street with food and tack sellers and clothing sellers.

If you walk down the street, you are just as likely to be walking with people as you are with horses. Riders wander the streets, stopping at the food booths or bars. There are also horse drawn carts going up and down the streets and around the main arena.

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At night, this continues. Several dance clubs come to life and begin playing music at chest shaking decibels. Riders line up outside the clubs, drinks brought to them curbside.

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The streets are patrolled day and night by police, making sure people stay in order. Golega has become more of a party than a display of horses. Some people have said to me there needs to be more regulation of riders and people. “Some of these riders are cantering their horses around the track for too long. There needs to be better regulation of that kind of thing.”

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On the afternoon of the second day, I watched the working equitation  speed phase competition. Some very good young riders and some skilled professionals. First the riders walk their course several times, to learn the order and placement of the obstacles.

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The buckskin horse was stunning…but he took his jump a little too enthusiastically….

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This was a lovely mare, very correctly ridden and loved by her rider.

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Some random shots from working equitation, speed phase.

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At night the whole arena is bathed in a dim smoke, from the chestnuts being roasted all around the arena. Makes for a mystical atmosphere.

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