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The Horse in Architecture

Our architectural heritage is unique, spread throughout our geographical territory and manifested in the most diverse forms. This is how I began my last article in this Magazine and this is how I begin this article because this month we are talking about two expressions of our heritage.

Architecture and the Lusitano horse.

In relation to the architectural heritage we propose today to give a bigger focus on the Ribatejo architecture and the way the horse has been limiting and conditioning it throughout the time. Ribatejo is the area of the Lusitano horse par excellence. We saw in the previous article that Ribatejo is divided into two parts, the first one more to the north where we find several properties called "quintas" and the southernmost area where the dimension, the relief and the style of crops and the "montado" lead us to the denomination of "herdades".

As for the Architecture linked to the horse theme we can find 4 types:

  1. Farms

  2. Estates

  3. Houses with patio

  4. Paddocks

On the farms and estates it is common to find what we usually call field horses, which are a range of horses that are on the property for breeding purposes. Most of them are horses that have not been trained and whose built resources allocated for their use are very small. There may be a shelter or a shed that can take them in on stormy days or if there is a need to pick up a mare with her foal. If we think about teaching horses, riding horses, bullfighting horses or simply riding horses, the situation is completely different. In these cases it is necessary to create a set of support infrastructures for their stay, for their hygiene and for their work.

It is therefore common to find, in this type of property where there are horses to ride, the following equipment and compartments:

  • Boxes - The boxes may be individual or collective (stalls) where the horses stay and live. They are compartments, some of them with direct exit to the street, or alternatively to a central corridor of a building intended for this purpose. They are the spaces where the horses are, live, rest, feed and hydrate themselves. They are generally 3m x 3m rooms with a feeding and drinking trough.

  • Bathing area and grooming area - It is generally an external area where the horses are bathed after their exercise, but it is also the area where the horse is prepared to be mounted, the bridle is placed on the horse, the harness and all the equipment that each horse needs for the exercise it will perform. It is what is called equipping the horse.

  • Harness Room - The harness room is where all the equipment is kept: harness, saddles, bridles, etc. Warehouse - Where the feed is kept, the hay for bedding and feeding, and all the necessary equipment for the maintenance of the stables and arena (wheelbarrows, pitchforks, etc.).

  • Riding Arena - The arena can be internal or external. The most common is to find outdoor riding arena, but whenever possible it is good to have indoor riding arena so that the climate does not compromise the exercise practice for horse and rider.

There are other elements that can be found depending on the type of practice riders wish to exercise:

  • Tentadero - It is very common to find this equipment at the homes of bull breeders and bullfighting riders. This equipment is used to evaluate the bravery of the bulls in the case of bull breeders and in the case of bullfight riders, it is used to train and rehearse their fights. The tentaderos are circular equipment, with various dimensions, and generally have independent entrances for horses and for cows or calves. They are usually surrounded by borladeros, which are wooden elements that serve as protection so that in case of emergency anyone can hide.

  • Hipotherapy - It is not so common, but there are some properties of important breeders that have this kind of equipment with a tank where the horses can exercise and recover from some injury.

  • Nowadays it is usual for the farrier to visit the house to look after the horses, but there was a time when properties had their own forge oven to be used when necessary.

  • In some properties it is possible to find a bench or sitting area with a fireplace next to the stables which was used by the breeders to receive their clients or guests to present their horses to them and they could appreciate the qualities of their gaits.

The houses with a horse yard

This type of houses can be easily found in Golegã, National Capital of the Horse.

Golegã is a village that has preserved very well its architecture. It is a typical village of this area of Ribatejo, with a traditional architecture and typical colours and buildings that in their majority do not exceed the 3 floors.

Unlike other national towns and cities, in Golegã horse riding is practised all year round, one of the main squares is an open ring where you can see people riding horses or riding in a horse cart every day.

In this case it is not necessary to have the complete equipment for the practice of this modality, it is enough to have in your house a space where the horse can be.

This is how the houses with a patio appear. Basically, an annex is created in the house where the stalls are built, and all the necessary storage for the equipment is created. There are very interesting examples of patios which are very well designed and whose architecture articulates perfectly with the architecture of the main house.

This type of yard was born from the need of many breeders to have a space at home to keep the horses they were going to trade, or the excellent specimens of their Stud Farm.

They are therefore originally spaces for receiving people and very well cared for and integrated into the main house.

It is not possible to say that these patios have their own dimension, since they use the space available to them. As for the appropriation of the space itself, it is common to find spaces where the horses are placed in stalls and it is also possible to find several stalls. It depends a lot on the space available and the philosophy of the owner.

In the more consolidated urban area it is very easy to distinguish these houses with patios by the dimensions of their gates.

During the National Horse Fair this commercial area moved to the Largo do Arneiro where each breeder had his box, each one with its own architecture, however all of them with a space to stand flanked by the space where the horses are being presented.

During these fairs the houses with patio are an interesting real estate asset because they allow the rental of the available stalls with a considerable financial return.


The Riding Stables referred to in this point are riding stables as urban equipment and not as rural construction.

They are generally buildings or building blocks that are impressive in size. The main buildings have a rectangular plan and high ceilings. Take for example the old Coach Museum, formerly the Royal Riding Arena.

Riding arenas are places for teaching and training par excellence and it is possible to find around the country, some buildings with this purpose only.

One of the components of riding is teaching and much of the work is done in these buildings. Here one teaches, trains and presents the horses and some gaits or high airs or some ensemble choreographies.

It is therefore necessary that these riding arenas have a seating area because it is common for these presentations to have audiences. Take the example of the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art.

As I said before, besides the main building, the arena is a complex of buildings.

Here we find the stables building, the harness room, an administrative area, a veterinary office and an outdoor arena or space for riders to "unroll their mounts" on presentation day.

The conclusion of this brief presentation is that there is indeed a very important crossroads.


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