Feira da Golegã, the most important horse fair in the world.
Golegã is a small provincial town with origins stretching back almost a millennia. It has grown into a world-famous horse festival for horses. Every November, the Feira da Golegã draws in horse enthusiasts from the Spanish/Portuguese peninsular and beyond for a week of competitions, races, jumping competitions and dressage displays.
Whether you’re a horse lover or not, the Feira da Golegã is an event steeped in tradition, offering a unique glimpse into Portuguese culture and the horse-racing world. The event some of the world’s most beautiful horses and riders in the region, with competitions and exhibitions taking place over three days.
The origins of the Feira da Golegã go back to the 12th century when the region was ruled by the Knights Templar. At that time, the knights would hold an annual horse fair in Golegã to buy and sell horses. The event has continued to be held yearly since, becoming one of Europe’s most important horse festivals, attracting horse breeders worldwide.
Arriving at the event in the evening last night, I came prepared with my camera. I left the flash behind as I planned to use high ISO/ASA film speeds, regardless of how much grain might creep into the pictures. Flash would have ruined the effect. I could maintain a lower profile shooting with the available light, of which there was plenty in the main arena.
It’s not an easy place to find a parking space, and the limited spaces available suggested that there were a lot of visitors here. I hoped to take photographs of the riders in colourful traditional costumes and beautiful horses in all shapes and sizes, and I wasn’t disappointed. In particular, I wanted to catch sight of the fine details, including the horses’ manes and tails and the riders’ Bolero Hats. Bolero hats are those with a flat rim and are iconic when you think of a Spanish rider on horseback.
I wanted to try to get some blurry shots of horses and managed to get just that. Photographing with a Sony A7iii makes it a breeze. I set the shutter speed about 1/4 of a second and f11-22 for maximum depth of field and let the auto iso set the film speed, which was about 10-15,000 ASA. It’s possible to be quite creative and there was no objection to being photographed, as these horses and riders were out on display.
Over the years, the Feira da Golegã has become a significant tourist attraction for Portugal. In addition to the competitions and exhibitions, there is also a large market where people can buy horses, horseshoes, saddles and other equestrian equipment. There was plenty of food and drink on offer, and music and smoke from the many grills and fire pits gave the centre of this throwback-in-time a medieval feel.