A visit to Comporta´s first address for horseback riding

Down-to-earth, cordial, to the point: A chat with horseback riding tourism entrepreneur José Ribeira at his stable Cavalos na Areia.

Turn off the highway that runs from Comporta to Carvalhal just after the tiny village of Torre, drive 100 meters along a gravel road in the direction of the lush green rice fields, and you find yourself in the parking lot of Cavalos na Areia. Stablemaster José Ribeira is in a good mood. It’s April, not too hot and, above all, relatively quiet. Ribeira leads me proudly through the modern stable, past the stalls, introducing each horse. Close at his heels is his playful German Shepherd, who wags his tail wildly, trying to distract and incite his master to play.

This tall Portuguese man was already a true adventurer when he was still a little boy. His father, a farmer with land all over the country took him out into the fields and wilderness from the time he could walk. „I grew up with cows and started riding horses early on,“ says the 57-year-old. One day, after 25 years in the real estate business, a call came that would change his life: „Are you ready to join us in tourism?“ a member of the Espirito Santo family asked him.

Ribeira was ready. He had had enough of his office job, wanted to get out in the open, and back into adventures. That was eight years ago. „I arrived here in Comporta with nothing,“ he says. The first few years were really difficult, to build everything from scratch.“ But now my dream has come true, the guests are thrilled, and even Madonna comes to ride with us whenever she’s in Lisbon.“ The way he tells it, in a short, concise and straightforward way, makes it clear that all the excitement about the celebrities who come to his stable each summer as well as in off season, doesn’t really faze him. José Ribeira is a doer. What’s important to him is that his work is done well. And his work is the horses and the riding stable. He’s here every day, leads his team, takes care of the guests and secretly looks forward to the evening. „The best time of day,” he says, „is when the guests have gone, and you can relax and feel the good energy of this place.“

REPORT: Kerstin Bognár
PHOTOS: Mia Takahara