Golegã Horse Fair History

The place of Golegã once belonged to Vila de Santarém, was elevated to the category of Vila by letter from D. João III, dated 3 November 1534. According to several authors, Vila da Golegã originated in the time of D. Afonso Henriques or of D. Sancho I, when a woman from Galicia who lived in Santarém came to establish an inn there. That Golegã already existed in the 15th century, there seems to be no doubt, and after the so-called Galega was established there, it started to be called Venda da Galega, Póvoa da Galega, Vila da Galega and later due to language corruption , “Golegã”.
In addition to the importance of the place in which it is located, the region of Golegã had one of the greatest assets: fertile soil: The fame of its land drew many people to itself, as great farmers and horse breeders. From the most remote times come allusions to the region, to Quinta da Cardiga which in 1169 was given by D. Afonso I to the order of the Temple for clearing and cultivation. From century to century it was donated to other orders and from the century onwards XIX, purchased by several large farmers.

In the 18th century, and with the support given by the Marquês de Pombal, the fair began to take on an important competitive nature, with equestrian competitions and various race competitions. The best horse breeders were then concentrated in Golegã. In the 19th century, based on the agrarian valorization of the region, Golegã regained great importance to which the figures of two great farmers and statesmen greatly contributed: Carlos Relvas, nobleman of the Royal House, great friend of the King, commander, farmer, artist, owner of several agricultural establishments and two palaces (where he hosted the royal family several times), and José Relvas, his son, immensely linked to the republican cause, finance minister and also a great artist.

In the mid-18th century, the Feira da Golegã began, called Feira de S. Martinho until 1972, from which date it became known as the Feira Nacional do Cavalo. The National Horse Fair is the most important and most popular of all fairs of its kind that take place in Portugal and in the world. Here, all the breeders are presented, with their beautiful specimens, which is why, in Golegã, the best thoroughbreds, bred in the country, are sold to various parts of the globe.

Golegã has long since become the Horse Capital. The Saint Martin day, from the fair that it was, became the most beautiful and unique public equestrian show that takes place free of charge among us. Ralies, Raids, Equestrian Games, Championships, Carriage Marathon, Exhibitions, are some of the most beautiful spectacles held in Golegã in its presentation of the most beautiful animal in the world, the horse. And to complement the party, justifying the popular adage that, “For S. Martinho taste the Wine”, there will be no lack of piquette and the always-desired roasted chestnuts.