A memoir of building a life around hospitality and horseback riding, and the delicate dance of creating happiness for others and finding it for oneself.
Starting out with nothing but a tent, a couple of dogs, five horses, and a lot of energy, Sheila Greenfield and her husband Robert set out to build their dream: a company that provided high-end horseback riding vacations, based in the Lower Alentejo, along Portugal's idyllic southwestern coast. The couple bought an ancient and run-down farm in a remote area of the region's nature park and worked to transform it into a popular lifestyle hotela horseback rider's paradise.
In her debut memoir, Greenfield tells the story of their unique business's genesis and its heyday as it became a favored European travel destination, with repeat visitors returning every year. From high-speed gallops through the surf to free-spirited parties under starlit skies, readers will be entranced by the stunning natural world Greenfield's uniquely sensitive prose brings to life. With honesty and vivid reflection, she captures the unglamorous realities and daily challenges of life as a host, entertainer, employer, and caretaker. It is a story of endurance and discipline, but also of camaraderie and communion as guests had the chance to experience life-altering partnerships with Greenfield's herd of 35 exceptional pure or cross-bred Lusitano horses, the breed native to Portugal. Along the way, readers meet the horses and learn their backstories, benefitting from the remarkable lessons the animals with both their day-to-day caretakers, and the visiting riders who knew them only for short but intense periods.
Determined to promote the most natural methods of horse care, Greenfield found conscientious tools and practices that promoted her horses' well-being while enhancing their natural versatility, endurance, courage, and generosity. The result was fit, happy, independently minded horses who gave their all to their riders. And it was this that became the heart of their company's successful business model.
But all was not smooth sailing, as any interweaving of lives, human and animal, brings to the fore questions, insecurities, complexities, and injuries. After all, no life is simple. With a tenderness of word choice that embodies the author's own emotional investment in her singular story, Greenfield shares the heartbreak of a young staff member faced with the hardest of life choices, and admits her own uneasiness and uncertainty when confronted with her evolving relationship with Robert and the demanding life they have chosen together. The result is a beautiful book, daring in its richness of detail and generous in its authenticity, certain to be enjoyed by all those who love adventure, or travel, or horses, or profoundly unique stories of coming together and coming undone.